The All Mighty 85's - All Things 85 Class Electric Loco

  SydneyCider Chief Train Controller

I thought I'd create a thread for the 85's given I've created one for the 46's and 86's. These locos probably never got as much attention due to the fact they were a smaller fleet of 10, pretty much never worked on the Northern Line and were very similar in appearance to the 80 and 442 class diesel locomotives. April 2019 marks 21 years since the last of the 85's were retired from service and I don't believe any have run since then.

Personally, I don't have any particular recollection of this class, their similar appearance to the 80's and 442's probably didn't help and there simply were not as many of them.

Key Sources of Information.

Wikipedia - 85 class

SETS - 8501 Locomotive

I will start with the list of locomotives (first with the survivors), then the following posts will cover some info from STM's Trolley Wire and the Railway Digest. Photos will follow that.

Hope you enjoy the Easter Long Weekend.

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  SydneyCider Chief Train Controller

85 Class Locomotive List


Status: PRESERVED, Stored
Location: Werris Creek
Delivered: Thursday, 17 May 1979
Official Hand Over: Wednesday, 30 May 1979
Entered Service: June/July 1979
Withdrawn: 21 April 1998

- First of the 85 class electric locomotives built by Comeng Granville and first to be delivered and into service
- 8501 was delivered on Thursday, 17 May 1979.
- 8501 was officially handed over to the (then) NSW Public Transport Commission (PTC) at a ceremony at the
Comeng Granville plant on Wednesday, 30 May 1979.
- On 12 and 13 June 1979 speed trials were undertaken on the western line between Seven Hills and Penrith.
- Brake and load tests were conducted on 19 and 20 June 1979.
- On Monday, 25 June 1979 a trial run with a coal train between Glenlee and Rozelle took place.
- On Wednesday, 27 June 1979 a run with a 576 ton train from Enfield to Lithgow was conducted. Forming
part of the load were Dynamometer Car and 4628.
- In c. 1980 - 1981, 8501 was fitted with a small "E" board on the top left above the driver's cab window. 8504 was fitted with a small "E" board on the nose of the cabs to help distinguish these locomotives from the 442 and 80 class diesels which looked very similar, particularly at night to avoid them being sent into unwired roads.
- On Thursday, 18 June 1981 8501 and 8505 were used with 3 GM diesel locos to haul 1500 ton trains from Darling Harbour to Waterfall for comparative tests between electric and diesel hauled coal trains on the Illawarra Line in anticipation of the further electrification of the Illawarra line and increased heavy volume of coal traffic.
- In 1993, 8501 and 8503 were painted at Goninan's Broadmeadow plant into FreightRail Blue, the rest sent to Landsdowne Engineering (owned by Goninan) north of Taree for painting.
- Sometime in the mid 1990's 8501 (with 8505 assisting) hauled an ARHS ACT Tour from Lithgow to Sydney. This tour had originated from Broken Hill.
- On 20 January 1997 (as per date of photo taken) 8510 (with 8501 assisting) were attached to the front of CLP9/CLP16 to haul the Indian Pacific to Sydney Terminal. This was an unusual event given that electric locomotive usage on passenger trains in NSW ceased in 1994 with Indian Pacific services through hauled purely by diesel locomotives. This may have been the very last double electric hauled passenger service until a SETS tour hauled by 8606 and 8644 in late 2005.
- 8501 was withdrawn from service on 21 April 1998 along with 8508 after the 2 locomotives worked 1757 goods from Enfield to Lithgow. The locomotives were then subsequently stored at Lithgow.
- In July 2000, 8501, 8507 and 8508, along with 8602, 8616, 8623, 8632, 8649 were transferred to Werris Creek for long term storage.
- In 2003 all stored/retired electric locomotives at Lithgow, which included the other 7 85 class units were transferred to Broken Hill for storage and most scrapped in 2007.
- On 29 November 2006, SETS purchased 8501 for preservation on the basis of it being the unit in best condition. 8501 continues to remain in storage at Werris Creek.


Status: PRESERVED, Stored
Location: West Tamworth
Delivered: 06 June 1980
Entered Service: 13 June 1980
Withdrawn: 27 April 1998

- Entered Service in June 1980
- On 27 April 1998, 8507 ran light engine from Clyde Yard to DELEC. This was the very last working of an 85 class with all being withdrawn from service. Following this run, 8507 was hauled dead attached from DELEC to Lithgow for storage.
- In July 2000, 8501, 8507 and 8508, along with 8602, 8616, 8623, 8632, 8649 were transferred to Werris Creek for long term storage.
- In 2003 all stored/retired electric locomotives at Lithgow, which included the other 7 85 class units were transferred to Broken Hill for storage and most scrapped in 2007.
- In 2006 8507 was purchased by the Dorrigo Steam and Railway Museum for preservation and moved to West Tamworth for storage in late 2015 (along with other Dorrigo owned electric locos 8601 and 8650).
  SydneyCider Chief Train Controller

Trolley Wire info

October 1977 issue (Page 17 / 32)

- Mentions that deliveries of new Double Deck interurbans has commenced (DCM/DCT series from 1977-78).
- A contract has been let to Comeng for supply of 10 3600HP electric locomotives for $9.347140 million dollars. At $934,714 dollars each they will be very expensive units. They will have Mitsubishi electrical equipment and it is believed stainless steel bodies will be used and will be classed as 85E. When contract was announced it was indicated that they would be in use at Sutherland on the Illawarra line as well as Glenleigh, Gosford and Lithgow. There are signs once again that work may commence on extension of electrification from Loftus Junction to Waterfall.

June 1979 issue

- Shows photo on page 20/32 of new electric locomotive 8501 being towed from the manufacturers works by diesel locomotive 4851 on 17 May 1979. Notes that although not identical it shares the same general ungainly end styling and unimaginative paint scheme of the 442 and 80 class diesel electric.
- Page 26 / 32. (continued from page 20). NEW ELECTRIC LOCOMOTIVE DELIVERED. The first of 10 new 85 class 2700KW (3600HP) electric locomotives being built by Commonwealth Engineering was delivered on Thursday 17 May 1979. It was hauled to the Chullora workshops area by 4851 for weighing and sanding. Later in the day it returned to Clyde and was check weighed at the Waggon Works. After examination and some trial runs (light) it subsequently returned to Comeng. It was formally handed over to the PTC at a ceremony at the plant on Wednesday, 30 May 1979
- Speed trials were undertaken on the western line between Seven Hills and Penrith on 12 and 13 June 1979 and brake and load tests on 19 and 20 June 1979. On the last 2 days it was coupled to 2 46 class locos.
- A trial run with a coal train between Glenlee and Rozelle took place on Monday 25 June 1979 and this was followed on Wednesday 27 June 1979 by a run with a 576 ton train from Enfield to Lithgow. Forming part of the load were Dynamometer Car and 4628 which was manned and ran with a pantograph up in case assistance was needed. This did not prove necessary. The load for a single 46 class locos, which is of similar power but marginally lighter, on the ruling Blue Mountains grade from Valley Heights to Katoomba is 400 tons.
- Initial reports indicate that the class is likely to be very successful and although intended basically for heavy coal haulage, 8501 has been unofficially reported as exceeding 100 mph (160/161 kmh).

August 1979 issue (Page 22 / 32)

- New electric loco 8501 failed on a 600 ton down train approaching Lawson (8.3. going up hill) on Monday 2 July 1979 and evening peak services were seriously delayed until the loco was removed to the yard at Lawson and a pair of 46's arrived to take the train to Lithgow. The failure can be attributed to teething troubles and unfamiliarity by crew.
- Mentions 8502 was delivered in August 1979. It was reported being towed to DELEC with 8501 which has been back to Comeng on a number of occasions but date has eluded us.
- 8502 was noted on an UP western coal train together with dynamomenter car on 16 August 1979 and it made the first passenger run by an 85 class on Friday 17 August 1979 when it took the 2.10pm to Lithgow

April 1980 issue (Page 15 / 32)

- Notes that new electric loco 8505 was delivered on 08 April 1980. The previous 4 locos 8501, 8502, 8503, 8504 were delivered in May 1979, August 1979, October 1979 and February 1980, although by December 1979 the 3 delivered had returned to the manufacturer due to operating problems where they spent some time before re-appearing. One problem appeared to be inability to satisfactorily work in multiple unit. Indeed the MU trial was some hours late in leaving DELEC because of difficulties. Once back on the road they have acquitted themselves well, mainly operating western freight traffic, although they have occasionally been on passenger trains. 1 working of note being for a single loco to take the DOWN Central West to Lithgow and return with UP Indian Pacific. This heavy train requires 2 46 class electric locos to handle it over the ruling 1-42 grade. Limited working to Gosford has also been reported. Double and Triple MU working is common with the first instance of the later being reported 29 February 1980.

June 1980 issue (Page 23 / 32)

- Electric loco 8506 was delivered on 21 May 1980.
- Tenders have been called for supply of 50 or 60 or 70 DC electric locos of 2700kw (3600HP)

August 1980 issue (Page 15 / 32)

- The last 4 85 class locos were delivered on following dates:- 8507 on 6 June 1980, 8508 on 1 July 1980, 8509 on 4 July 1980 and 8510 on 22 July 1980.
- 8504 was fitted with an illuminated E at each end to aid signalmen to distinguish it from similar 442 and 80 class diesel locos.

December 1980 issue (Page 23 / 32)

- 125 YEARS OF RAILWAYS. The 125th anniversary of railway operation in NSW was celebrated by the State Rail Authority with a display at Sydney Terminal station on weekends from 27 September to 19 October 1980. The sole electric representative was locomotive 8510 (only one electric vehicle was in the 100 yrs anniversary display in 1955 - loco 4501/7100).

June 1981 issue

- Saturday 6 June 1981 was first occasion that an 85 class electric loco worked with a steam loco when 8506 piloted Garratt 6021 from Penrith to Katoomba on an ARHS Canberra division tour train.
- Shows photo on page 17 / 32 of 8506 and 6021 with the tour train at Hazelbrook. It notes that it was doubtful if the Garratt was doing any of the work besides providing the smoke screen which had engulfed the passenger cars on the train.

August 1981 issue (Page 20 / 32)

- Comparative tests between electric and diesel hauled coal trains on Illawarra line were held in early morning on Thursday 18 June 1981 when 8501 and 8505 and 3 GM diesels hauled 1500 ton trains from Darling Harbour to Waterfall. Due to power supply limitations only 1 two car double deck suburban train was to be operating south of Sutherland whilst the 85's were there.
- The Illawarra line carries a heavy volume of coal traffic at present and this is expected to increase substantially in near future and is subject of much concern over dust and noise by residents along the line. As this increase will probably come before electrification is extended to Port Kembla consideration is being given to operating these trains electrically as far as Waterall as an interim measure.
- The installation of additional sub stations and wiring the goods lines from Waterfall to Meeks Road will be necessary before this working can commence.
- Results of tests are unknown but the electric train would have passed almost unnoticed while the gutless machines would have howled their heads off.
- A single unidentified 85 class ran to Waterfall on Monday 15 June 1981

February 1982 issue (Page 29)

- WYONG ELECTRIFICATION. After some weeks of trial running of interurbans and locomotives both of 46 and 85 classes, the belated extension of electrification from Gosford 50.5 miles from Sydney on the main northern line and end of the wires since 23 January 1960 over the 12.5 miles to Wyong was officially opened by NSW Premier Neville Wran on Saturday 3 April 1982.
  SydneyCider Chief Train Controller

Railway Digest


- Valley Heights Bankers. From 7 December 1988 it looked like an 85 class takeover with 8501 the banker that day and 8504 on 8 December 1988.
- On 5 December 1988 banker 8501 and train engine 8510 were noted on No 7339 Lithgow freight at Penrith at 2pm while on following day 8501 and 8603 were on the same train at 1pm at Penrith.  

Personal Collection of Railway Digest ranging very late 1991 - May 1993

April 1992 Issue


WESTERN COALIES: On Monday 16 December 1991, 8501/8506/8647 were sighted with a down empty coal train passing through Mt. Druitt at around 19:00. All 3 locos were working with only one crew on board. The train consisted of 62 wagons.

June 1992 issue


- Morning services from the mountains on Tuesday 04 February 1992 were severely disrupted. At 04:36 No 3SP5 was traversing the single line working on the down line between Emu Plains and Glenbrook when a pantograph on the trailing engine, 8501, was damaged at 66.1km. The crew lowered the pantograph and continued clearing Glenbrook at 05:11. 8501 was later detached at Valley Heights. The following train KN17 empty coal, was contacted by radio and stopped to allow the damage to the overhead to be repaired. This was completed at 07:30. Meanwhile a bus service operated from Springwood to Penrith. At 07:52 No KN17 struck part of the damaged pantograph from 8501 lodged in the overhead at Blaxland station. 8633 suffered a damaged pantograph. The down line was closed for repairs from 09:00 until 09:49. During the morning one up service terminated Glenbook, another at Valley Heights and 6 at Springwood.

November 1992 issue

SYDNEY TERMINAL: Thursday 03 September 1992, 8501/8509 brought the Indian pacific into Sydney. The 10 members of the 85 class are all still in their original tuscan colour scheme and they remain the only currently operating class that has not received a repaint into another colour scheme.

February 1993 issue

Back at Lithgow yard things were a mess with trains everywhere. No 6PS6 was hanging out of the yard No 8340 was awaiting electric locos and there were 4 empty coal rakes. At 19:00 8509/8502 rang out of the Loco for No 8340 followed 15 mins later by Bank engines 8501/8503. They were required to bank No 8340 in the rear to Zig Zag, detach and follow no 8340 light engine to Lawson to do some shunting. No 8340 departed at 19:45 and No 7396 was finally let into the yard 5 mins later.
  SydneyCider Chief Train Controller

8501 Photos

Credit to all those who have shared these wonderful photographs for people to see.

General Photographs by David Johnson over the years of 85 classes (1992 - 1997)

- Shows photo 8506/8507/85xx/85xx and AN-3K in Lithgow Yard 12 December 1992
- Shows photo 8501/8505/8627/8611/4916/4806/4842 lead an up freight at Sutherland 14 November 1994
- Shows undated photo of 8501/8505 leading an ARHS ACT tour from Broken Hill across the Causeway between Bell and Mt. Victoria towards Sydney. Based on the Freight Rail Blue livery this tour would have happened sometime likely mid 1990's.
- Shows photo of 8510/8501 hauling CLP9S and CLP16W through Redfern on WL-2 UP Indian Pacific on 20 January 1997. I can only assume that something must have gone wrong with one or both of the CLP locomotives.

Auscision Models website photos shows 8501 and other 85's. One of the shots appears to probably be an official shot of 8501 brand new at Lithgow Loco probably c. 1979

27 September 1979. 8501 with UP goods arriving at Enfield yard

RailRoad 0 AUS-NSW 85%20class 0 0 0
- 04 October 1980. Photo of 8501 at Enfield
- 11 October 1980. Photo of 8501 at Lithgow LMC

1980s. 8501/85xx through Blue Mountains??

1981. 8501 leads 2 other 85's as they leave Clyde sidings with a freighter towards Auburn. Note that by this stage it had gotten it's "E" board on the top left of the cab. Similarly, 8504 got it's "E" board on the nose of the cabs during the same year (1981).

c. 1983. 8504 and 8501 stabled at Enfield DELEC

1983. 8504, 8501 and 4606 at Enfield DELEC

c. mid 1980's? Steve Jeffs photo of 8501/85xx hauling freight through Penrith

26 January 1986. 8501/85xx at Lithgow. Photo shared by Australian Rail Maps

07 May 1989. 8501 and other 85's at Lithgow Loco Depot

18 August 1990. 8501/85xx/85xx/85xx at Sutherland with coal train

1991. 8501 and 8503 light engine banked 8645/8619 and its train to Zig Zag and have cut off and are now returning wrong road

1991. Follow up to above photo, focusing on 8501 at Zig Zag with 8503

10 March 1991. 8501/85xx/86xx/8637 at Sutherland with coal train

17 March 1991. 8507/8506/8504/8501 through Como probably with a coal train

01 April 1991. 8617, 8612, 8503, 8504, 8505, 8509, 8501 and 8507 at Lithgow Loco

01 April 1991. 8508, 8506, 8617, 8612, 8503, 8504, 8505, 8509, 8501 and 8507 at Lithgow loco

01 April 1991. 8507, 8501, 8509, 8505, 8504, 8503, 8603, 8638, 8647, 8634, 8612 and 8617 at Lithgow

27 July 1991. 8501/85xx at Lidcombe with freight train near signal ST 398S

11 August 1991. 8501 and 8504 at Cawley with coal train

1990s. 8501 inside Lithgow Loco Depot

Late 1992. 8501 at Lithgow loco depot

20 January 1992.  8501/85xx/85xx approaching Lawson with 8331 Dubbo Speedfreight

31 January 1992. 8504 with 8501 at Lithgow Loco Depot

1990s. 8501/8505/8627/86xx/49xx/48xx/48xx at Sutherland

19 April 1993. 8501 with other 85's probably on coal train at Meeks Road as seen from an XPT

1993. 8506/8501/8502 at Waterfall with coal train

c. 1994. 8501/86xx DOWN coal Como 1994

18 January 1994. 8501 at Lithgow

04 October 1994. 8501 and other 85's and 8629 at Lithgow Loco Depot

5 October 1994. 8501 and another 85 at Lithgow

26 June 1995. 8510/8501/8602/8614 at Clyde with coal train from the west

21 June 1996. 8501 with GM3 at Lawson Friday 21 June 1996

17 March 1997. 8502/8501/8509/8507 on the DOWN outside Mount Victoria signal box with CA07 empty coal train to Clarence Colliery. C107 was waiting for the signal box at Newnes Junction to be "cut in" before it could leave Mt Victoria

24 July 2008. 8501/8507 at Werris Creek. Now purchased and preserved by SETS and Dorrigo, respectively.

26 January 2012. 8501 with 8649 at Werris Creek

26 January 2013. 8501 at Pacific National Werris Creek Loco Depot

9 September 2015. 8501 with 8649 stored at Werris Creek

26 September 2016. 8649 and 8501 at Werris Creek

23 February 2019. 8501 at Werris Creek
  SydneyCider Chief Train Controller

85 class photos taken at Lithgow by Ben Frost in March 2002. In about mid 2000, 3 of the class (8501, 8507, 8508) were taken to Werris Creek with a couple of 86's. The other 7 85's remained at Lithgow then about in 2003 were taken to Broken Hill, ultimately to be scrapped in 2007.
  SydneyCider Chief Train Controller

Gettyimages photo of 30 May 1979 official handing over ceremony at the Comeng Plant, Granville of electric loco 8501, the first of 10. In front is the Chairman of Comeng Holdings and PTC Commissioner. (text difficult to read)
  nswtrains Chief Commissioner

Gettyimages photo of 30 May 1979 official handing over ceremony at the Comeng Plant, Granville of electric loco 8501, the first of 10. In front is the Chairman of Comeng Holdings and PTC Commissioner. (text difficult to read)
Ironic is the fact that not only most of the 85 class gone but also the Comeng plant at Clyde and the PTC. I guess Comeng were a company disaster looking for its ultimate demise. As for the PTC, the less said the better.
  Big J Assistant Commissioner

Location: In Paradise
I guess Comeng were a company disaster looking for its ultimate demise.
Sorry I am taking the bait.


I assume you mean as a business they were a disaster? Is that because protections provided by government were taken away? Eg no longer requiring equipment to be built in Australia, which was up until the 90s was a requirement of most rail asset tenders?

I assume you are not criticising their product? They were very successful in the Australian context.

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