‘Spirit of Progress’ 80th anniversary train

A SPECIAL train ran in November to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the ‘Spirit of Progress’ train that linked Melbourne and Albury (and eventually Sydney).

The streamlined ‘Spirit of Progress’ express train was initially run by Victorian Railways (VR) on the 1,600mm broad gauge between Melbourne and Albury, starting in November 1937, where passengers changed to a standard gauge train – the ‘Melbourne Limited Express’ to Sydney.

Setting sun: The return Ballarat to Seymour ‘Spirit of Progress’ 80th anniversary train is seen on the Albion to Jacana freight line on November 25, 2017 with loco Nos. B 74 and S 303 – both of which worked the original ‘Spirit of Progress’ service. DARREN WOOD

From 1952 onwards the VR ‘S’ class Pacific steam locos were replaced by EMD-engined diesel locos, initially ‘B’ class 1,500hp Co-Co locos, and from 1957, the single cab, but otherwise similar and more powerful 1,810hp ‘S’ class.

When the line in Victoria was re-gauged to standard in 1962, enabling through operation from Melbourne to Sydney for the first time, the locos used bogies with 1435mm-gauge axles.

The ‘Spirit of Progress’ train declined in importance during the 1960s/70s, and ended altogether in 1986, although by this time the XPT train (based on the BR HST) was operating Melbourne to Sydney services.

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