A2 986

Former Park loco, restored to mainline operation by Steamrail


My visit to the Steamrail Victoria depot at Newport Workshops on 10 May 2003 found A2 986 fully dismantled for overhaul.

A2 986 is one of 60 ‘A2 Walschaerts’ 4-6-0 express passenger engines built at Newport Workshops from 1915 to 1922 following the success of 125 earlier ‘A1 class’ (later A2 Stephenson) locomotives. The A2 Walschaerts engines were constructed to an improved design featuring superheated boilers, outside Walschaerts valve gear, increased cylinder diameter and higher boiler pressure. A2 986 was constructed at Newport Workshops in 1915 and was one of only 5 class members (Nos. 944, 948, 964, 986 and 992) fitted with the innovative and distinctive Boxpok wheels.

The A2 class were displaced during the 1950's by the 70 newly delivered R-class 4-6-4's and the growing fleet of diesel-electric locomotives. A2 986 was the very last A2 in service when withdrawn in December 1963. It was written off by the Victorian Railways in January 1964 but fortunately saved for preservation, being plinthed in a Warragul park.

A2 986 remained plinthed at Warragul until 1986, when acquired for restoration by Steamrail Victoria under a swap arrangement whereby J 550 was plinthed at Warragul in its place. (J 550 has also since moved from Warragul.)  A2 986 moved from Warragul to the Steamrail Victoria depot at Newport Workshops for restoration, where it was stripped down to the frames. After many years of a slow but thorough overhaul by Steamrail volunteers spanning 31 years, A2 986 had its first team test in February 2014 and has since been released for main-line traffic on enthusiast tours and charter trips. The locomotive received the name ‘Spirit of Warragul’ from the Mayor of Warragul in a naming ceremony at Warragul Station on 13 May 2017, a fitting recognition of Warragul’s role in A2 986’s original preservation and subsequent restoration.

Here are three YouTube videos showing stages in A2 986’s return to the mainline:

·       A2 986 in steam for the first time since 1963 during its steam test at Newport Workshops, including the ‘red steam’ moment when steam first rushes through the passages to the cylinders, flushing out rust and dust.
Video by Matt Cantle, filmed 26 February 2014.

·       A second video showing A2 986 on trial runs in Newport Yard, still in works grey primer (including nice cab shots).
Video by AustralianTrains, filmed on 14 November 2015.

·       A third video of the restored A2 986's Official Return to service (now wearing black livery), including some nice speed run pasts on the loco’s run to and from its naming ceremony at Warragul station.
Video by
Comeng998 Railway Videos, filmed 13 May 2017.

Further information and photographs for A2 986 can be found on the Steamrail Victoria website.

A rear view of A2 986 stripped to the frames at Newport Workshops on 10 May 2003.

Since then it has been extensively overhauled and reassembled, with a successful steam test on 26 February 2014.

A view of A2 986's Boxpok wheels, taken at Newport Workshops on 30 November 1996.



‘A brief history of Preserved Rolling Stock of Victoria’

by Norm Bray, Peter J Vincent and Daryl M Gregory.

Published by Brief History Books, PO Box 437, Sunbury, Vic 3429.


ARHS (Victorian Division) 'North Williamstown Railway Museum',

Third Edition 1968, revised 1977, reprinted 1980.


‘Locomotives of Australia - 1985 to 2010’

(Fifth Edition), by Leon Oberg,

published 2010 by Rosenberg Publishing Pty Ltd.

Page updated: 19 February 2023

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