R 711

Named "Spirit of Bendigo"


R 711 in West Coast Railway blue livery and wearing 'The Westcoaster' headboard.

This photo was kindly provided by Gordon Ross.


North British Locomotive Co, Glasgow

Builder’s Number & Year

27001 of 1951


Victorian Railways

Wheel Arrangement

4-6-4  “Hudson”

Entered Service

28 August 1951

Withdrawn from Service

2 August 1965

R 711 was commissioned in 1951 as one of 70 members of the Victorian Railway's R-class 4-6-4 "Hudson" main line passenger locomotives.  These locomotives were designed by Victorian Railways and were urgently required by the post World War 2 period, however construction was delayed by competing priorities.  Building was eventually outsourced to the North British Locomotive Company, Glasgow but, as with so many post-war steam locomotives orders, delivery ultimately came years after the demand had required.  The R-class superseded the A2-class 4-6-0 locomotives on fast passenger turns however the simultaneous arrival of first-generation diesels reduced their usefulness and the R-class locomotives were destined for relatively short lives and low mileages.

R 711 was withdrawn in 1965 and plinthed outside the Bendigo station, coming into ownership of the City of Greater Bendigo.  In 1995 it was leased to West Coast Railway and extensively rebuilt for regular service on “The Westcoaster” passenger service between Melbourne and Warrnambool.  This rebuilding featured various modifications including Lempor exhaust, power reversing gear and conversion to oil firing.  (Martyn Bane has documented the technical changes implemented by West Coast Railway to R 711 on his interesting & well documented page.)  R 711 now carries the name 'Spirit of Bendigo' in recognition of its eponymous connections.

Following the demise of West Coast Railway, R 711 became available and has been leased to Steamrail Victoria since 2005.  Several of the previous modifications (notably the Lempor exhaust and power reverser) have been removed by Steamrail Victoria however it retains oil firing.  As of January 2012, R 711 has been certified for mainline use and has received a striking new livery of blue with gold stripe, reminiscent of the VR 'Spirit of Progress' era and the long-lost S-class pacific steam locomotives associated with that train.

Wikipedia provides further information about the Victorian Railways R-class locomotives.

YouTube includes a number of fine videos of R 711 in steam; here is an example by Daniel Hancock showing a high-speed test run to Seymour on Saturday 3 September 2011.

This view of R 711 is from the collection of John Hurst and is dated 21 April 2000, showing R 711 at Benalla while being watered.

The double funnel (added when the loco was converted to oil-burning in 1999) is clearly seen.

The Power Reverser mechanism can also be seen mounted on the running board.





"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:  9 March 2015

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