Great Northern Rail Services

Great Northern Rail Services was a railway operator in Victoria, Australia. Great Northern Rail Services was incorporated in July 1993 and provided locomotives and train crews to other rail operators, ran general train operations (freight and passenger) and rail vehicle maintenance services in Victoria. The company was the first fully accredited and operational private rail operator in Victoria.[1] The company ceased operations in November 2002 due to the increased public liability insurance costs.[2]

Great Northern Rail Services
IndustryRailway operator
Key people
Geoff Tighe (CEO)


Great Northern Rail Services had its start in the leasing of locomotives, in particular to the National Rail, but later expanded into other rail and rail related areas. The main areas of operation were:[1]

  • Infrastructure maintenance (ballast spreading, rail recovery, sleeper distribution etc.)
  • Maintenance of locomotives and freight wagons
  • Locomotive leasing (with own crew, or pure leasing)
  • General train operations (provision of locomotives, crews and crew hire)
  • Hook & pull operations
  • Terminal shunt and transfer
  • Intermodal terminal operation

In November 1997 the company was the first private company to sign an Enterprise Agreement with the Public Transport Union - Locomotives Division and became the first private company to operate locomotives with its own crews on the Victorian rail network.[1]


A timeline of the company:[1]


The fleet was obtained second hand from other operators, some being overhauled and returned to service, while others were acquired for spare parts. The corporate livery consisted of burgundy with a broad red stripe along the side of the unit, dropping into a 'V' at the front of the locomotive, and a yellow pinstripe separating the colours similar by the 1950s Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad scheme.[6][7]

Locomotives purchased were:

Of these locomotives, only T345, T373, T376, T377, T381, S317, GM10, GM22, GM27, J102, J103, J104, J105, 4468, 4471 and 4477 were returned to service.[6]


Great Northern ceased operating trains under their own accreditation from 20 November 2002 but continued under the control of Chicago Freight Car Leasing Australia until 2 December 2003 when a management buyout was made.[6] The locomotives and operator accreditation of the company were acquired by Chicago Freight Car Leasing Australia who sold the operator accreditation to Southern Shorthaul Railroad.[10] Chief executive Geoff Tighe later became business manager for El Zorro, another small rail freight operator.[11]


  1. Australian Productivity Commission: Inquiry into Progress in Rail Reform - Submission by Great Northern Rail Services Pty Ltd October 1998 Australian Productivity Commission
  2. Department of Transport and Regional Services - Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics - "Rail Infrastructure Pricing: Principles and Practice" The level of public liability insurance required to run over rail lines in Victoria is reported to have led Great Northern Rail to cease operations in November 2002.The Australian 18 November 2002 page 29)
  3. "Ballarat Workshops Sale" Railway Digest October 1999 page 16
  4. "GNR Power in Sydney" Railway Digest October 2000 page 33
  5. "Mudgee Line Workings" Railway Digest November 2000 page 47
  6. Peter Attenborough (February 2005). "Great Northern Rail Services". Australian Model Railway Magazine: 22–25.
  7. "Great Northern Update" Railway Digest May 1996 page 19
  8. "Great Northern Puts Faith in GM Chant" Railway Digest November 1998 page 16
  9. "44 Class Units on the Move" Railway Digest January 2001 page 38
  10. Southern Shorthaul Railroad homepage
  11. Philip Hopkins (14 April 2008). "El Zorro aims to make grain long-running cereal". Retrieved 14 April 2008.
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