ZL Guards Vans





The conversion of VR rolling stock to automatic couplers, which began in the 1923, was at the expense of a certain amount of shock absorption, which had been afforded by the springs in the buffers. This issue was exacerbated as goods train lengths became longer, principally as the result of the introduction of the more powerful diesel electric locomotives in the 1950s.
The solution adopted, was to retro fit many of the Z vans with a longer shanked coupler and larger draft gear. This program commenced in October 1959 and by 1965, when the project was completed, some 487 had been modified. This represented about two thirds of the total fleet, which was numbered from 1 to 746, and those so done, had the suffix L (for Long shank) added to their code.
The original numbers were retained, and the vans for conversion seemed to have been selected at random, or perhaps according to the vehicles condition. Those Z vans not modified were predominantly from the lower numbered of the class.

The body of ZL 1, as shown ABOVE in its twilight years at Nth Geelong, was built at the Newport Workshops as D 1 (the second) in 1889. It was re-coded as Z 1 around 1910 and converted to ZL 1 in March 1965. During its lifetime, it had been fitted to at least 3 different underframes, and survived till the ripe old age of 93, being removed from the register on August 25 1982
Photograph taken on May 21 1979, courtesy of David Hewitt.





Number in class: 488.
1979 total: 203.
Number Group: 1 - 746.
Construction Period: 1889 - 1951.
In Service: 1959 - Early 1980s.
Where Built: Various.
Modeling: SEM makes a supurb HO model of the 3 axle type.
  Veteran Models make a etched brass and whitemetal O scale kit.


Number Group Features Built
1 - 626 (370) Timber framed 3 axle, planked sides 1889 - 1929
627 - 706 (79) Steel framed 2 axle, planked sides 1941 - 1945 NP
707 - 746 (39) Steel framed 2 axle, smooth (and some partially planked) sides 1950 - 1951 NP

DIAGRAMS

Vehicle History List




The article below is from the Jan. 1960 VR Newsletter



In the later years, the Guard's union placed a limit on the the number of wagons ZL's could be trailed behind. This limit was reduced by 5 vehicles each year until, in 1980, the limit was 45 four wheeled wagons.


The six wheeled ZL vans initially retained the four windows, across the front and back of the raised cupola. Commencing in the mid 1960s, the centre pairs of windows were progressively covered over with steel sheeting. At least two vehicles however, Nos 375 & 616, escaped this modification. The four wheeled vans were built sans the centre windows, and the two provided to the vehicles end had a horizontal bottom, as opposed to the curved bottoms of those on the early vans.
Photographic evidence shows that other external modifications to this class were very minimal, mainly limited to occasional removal of the plinth board and the sheeting over of the dog-boxes.


In order to provide some accomodation to the drovers accompaying livestock, quite a common occurance on the branch line to Cudgewa, bunks were fitted into the end of the van sections on Nos 347 & 420. Signboards were fixed externally, restricting these vehicles use to that purpose.





ABOVE & BELOW: ZL 1 at Nth Melb workshops, Aug 20 1978.



ABOVE: ZL 1 at Nth Melbourne, July 4 1975.
Photograph courtesy of David Hewitt.

 

ABOVE: Photo courtesy Rob O'Regan

ABOVE: ZL 10 at Ararat 1977.

ABOVE: ZL 217 at Ararat,  July 29 1978

ABOVE: ZL 36 at Dandenong, May 19 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 54 at Bendigo, March 28 1978.


ABOVE: ZL 62 fitted with disc wheels, very unusual for a ZL. 1978
Photo courtesy Rob O'Regan.

ABOVE: ZL 88 at Horsham, 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 187 at Nth Geelong, December 25, 1978.
Photo courtesy David Hewitt.

ABOVE & BELOW: ZL 193 at Ballarat, November 28 1978.
Both photos; Geoff Winkler. ZL 193 was an anomoly, Every ZL I saw or photographed had the steps onto the roof at the non cupola end but 193 had them at the cupola end. Very early photos of D/Z vans show steps at the non cupola end




ABOVE: ZL 200 at Woodend. March 1978



ABOVE: ZL 220 was the last ZL to keep its corrugated double roof, Nth Melbourne April 1977
Photo courtesy Peter J. Vincent.

and BELOW: at Nth Geelong, April 4 1978.
Photo Geoff Winkler.





ABOVE: ZL 220 at Nth Geelong, April 4 1979.
Photo courtesy David Hewitt.

ABOVE: ZL 264 has a wheelset changed out at Nth Melbourne workshops 1976
photo courtesy Peter J Vincent.

ABOVE: ZL 268 photograpghed in 1978.


ABOVE: ZL 270 at Nth Melb workshops March 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 290 photographed 1978 at Nth Melbourne workshops.

BELOW: ZL 290 at Emberton 2018. 

This is the content for Layout P Tag


ABOVE: ZL 292 at Jewell, April 22 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 303 photographed June 1978.


ABOVE: By the 70's the vast majority of ZL's had their planked door panels replaced with plain panels as shown above and below. Also, compare the roof overhang style on these two vans. ZL 321 at Jewell, April 22 1978

ABOVE: ZL 333 photographed in 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 336 at Bendigo. March 28 1978.


ABOVE: ZL 347 at Geelong, August 2 1978.
Photo courtesy of David Hewitt.


ABOVE: ZL 347 at Nth Geelong, February 6 1978, and
BELOW: 'Off register' and ready for scrapping at Ballarat Workshops, October 2 1978. The body of this van was purchased and moved to a farm near Rokewood.
Both photos; Geoff Winkler.


ABOVE: ZL 352. April 24 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 354 at Bendigo. March 28 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 364 at Newmarket. April 15 1978. BELOW: ZL 364 at Bendigo March 28 1978

ABOVE: ZL 364 photographed in 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 375 was stencilled for "Way & Works overhead van" of particular interest is that the centre windows were not blanked over. Very few ZL's had all cupola windows intact by the late 70's. Arden St, 1978, and BELOW at Nth Geelong on April 5 1979.  Photo; Geoff Winkler.



ABOVE: ZL 375 at Nth Geelong, May 30 1979.
Photo courtesy of David Hewitt.



ABOVE: ZL 384 on a very frosty morning at Wangaratta, July 31 1977.
Photo; Geoff Winkler.

ABOVE: ZL 390 at Nth Melb workshops in 1978. Built new Nov 1913, during it's conversion to a ZL (Jan 1967) it received the underframe from Z 389.

ABOVE: ZL 394 at Nth Melb workshops 1978. Z 394 was built Nov 1913, autocoupled Aug 1935, converted to ZL Aug 1964, scrapped Dec 1981.

ABOVE: ZL 395 photographed in 1978.  Z 395 was built Nov 1913. autocoupled June 1935, to ZL March 1964. March 1971 it was placed on the underframe from ZL 280.

ABOVE & BELOW: ZL 403 at Nth Melbourne workshops 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 404 at Nth Melbourne workshops, 1979


ABOVE: ZL 418 at Nth Melbourne workshops, 1979

ABOVE: ZL 419 at Ararat, Jan 7 1971 Note the split axleboxes and much higher running board than the running board location on one piece axlebox equipped vans.
Photo courtesy Tony Smith.

ABOVE: ZL 420 at Geelong, December 1, 1976.
Photo courtesy of David Hewitt.

ABOVE: ZL 420 at Nth Geelong, April 6 1978, and BELOW: only a couple of months later, ready for scrapping at Ballarat Workshops, June 26 1978. Both photos; Geoff Winkler.



ABOVE: ZL 439 at Castlemaine. March 28 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 443 at Jolimont workshops, April 1977
Photo courtesy Peter J. Vincent.

ABOVE: ZL 443 at Nth Melb workshops March 1978

ABOVE: ZL 448 at Westall, July 1 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 451 at Castlemaine. March 23 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 454 in 1978. It is off register and looks like it has been canibalised for parts prior to be scrapped, 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 456 photographed June 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 466 at Ravenswood,August 2022.
Photo; Geoff Winkler.


ABOVE: ZL 482 at Nth Melb. workshops 1978

ABOVE: ZL 488 at Dandenong, March 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 491 at Nth Melbourne workshops, 1978

ABOVE: ZL 510 at Nth Melb workshops 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 518 at Nth Melb workshops 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 523 in 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 525 at Dandenong, April 22 1978

ABOVE: ZL 535 preserved near Hepburn. 2010

ABOVE: ZL 563 photographed in 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 567 at Nth Melbourne workshops 1978. Z 567 was built July 1925 and converted to a ZL in 1963. It was scrapped not long after this photo was taken Sep 1978.


ABOVE: ZL 569 at Ballarat May 13 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 569 at Nth Geelong, May 30 1979.
Photo courtesy of David Hewitt.

BELOW: ZL 569 at Nth Melb workshops, Nov. 1979


 

ABOVE: ZL 579 late 1970's (photo courtesy Peter J. Vincent)

ABOVE: ZL 583 at Jolimont June 1982 (photo courtesy Rob O'Regan)

ABOVE: ZL 586 at Port Melbourne June 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 594 photographed in 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 596 at Nth Geelong April 24 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 601 at Dandenong, April 22 1978


ABOVE: ZL 607 at Port Melbourne. April 1 1978.


ABOVE: ZL 616 at Geelong, July 8 1978.
Photo courtesy of David Hewitt.


ABOVE: ZL 616 at Nth Geelong, July 8 1978.
Photo; Geoff Winkler.

ABOVE: ZL 624 at Bendigo, after withdrawl from service, Oct. 1 1985.
Note the wire grills over the cupola windows, these were added to a few ZL's from about 1980 onwards
Photo courtesy Rob O'Regan


4 Wheel ZL's
627 - 706 were built with 2 axles, planked sides and just 2 cupola windows. Construction of this group began in 1941 and ended in 1946


ABOVE: ZL 628 at Nth Melbourne, March 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 642 at Nth Melbourne workshops in 1978. Z 642 was built June 1941 at Newport, converted to ZL Sept 1960.

ABOVE: ZL 644 at Port Melbourne, April 1 1978

ABOVE: ZL 657 at Nth Melb workshops 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 669 at Nth Melb workshops, Feb. 1978 BELOW: 31 years later near Daylesford, Aug 2009


ABOVE: ZL 673 at Nth Melb workshops March 1978

A number of ZL's were restricted to local area work in their later days, June 1983, Tottenham

Photos of ZL 673 courtesy Rob O'Reagan


ABOVE: ZL 677 at Woodend, March 1978,and
BELOW: ZL 677 at Nth Geelong, Feb. 7 1978.
Photo courtesy Geoff Winkler.

 


ABOVE: ZL 691showing the dog compartment door blanked over, 1978.


ABOVE: ZL 695 at Bendigo. March 28 1978

ABOVE: ZL 699 at Nth Geelong April 24 1978


ZL 705 at Arden St. Feb. 1978.


Although the group 707 - 746 were built with panel sides as shown in the photo ABOVE of ZL 709  Photo at Dandenong Feb 1978. and
BELOW: ZL 709 near Hanging Rock July 2022.

 

ABOVE: (Arden St April 1 1978) and BELOW: (Bendigo July 8 1978): ZL 711 showing both sides still retaining its full panelling

ZL 712 at Mildura, 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 714 circa 1978.
Photo courtesy Peter J. Vincent.


ABOVE: ZL 721 at Port Melbourne, July 22 1978.

ABOVE:ZL 723, photo at Dandenong April 30 1978, is a good example of the final group in close to "as built" condition. Note the lack of a gusset between the cupola and body and the flat bottomed end windows. This series were built with only 2 windows in the cupola. In latter years some of these "smooth sided" ZL's recieved planked side and/or end panels. ZL 723 was built as Z 723 in 1951 at Newport, it was converted to ZL 723 in 1960.


ABOVE: ZL 724 circa 1974, (photo courtesy Peter J Vincent)


ABOVE: ZL 725 at Nth Melb workshops March 1978, and
BELOW: ZL 725 at Nth Geelong, June 15 1978.
Photo courtesy Geoff Winkler.

ABOVE: ZL 731 photographed June 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 740 in 1978. Built new July 1951, convereted to ZL March 1960.

ABOVE: In this photo we see ZL 743 with most panels replaced with planks. Also note the dog compartment door blanked over, this was common in later years. Nth Geelong April 24 1978.

ABOVE: ZL 745 at Nth Geelong, June 15 1978.
Photo courtesy Geoff Winkler.



ABOVE: Undated photo of D 4. They were reclassed to Z   circa 1910. D4 was built March 1889. (PROV photo)


BELOW: I recently found the documents shown below at the PROV. The issue of rough riding in Z vans was a persistent problem which of course led to the creation of the ZL class. The documents below show that in 1970 the VR considered putting Z van bodies onto passenger car underframes. This proposal was never carried out.


Behind a church at Lockwood South is ZP 603, I took the first two photos in 1978      

BELOW: I revisited the van in 2012, 34 years later.
The non cupola end faces north which accounts for the severe sun damage.

page last updated Sat, Nov 7, 2015