Designed as a passenger loco to replace 40 year old A2's that were the backbone of passenger haulage, they were only used in actual passenger service for a relatively short period . Dieselisation caused the R's to be relegated to less suitable duties than those for which they were designed. Apart from later day enthusiast train work, this class was in fact a very short lived class in the VR steam picture. Only two R's, 719 748, were converted to oil burners.
R707 was fitted with pulverised brown coal equipment for a time.