The L class was built from 1967 as the main locomotive class to operate trains on the newly opened standard gauge lines in Western Australia. They carried out these duties successfully until the late 1990s when the delivery of newer locomotives and the formation of National Rail reduced the number of trains that needed to be operated, and many L class became surplus to requirements.
In late 1998, Westrail (operators of railways in Western Australia) sold seven stored L class locomotives to the Australian Transport Network. During August 1999, the locos were moved to the NREC plant at Whyalla in South Australia for refurbishment, and the locos re-entered service from May 2000. In late 2002, a number of stored locos were sold, leaving only the three operational locos in ATN ownership (L251, L254 & L271).
The refurbished locos were operated by ATN Access on wheat trains in Victoria and New South Wales, utilising new wagons constructed in China. Due to reliability problems of the L class, other locos had to be hired from other operators, on both long and short term basis. Three 830 class loco had also been purchased, but these had an even more limited lifespan.
With the sale of ATN to PN in 2004, the two remaining operational locomotives (251 and 270) were been repainted and absorbed into the greater PN fleet, the third (254) being stored due to fire damage sustained in ATN ownership.
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