On 2 September 1998 the first two locomotives in the planned replacement of Tasmania's mainly English Electric locomotive fleet arrived in Tasmania from New Zealand. The first GM-powered locomotives in Tasmania were originally two ex-Queensland Railways 1502 class purchased by Tranz Rail for use in New Zealand in 1996. All DQ class locomotives were rebuilt and modified at Tranz Rail's Hutt workshops at Wellington, before being shipped to Tasmania. Modifications included lowering the nose, the addition of a computerised control system, upgrading of the motors to EMD 645 specifications, fitting of dynamic brakes and some noise insulation. Some locomotives saw service in New Zealand before being repainted and sent to Tasmania, whilst others were rebuilt and shipped to Tasmania immediately. A number of locomotives of this type remained in service in New Zealand until 2013 before being sold to Africa. After arrival in Tasmania, each batch of locomotives were towed to Tasrail's East Tamar Workshops for adjustments and testing, before being slowly issued to service.
The first two locos arrived at Bell Bay on 2 September aboard the Polar Bird. A second batch of three DQ locomotives was unloaded from the Arktis Dream on 16 December 1998. This shipment also included three unmodified QR class locos and one Tranz Rail DC class loco. A third batch, of three locomotives, was unloaded from the Edisongracht on 3 March 1999. A fourth batch, comprising locos 2009 to 2012, was off loaded from the Melanesian Chief on 5 October 1999.
The DQ class locomotives have had a chequered career so far, with a high number of main generator failures tainting their reputation, although reductions in rated haulage capacity in recent years have reduced the number of in service failures and train operating problems. DQ2001 was taken to the Dynon workshops of Pacific National in Melbourne following engine damage in 2006, with the aim of being rebuilt as a prototype for the rest of the fleet, but the work did not proceed beyond some stripping. The locomotive was returned to Launceston when the railway was sold back to the government, and following reassembly was the first loco to be repainted into the new TasRail orange & grey livery in August 2010.
With the TR class taking over mainline service, by late 2015 the serviceable DQ locomotives were predominately used on Melba line services, as well as yard shunters in Burnie and Devonport although they do make occasional trips east/south to cover loco failures. Locos 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008 are stored and would require heavy overhauls and other work before being available for use.
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