The Z class locomotives were built primarily for the new bulk woodchip log traffic and were initially used on the Western, Fingal and Bell Bay lines and on the northern part of the Main Line. The design was based on the West Australian Railways R/RA classes, as GEC were offering four locos based on this design at a cheaper rate and quicker delivery. Follow up orders were to the later ZA class , as by this time the design had been completed as the Queensland Railways 2350 class.
Their operation spread around the system as traffic demanded, and more train services used larger automatic coupled wagons where their increased power could be put to best use. The Z class operated in multiple and interchangeably with the later ZA class. Initially only two locomotives were generally used in multiple, by the 1980s this had increased to three locomotives, and by the 1990s four locomotives together was common.
From 1984 the train braking system on these locos was converted from Vacuum to Westinghouse air brake, and later all locos were repainted AN green. Z1 and Z2 were upgraded during 1995/96 with better crew amenities, and all class members were then repainted yellow. In June 1998, the four locomotives were renumbered to 2110 to 2113 in their original number order. During late 1998, both 2110 and 2111 were modified to allow Driver-Only-Operation, and with the other two locos following in 2000 and 2001. These second group of locos became the only EE locos repainted in the ATN Maroon livery.
In their final years they tended to operate as pairs or triples on ballast trains and the Fingal to Railton coal trains, although they were occasionally used on intermodal services when required. The locomotives remained in service until mid 2014 when they were all stored prior to sale.
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