Author: Lee Hooper

Access Service Officer

Sir Harold Winthrop Clapp (7 May 1875 – 21 October 1952) was a transport administrator with the Victorian Railways who over the course of thirty years revolutionised railways as we know it.

Harold Winthrop Clapp
Portrait of Harold Winthrop Clapp










Clapp introduced faster services and more powerful locomotives, supported the farming sector and presented a report on standardising rail gauges (track width) which then led to a uniform rail gauge across capital cities. 

Clapp was renowned for his unprecedented attention to customer service and a paternal management style. He had a fantastic memory and learned the names and faces of thousands of railway employees. His concern for worker conditions was genuine and he was personally responsible for improvements within the industry such as better sanitation facilities and the provision of good cafeterias.

Clapp became Chairman of Commissioners of Victorian Railways in 1920 and remained Chairman until his retirement in 1951. 


Sir Harold Clapp's Greatest Achievements

  • improved timetables
  • larger, modern and more powerful locomotives
  • the introduction of electric lighting on locomotives and the fitting of auto-couplers (the mechanism for connecting rolling stock)
  • improved services to regional areas
  • under his chair, Victorian Railways expanded operations into everything from motor coach services, a ski chalet, bakeries and crèches.
  • he gave support and assistance to the farming sector by introducing two special trains, the Better Farming Train and the Reso Train (Victorian National Resources Development) which boosted rural rail traffic and helped to meet customer demands for agricultural products.
  • he examined and implemented the Upgrade of the clunky Melbourne to Sydney express service into the all-metal, all-air-conditioned, non-stop, high-speed express Spirit of Progress.

Harold W Clapp was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 1941 in recognition of service to public service.

Sir Harold resigned from the Victorian Railways in September 1951 due to declining health, but continued to act as a consultant to the Department of Shipping and Transport. On 14 July 1952 Harold was honoured by having the new revolutionary B Class Diesel electric Locomotive named after him, the B60 - Harold W Clapp.

Harold passed away 21 October 1952. He left behind a wife, and three children. He was tributed far and wide, including by then Prime Minister Robert Menzies. He was praised as a remarkable man and his list of accomplishments are to this day considered momentous and ground-breaking.

Victorian Railways ‘B’ Class Diesel Electric Locomotive - B 60 the Harold W Clapp

photo of train


The B class were diesel locomotives built by Clyde Engineering, Granville for the Victorian Railways in 1952-53. They were the first mainline diesel locomotives built in Victoria and were designed similarly to the Electro-Motive F-unit which has the characteristic bulldog nose.

The first B Class locomotive (number B60) was launched in July 1952 and was named the Harold W Clapp.

A very popular and important locomotive for the next few decades, the 26 B Class locomotives operated on broad gauge lines throughout Victoria, working with many important passenger trains, as well as fast freights.

In the 1980s it was decided to try to rebuild the now aging B Class Loco’s into A class locos.

In 1985 after 11 Loco’s had been rebuilt the project was abandoned due to funding issues and rising costs. This combined with the inception of new higher powered locomotives rendered many of the B class superfluous and a few were scrapped. Others were purchased by private vendors, some were stored and as of 2014 only three of the original B Class Diesel electric Locomotives are still in service.

In 1983 the B 60 – Harold W Clapp was converted to an A Class Locomotive – A 60 Sir Harold Clapp and continued as a passenger loco for many years. It is currently in storage.


Public Records Sourced

PTC Collection photographs: VPRS 12800 Photographic Collection: Railway Negatives: Alpha-numeric Systems and VPRS 12903 Photographic Negatives: Railways: Box Systems, digital images available via PROV’s online catalogue

Creating Agency: Victorian Railways (also Victorian Railways Commissions 1883-1973, Victorian Railways Board): VA 2876 1883 – 1983.

Agency currently responsible: Public Transport Victoria: VA 4968 2014 – Cont, Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure: VA 5003 2014 - Cont.

  1. Portrait of Sir Harold W Clapp VPRS 12800/P1 Item H1255

  2. Sir Harold W Clapp on tour VPRS 12800 P1 Item H2551

  3. B 60 Harold W Clapp Locomotive Model on display at the Victorian Railways Centenary 1954 VPRS 12800 P1 Item H2664

  4. B class Diesel Locomotive NO.60 named Harold Clapp at North Melbourne VPRS 12800/P1, item H 5072

  5. Inauguration of the Spirit of Progress at Spencer Street Station. Victorian Premier AA Dunstan speaking with Harold Clapp at left – 7 November 1937 VPRS 12800 P4 RS/0456

  6. Model of B Class Diesel Locomotive NO.60 Harold W Clapp, Front view VPRS 12903 P1 Item Box499-07

  7. B class Diesel No.60(Harold Clapp) on overland train VPRS 12903 P1 Item Box665-06

Special thanks to Phil Dunn for the loan of the Victorian Railways ‘B’ Class – B 60 Harold W Clapp - Locomotive model.

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