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The 48 class were introduced by the NSWGR to replace steam working on light branch lines. From September 1959 onwards, a total of 165 units were placed in service, and have been used on virtually all lines on the NSW network. They have an axle load of only 12.5 tones, and their 900 horsepower is well matched to the typical branch line workings. In tandem, they are regarded as equivalent to a single 44 class unit, hence their wide route availablity and utility.
The 48 class design was also used for the 15 units of the 830 class of the South Australian Railways , and for 3 units on the Silverton Tramway.
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