Thanks to the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, I’ve managed to scrape up some time to blog about things, and make the time to visit some interesting events around Sydney, one of which is the Transport Heritage Expo.
The Transport Heritage Expo runs from Saturday 6th June to Monday 8th June and is run by Transport Heritage NSW, the new name for the NSW Rail Transport Museum, under NSW Government support. This event is quite a special one, as the preserved and restored single-deck electric “red-rattler” trains will be on display for the first time in eight years, along with Southern Aurora carriages, all free of charge to visit. Steam train rides and vintage buses will be in operation and Mortuary Station on Lee Street will be open for a visit, re-enacting the “troop train”.
I spent some time on Saturday morning visiting the event, and started the day at Central Station, Platform 3.
The Red Rattlers
Along the side of Platform 3, we are greeted by a line of different “red-rattler” carriages. The train is designated F-set, number 1, and consists completely of restored single-deck electric cars of over 85 years age, each with its own historically-significant story.
From the outside, the brown-red and yellow bodies and silver tops are very much part of the charm of the carriages. However, one of the most striking features is a massive pantograph. The carriages are all well staffed by friendly, passionate and knowledgeable staff, which told me that the reason for its size has to do with the overhead heights being regulated to “about” 1m difference between the highest and lowest points, especially around railway crossings where it would be at the high point. The unit apparently also utilized pneumatic raising and spring tensioning, so getting one of these up required using a foot pump.
They almost look a little “compacted” by the overhead at the station, but I suppose the overhead heights are much more regulated, which allows for smaller pantographs of both double-diamond and single arm design to be used.
Further down the line, I found this train with beclawat windows, and a much more modern S-set style pantograph. Upon listening to the air compressor, it sounded also like an S-set! I asked a member of staff about it, and they did admit that they had to “borrow” these from an S-set as replacements – I suppose that’s what happens when the right parts aren’t available for a restoration and can’t be made.
Looking through the doors, the inside is finished in quite a bit of wood, with a green and white colour scheme.
The doors themselves had manual locking handles on them, and slid open and closed along brass rails.
That’s why there is a warning near the doors to stay within the car, as many people would not close them properly or deliberately ride with them open and throw things out of the doors.
The windows utilized sliding metal shutters with locks on each side, which seems quite user unfriendly.
The lighting inside the cars were from “fancy round” style incandescent globes in batten holders with lovely lamp-shades. It feels very classy, although somewhat dingy, making photography a bit tricky. There are a few holes in the bulkheads near the top, and apparently they were air holes in case the doors and windows get completely closed, so there was no chance for oxygen deprivation.
Even the ceiling vents featured ornate cast grilles with NSW on them.
The main passenger area is outfitted with “borrowed” seats from a Tulloch trailer car, and these were reconfigurable for direction by pushing.
These seats bring back many memories, as I do remember the branding on the seats. In fact, there are several brandings depending on the era in which the seats were made.
We start with this one, branded PTC NSW, for Public Transport Commission of New South Wales.
Then there is this one, branded NSW GR for New South Wales Government Railways.
Then there’s this one I’m most familiar with – SRA NSW for State Rail Authority New South Wales.
Back then, it seemed that smoking in carriages might not have been entirely prohibited, thus the segmentation of carriages into smoking and non smoking. That being said, I didn’t see any smoking carriages at the exhibit, and it seems possible that the smoking carriages may have suffered corrosion by being exposed to smoke and were scrapped.
The carriage featured slightly different seats with handrails painted to match, but also, no more ornate light fixtures. The globes are instead housed in troughs with diffusers, as if “halfway” to the transition of being fully fluorescent.
I suppose vandalism has always been an issue, and finding labels like these are considered a “historic artifact” worth preserving.
The carriage also had a very sizeable vestibule area, a layout which seems to have been preserved in the “single deck” portion of the tulloch trailers.
While the poles are made of metal, it seems they are fixed to a cross-beam made of wood. This was rather surprising to me.
Here’s a few other different styles of warning labels in the carriages.
Another valuable item of heritage are the network maps affixed inside the carriages. Unfortunately there aren’t maps in every carriage, but I did manage to capture these two, and do my best to fix for perspective (but resolution is slightly poor as a result). Of note is that this carriage has now upgraded to fluorescent lighting.
This map under SRA administration has several interesting features. Warwick Farm Racecourse, the Rope’s Creek line from St. Marys, the Sandown line from Rosehill, the Pippita line and the Royal National Park line are all there, none of which exist in today’s network. The East Hills extension had not been made yet at this time, and of course, neither were the Epping to Chatswood rail link, and South West rail links. It’s also noticeable that many stations had apostrophes in their name, none of which persist.
An older and more compact horizontal representation of the network map shows much the same thing, although the Pippita line has an additional station at Abattoirs. For the most part, the line colours remain consistent except for the North Shore line and East Hills line.
One of the carriages had been renovated with sliding beclawat windows, of the same sort that were used on the tulloch trailer cars. These windows had a propensity to oxidise at the frames and get jammed.
The coupling itself looks very standard and compatible with the S-sets.
We then reach the end of the train – the front end of F-set number 1. The impressive part was that this train was moved from Carriageworks Redfern to Central at night for safety reasons, and was done under its “own steam”. I’m very surprised the motors and control gear were fully operational – and apparently had been kept this way for several commemorative runs which never happened. Under new Sydney Trains management, it seems more likely that it would happen at last.
Southern Aurora Carriages
There was a line of ornate Southern Aurora carriages, formerly used for luxurious travel between Sydney and Melbourne.
The interiors looks like a meeting boardroom in some respects, mixed with a plane. Very nice.
There are also ornate glass art dividers between sections.
The lounges do get very comfortable and modern-looking, while the walls are decorated with transport-related art.
Despite not taking a ride on the train itself, it did come in just in time for me to grab a few photos of it. Locomotive 3642, a green engine, hauling a line of trains, was preparing as it was being filmed by Channel Ten.
The engineer was working hard to shovel the coal into the furnace and “stoke” the fire.
It was very nicely painted on the outside, the maker’s plate confirming that the engine was made at Granville. The train coupling has some buffers as well to absorb some of the “jolt” of starting and stopping.
Of course, to run a steam engine, part of the problem is a loss of water, so the carriage behind the engine is a large water tank.
People were waiting to board the carriages, as if they were “time travellers” stuck in an anachronism.
The carriages were mostly different, with buffet car, and several different classes with different liveries, and seemed to be outfitted with the latest RFID tags for safety reasons.
At the rear, there is a diesel locomotive helping along – I like the name …
Just outside Central Station’s refurbished Grand Concourse, Sydney Bus Museum were running two vintage bus routes. Route 417 went to Town Hall I believe, and was being served by this double-deck vintage British Leyland bus at the time I exited the station.
Route 427 went to the Mortuary Station entrance and back. Both routes were at a gold coin donation, but I declined riding on either one, instead opting to walk to Mortuary Station to continue my sightseeing.
Parked just opposite the pedestrian crossing at Central was a vintage tow truck as well – quite an apt exhibit given the reliability of some of these old things …
Mortuary station is just down Lee Street, a medium walk from Central Station. Not normally open to the public, you would notice it every day as you come into Central, especially from the Intercity lines.
Aptly named, it was used in conjunction with Rookwood Cemetery, which is just adjacent to Lidcombe. The line is no longer operating it seems.
Instead, as a tribute to the 100 years of ANZAC, a troop train re-enactment was undertaken with steam engine 2705, with one very proud engineer from Loco Depot Thirlmere.
One carriage was on show, although no admission was allowed.
While Mortuary station does still exist, and is architectually very interesting, it doesn’t seem to be used for much anymore. It is electrified, with an overhead catenary.
But if you look at the tracks, the rails have rusted almost completely, with the edges going brittle, and the occasional wooden sleeper being replaced with a concrete one.
Still, the mural on the side of the building adjacent still greets us every morning as we ride into the city, a great achievement for Florence Mary Taylor. (White edges due to perspective correction.)
Although it was only today that we finally got to walk up to the plaque for the mural and read it.
It was an enjoyable morning spent at the heritage expo, and it was wonderful to have chatted with such knowledgeable people on the technicalities of the trains. Around me, people were reliving an abundance of fond memories. It was a very good display, and a very surprising one to see enjoyed by even the young children that couldn’t yet walk (and were subsequently pushed through the carriages in their prams, with difficulty). If you have some time over the long weekend, maybe it’s worth dropping by as well to have a look.
There is word that in September, some more heritage exhibits may be on show. I did enquire whether they bought out a double deck Tulloch trailer car, but they said that while they did have some, they thought double-deck would be too modern. Maybe next time?