CPH Class
Photo: RailCorp Archives

Rail Motors were first developed in NSW as a means of providing a low cost alternative to steam hauled services on rural branch lines throughout the State. All of the early developments in this area were undertaken by the NSW Government Railways. Overseas developments influenced some of the later designs but the majority were built to meet local demand for economical and reliable transport. Early experiments started in 1919 with a converted motor lorry and a converted passenger carriage in 1921. These were followed by production vehicles introduced from 1923 and they proved an immediate success with passenger patronage growing steadily. The 1930's saw the rail motor fleet expanded with larger and more powerful models, while the Silver City Comet of 1937 was a ground-breaking achievement for NSW Railways, being the first lightweight air-conditioned diesel train in the southern hemisphere.

The growth of powerful lightweight diesels immediately following World War II provided the impetus for the re-engining of the older vehicles, while new construction featured diesel power from the outset. It also marked the move away from the traditional British motive power suppliers to American manufacturers. The 600 Class of 1949 made good use of lessons learnt with aircraft construction in NSWGR workshops during the War. These new items of rolling stock featured aluminium body construction on a steel underframe to produce a lightweight high performance vehicle. The value of this form of construction is amply demonstrated by the fact that 92 vehicles were built to this basic design from 1949 through to 1968.

The advent of the air-conditioned DEB Sets in 1951 moved the rail motor away from its traditional role as the supplier of branch line services and into the main line arena. As such, they provided an admirable adjunct to the heavier locomotive hauled long distance trains on services that required the inherent flexibility of rail car type operations. The 1960's and 1970's saw the early moves by NSW Railways to external design and construction with the Budd and Tulloch cars. The fuel crisis of the 1970's and economic constraints of the 1980's saw the branch line rail motor service disappear from the NSW country landscape to be replaced with more economical road coach services. However, many of the displaced country rail motors were concentrated into the Sydney metropolitan area and there continued to serve out their remaining active lives in fairly intensive suburban operations.

The Express Passenger Train (XPT) first appeared in 1981. These trains offered many advantages, the principal one being the ability to operate at higher speeds over existing track infrastructure without the need for expensive upgrading. With the advent of the XPT and connections with road coaches, the future looked bleak for the long distance rail car. However, political pressure for direct rail services with Sydney from local communities led to the production of the air-conditioned high-speed Xplorer trains in 1993 that still operate similar services, such as the Northern Tablelands Xplorer and the Canberra Xplorer, that were pioneered in the 1950's by the early DEB Sets.

The 1990's saw the last of the loco hauled passenger trains (apart from transcontinental services) disappear from the NSW metals with XPTs and Xplorers then providing all of the long distance passenger services within NSW and on the three interstate routes connecting Sydney to Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne. The latest Hunter rail cars entered service in 2006 and replaced the last of 1960's built 620 Class rail cars. The Hunters, along with some of the Endeavour Class, provide local services in the Hunter Valley, while Endeavours also provide outer interurban services on the Main South, Illawarra and Main West lines.

A number of early rail cars survive in preservation and many see active lives supporting the growing heritage tourist market in NSW. Foremost among these are the 1923 vintage 42-Foot Rail Motors that had a resurgence of life with diesel engines in the late 1940's and it is a credit to their initial design that these vehicles are "soldiering-on" well into the 21st Century.

THE NSW RAIL MOTOR FLEET

The following table illustrates the growth of the rail motor fleet from humble beginnings in the 1920's through the present day. Vehicles in heritage collections are not included.

NSW RAIL MOTOR FLEET STATISTICS

Year

Power Cars †

Power Vans ‡

Passenger Trailers

Parcels Trailers

Rail &
Pay Buses

Total

1920

1

 

 

 

 

1

1925

7

 

 

1

 

8

1930

33

 

7

5

 

45

1935

37

 

9

6

 

52

1940

40

5

22

11

6

84

1945

39

5

25

14

5

88

1950

41

5

31

14

6

97

1955

47

4

36

13

6

106

1960

58

4

45

21

6

134

1965

79

4

62

28

6

179

1970

86

4

68

33

6

197

1975

93

4

68

32

7

201

1980

83

4

68

26

7

188

1985

65

18

89

12

7

191

1990

43

15

90

1

 

149

1995

71

19

78

 

 

168

2000

58

19

67

 

 

144

2005

58

19

66

 

 

143

2010

65

19

60

 

 

144

2015

65

19

60

 

 

144

Powered vehicles with passenger accommodation

Powered vehicles without passenger accommodation