A History of Track Vehicles in NSW

The following History of Track Vehicles in N.S.W. was written by Mr. Greg Lee. It first appeared on the GMR web site in around 2003.


  • Part 1 Introduction
    • Some of the information contained in this article has been gleaned from conversations with old railwaymen. It has not been possible to verify all of the information, and so the absolute correctness of some details cannot be guaranteed.


      Some readers may have heard of a "Fairmont Trike", At first glance this would appear to he an anomalous term, because Fairmonts have four wheels, and trikes have three wheels, don't they? Well, as some members may be aware, all vehicles such as Fairmonts are loosely called "trikes", in NSW, at least. But wait now, aren't the sheds they are housed in called "trolley sheds"? Trikes in trolley sheds; is there any sense to this?


    • The earliest known conveyances used by fettlers in NSW were called Flat Top Trolleys. See Fig. 1. They consisted of a simple wooden frame, with cast iron "friction" axle boxes, which sat upon two wheel sets. They were used to carry tools and materials. Some could be fitted with "hungry boards", for carrying ballast. They had crank pins protruding from their wheels, and on the level and on moderate grades the fettlers propelled them by pumping the crank pins up and down with hand held rods, whilst standing up. On steep grades the fettlers would get off and push. For braking when descending grades, a simple wooden handle was provided, which simply rubbed on one of the wheels. A larger version of the flat top trolley, called the platelayers' trolley, or dreadnought, was used for track laying and rerailing. They were about 15' long, and were used to carry 40' rails.P> In the days when flat top trolleys were common, the NSW Government Railways were frugal indeed. Nothing was wasted. To house the flat top trolleys, rudimentary shelters were constructed from old sleepers. See Fig. 2.  Since these sheds housed flat top trolleys, they were called, naturally enough, "trolley sheds". One of these sheds survives at Megan, and there is the remains of one at Timber Top. Trolley sheds have changed in size and construction over the years, the 52 Gang trolley shed at Glenreagh (see Fig. 3) being of modern (c1945) design. ]however the name has remained the same.


    • Two other types of manually propelled vehicles appeared some time last century. They were the Sheffield Trolley, and the Manual Tricycle. See Figs. 4, 5 & 6. Both were built by the railways at Goulburn Per Way Workshops, and Newcastle Per Way Workshops (Civic). They were modern compared to flat top trolleys in that they had ball bearing axle boxes, and geared drive.


    • Sheffields were operated by 3 to 10 men, pumping the central handle up and down, using their arms. Manual Tricycles were of two types. single pull amid double pull. The former carried one man, and the latter two. They were operated by pumping the central handle backwards and forwards, using the arms, and they also had foot pedals attached to the bottom of the handle for leg action. Single pull tricycles were supplied to many fettlers, and were the most common type of fettlers' transport ever used on the NSWGR.R. In order to carry their tools, the fettlers placed a piece of chicken wire between the outrigger and the body of the vehicle, which served as a sort of net, upon which the tools were placed. Some of the single pull tricycles were converted for the use of signalmen. They had lamp racks fitted in which to carry kerosene "7 day lamps". The signalmen would use the trikes to travel to their signals when "doing the lamps".


    • In about 1910. the first motor tricycles appeared as fettlers' transport. See Fig. 7. Prior to this a few motor vehicles were in use on the system, but only by District Superintendents, Maintenance Engineers, and other VIPs. Motor tricycles were generally first introduced on steeply graded sections, where manually propelled vehicles made for slow going, and so decreased the fettlers' production in their track maintenance work. (They were probably not used on the Dorrigo line however, since by 1924 when the Dorrigo line opened, 4-wheel "Quadricycles" had been introduced. See p38 of Malcolm Paull's book The Glenreagh to Dorrigo Branch Railway). Motor tricycles were powered by a Villiers 2-stroke petrol engine, with direct belt drive onto the front wheel. The only means to start these machines was to push them, since they had no clutch, the idea being to jump on once the engine fired. As can be imagined, these tricycles "got away" if the fettlers weren't quick enough jumping on. Thus the procedure was adopted of priming the carburetor, and then turning the petrol off, before push starting. Then if a tricycle "got away", the fettlers would chase it, knowing that it wouldn't go far before running out of fuel. For this reason, the motor tricycles were nicknamed Chase-Me-Charlies by the fettlers.P> By about 1920, by far the most common vehicles in use by fettlers in NSW were the single pull tricycle. and the motor tricycle. Both were referred to as trikes. Although all vehicles later introduced had four wheels, the term " trike" was by then so entrenched, that the four-wheelers came to be known as trikes also. Thus even today on the S.R.A. one will find "trike mechanics" and hear of people "triking" through a section, even though all of the vehicles referred to have four wheels. The term "trike" is a colloquial expression, and is not used in official publications, but it is used almost universally just about everywhere else. Note however, that the (relatively) recently introduced "Hyrail" road-rail vehicles are not referred to as trikes. Oh, and yes, trikes are housed in trolley sheds.


    • Acknowledgments

      Jack Burraston, Murrurundi. Errol Hall, Tregeagle. Alan Robinson, Bathurst. Stan Souter, Mittagong. Eddie Tracey, Glenreagh. Fred Weller, Glenreagh.



       2. Megan Trolley Shed


           Figure 3. Glenreagh Trolley Shed 

Figure 4. Sheffield Trolley 

Figure 5. Single Pull Tricycle 

Figure 6. Double Pull Tricycle 

Figure 7. Motor Tricycle


  •  Part 2 The Strange and Unusual Muck Dobbin
  • Good Track Drainage

    • The importance of drainage in relation to track maintenance is probably not generally realised. It is not possible to have a good track without good drainage. Since most railways in N. S. W. were built before the advent of earth moving machinery, the earthworks were. of necessity, limited to the minimum size necessary to allow the construction of the railway formation. This resulted in narrow cuttings, with room only for narrow drains. See figure 8.




Figure 8




    • Over a period of time these drains became silted up, and blocked with debris. If such a situation is not corrected, water will lie in the drains instead of running away, and soak into the ballast and the formation. The water carries mud with it, and in this way, bad drainage eventually leads to track ballast being fouled with mud. Fouled ballast is not able to bear the loads transmitted from the track under the passage of trains, and so the track sinks into the ballast. (This phenomenon is analogous to the formation of pot holes in bitumen roads). The end result is bad "top", and rough riding of trains.


    • Ballast Cleaning


    • The correction of such a situation is a costly and involved process. It requires the excavation of all of the fouled ballast, and replacement with new ballast. This can be done with the track in place, using a special on-track machine (in which case it is called "ballast cleaning"), or with the track removed (called "reconditioning"). It should be noted that to simply place new ballast on top of fouled ballast, and lift the track onto the new ballast, does not solve the problem. In fact it usually exacerbates it. Good track maintenance involves regular cleaning of drains, so that the ballast does not become fouled. These days this work is usually carried out using backhoes or excavators, and dump trucks.


      The Muck Dobbin


    • In days gone by, the work was carried out using horses and scoops, or men and shovels. It was of course necessary to provide a receptacle for the men to shovel into. This receptacle took the form of the Muck Dobbin. See figure 9.



    Figure 9. Muck Dobbin



      The Muck Dobbin consisted basically of a wooden tray mounted on a wooden frame, on wheels. Like the flat top trolley, it had simple "friction" cast iron axle boxes. The wooden frame was pivoted in the middle in such a way as to allow the tray to be manually tipped, even when full of mud. When a Muck Dobbin was filled with mud from the drains in a cutting, it would be pushed out of a cutting onto an embankment for emptying. Emptying was accomplished in an innovative manner. A portable turntable was provided, which was placed on top of the rails. The Dobbin was pushed onto the turntable, which was then rotated until it was at right angles to the track. The Dobbin was then pushed off the turntable onto specially placed rails sticking out over the side of the bank, where the mud would be tipped. See figure 10.



      Figure 10.


      Muck Dobbins were used for many years, probably from the early days of N. S.W. Railways in 1855, up until the 1960s. In this time, countless tons of mud were removed from cuttings and deposited over embankments. Large mounds of mud were thus created on many embankments. The mounds may still be observed in many places today. They abound on the North Coast Line, and can also be seen on the Dorrigo Line (vegetation permitting).


    Part 3 The Quadricycle
    • Introduction


    • Although mechanised transport first came to NSW fettlers in about 1910 (as described in Part 1), its use did not become widespread until considerably later. The motor tricycles or Chase-Me-Charlies, were the first form of mechanised fettlers transport in NSW They suffered several disadvantages. Starting and mounting was a problem. They also suffered from the inherent instability common to all three wheeled vehicles.


      First Quadricycles


    • The solution took the form of the quadricycle. The first ones were simply a tricycle with an extra wheel fitted they retained the same engines (3 1/2 hp Villiers) and drive arrangements.They also retained the name Tricycle, despite having four wheels, until sometime in the 1950s when the term Quadricycle was introduced.










      Figure 11

      Quadricycle Developments


    • As Quadricycles evolved over time, various modifications were made, including:

      • Fitting of a more modern Villiers engine

      • Power decreased from 3 1/2 to 2 1/2 to 2 hp

      • Drive arrangements altered to include

    • Gearbox & Wheel Alignment


    • The gearbox was an Albion model "J", which had 3 forward speeds, but no reverse. Quadricycles, like tricycles, could not travel in the reverse direction, due to their peculiar wheel alignment (See figure 11). Tricycles and Quadricycles had this type of alignment because they only drove on one wheel. This tended to push the machine sideways as well as forwards. This sideways push could cause the machine to derail when negotiating right hand curves, if the wheels were not correctly aligned.


      Experienced Operators


    • Many experienced operators increased the toe-in dimensions to at least double those shown on the drawings in Figure 11, especially on lines with sharp curves, such as the Dorrigo line. This was possibly due to them having suffered the terrifying experience of a Quadricycle derailment. It was also common practice. to carry something heavy, such as a big jack, in the tray at all times, to help keep the Quadricycle on the rails. It was important not to treat Quadricycles roughly, since knocks to the wheels could put the wheel alignment out.


      Manufacture and Supply of Quadricycles


    • Quadricycles were manufactured at Goulburn Per Way Workshops from the 1920s until the 1970s. They became an extremely common form of fettlers' transport and were supplied to every fettling gang in N.S.W at some stage. However, some gangs were not supplied until the 1960s, having up till then relied on manual transport.




    • Quadricycles were commonly known as Quads. They were also referred to as Trikes, as were all other track vehicles. Quads were permitted to carry 1 or 2 people, but in emergencies they could accommodate a much larger number. They had two seats, and a tray in which to carry tools and materials.


       Figure 12 shows a Quadricycle its final form


      Removing a Quad from the Track


    • To remove a Quad from the track, the rear of the machine was lifted, turned at right angles to the track, and pushed onto a take-off, or into a trolley shed. To place a Quad on the track, the procedure was reversed. To aid lifting, Quads had hand grips extending from the tray, as seen in Figure 13. Beginning in 1967 the trays of Quads were replaced with new ones which included slide-through lifting handles (as seen in figure 12). To lift the Quad, both handles were pulled out from the rear of the tray for about half their length. The machine was then lifted as before. These new handles made the task of lifting Quads considerably easier. At the time they were fitted, instructions were issued that old gangers were to have their Quads attended to first. In their final form Quads weighed 3 cwt. 2 qtrs. (1 77kg). Earlier versions were slightly heavier.


      Maximum Permissible

      Speed The Rules and Regulations initially limited speed of Quadricycles to 15 mph but this was subsequently increased to 20 mph. The machines were capable of speeds in excess of 30 mph, but only the foolhardy would attempt such speed 30 mph on a Quad felt like 60 mph.



      Operating Hazards

      One of the perpetual hazards of using trikes was that of unexpectedly meeting a train. There were numerous Rules and Regulations designed to prevent this from happening, but never the less,irregularities did occur. When faced with a rapidly approaching train, the usual action taken (in the pursuit of personal survival) was to jump off and allow the Quad to be smashed to matchwood. The intended way to ride a Quad was to straddle it like a motor bike. Those users with a strong survival instinct would ride them "side saddle". This would allow for speedy dismounting in case of emergency.



      Brake Arrangements

      The braking arrangements on Quads consisted of a small wooden brake block on each of the front and rear main wheels. The former was foot operated, and the latter hand operated. The brake blocks originally had a leather lining. These were later changed to a Ferrodo lining. In flat country, and in dry conditions these brakes were satisfactory. In the wet and on grades they were very poor, and it required skill on the part of the operator to keep the machine under control. Trials were carried out using cast iron brake shoes the steep Unanderra Moss Vale line in about 1960. The cast iron shoes were found to be more effective, especially in wet weather, but their use was never generally adopted.



      Use on the Dorrigo Line

      During the reopening of the Dorrigo line by DSR&M volunteers in the early 1980s, Quads were our main form of transport for some time. Several derailments occurred when running over small sticks that had fallen from nearby trees. It became apparent that Quads were unsuited for use on the line due to their light weight, poor braking and low carrying capacity. After other track vehicles had been purchased, the Quads were rarely used.


      Acknowledgment for contributions Part 3 to Allan Robinson and Eddie Tracey


      Part 4 TICs, SICs and Trailers


    • The existence of the track tends to be taken for granted by many who are interested in railways. Yet without track no train could run, and so the track and more particularly its maintenance deserves some consideration.


      Track Divisions & Running the Length


    • In NSW the state is divided up into "Divisions" for track maintenance purposes. Each Division is under the control of a Division Engineer. The number of Divisions and their boundaries have changed many times over the years. Division Engineers have at times in the past been known as Maintenance Engineers and also Resident Engineers.

      In days gone by, heavy maintenance and renewals (resleepering, rerailing and ballast reconditioning) were carded out by special "extra gangs" of at least 20 labourers. Minor maintenance and day to day housekeeping were carried out by small gangs (usually 5 men) of fettlers, under the control of a fettling ganger. The fettling ganger was directly responsible for the condition of his "length" of track. He, or one of his men, was required to ride over the length by trike every day to observe the state of the track, and look for defects. This was called "running the length" or "running the road". Before the introduction of motor transport, lengths were. of necessity short. They were normally 7 miles, on both main lines and branch lines.

      With the introduction of motor transport it became feasible to make the lengths longer. When motor trikes were provided there was some amalgamation of fettling gangs, and typical lengths became 10 miles for mainline, and 20 miles for branchline. Lengths could be longer or shorter than these figures, depending on the circumstances, such as grades and terrain.




    • The vehicle known as the Towing Inspection Car or TIC was introduced some time prior to 1936. They were originally used by fettling gangs on some of the branch lines in outlying areas of the state. As well as being used to inspect the length, they were used to take the gang to their place of work for the day. The gang and their tools wore accommodated on a trailer which was towed behind the TIC. The trailer was fitted with a central longitudinal bench for the fettlers to sit on, while the tools were carried under the bench.


      Figure 13 "Type B" TIC


      "Type A" TIC


    • All TICs were built at Goulburn Per Way Workshops. Indeed the first TICs were originally known as the "Goulburn Type", but were later designated "Type A". They had a tubular frame and a 3 1/2 hp air cooled two stroke Villiers engine, with a Burnam model "Q" gearbox. Starting was by a kick starter on the gearbox, with the final drive being by chain to the rear axle. 'Type A" TICs had only one seat and were permitted to carry only one person. All later TICs had two seats and were permitted to carry two people.


      "Type B" TIC


    • In 1948 the "Type B" TIC was introduced. They had a steel channel frame and better rating and braking arrangements. Mechanical details were the same as for the "Type A". See Figure 13.


      Villiers Engines


    • Some difficulties were experienced with the Villiers engines. Overheating was a common problem, and instructions were repeatedly issued concerning procedures to be followed to avoid overheating. The engines were lubricated by means of an automatic oil feed, but damage occurred to the pistons due to insufficient lubrication. On 11 August 1936 instructions were issued that oil was to be added to the petrol at the rate of 1 pint of oil to 5 gallons of petrol (1:40) to provide extra lubrication.


      Figure 14.


      "TIC Mark 56"


    • In 1956 the "TIC Mark 56" was introduced. These had a light channel frame, --and wore powered by a 4 1/2 H.P. air cooled, four stroke B.S.A. engine, with an Albion model "HR" gearbox. Starting was by rope to the starting pulley on the engine. See Figure 13.


      "TIC Mark 60"


    • In 1960 the "TIC Mark 60" was introduced. These were similar to the Mark 56, but had wider seats and floors, and were powered by an air cooled, four stroke Wisconsin engine. See Figure 14.


      Figure 15.


      In 1961 Division Engineers were asked to advise which of their "Type A" TICs were in urgent need of replacement so that a priority for allocation of Mark 60 TICs could be determined.


      TIC Operation and Features


    • TICs were originally permitted to travel at speeds up to 20 mph, but due to overheating problems this was decreased to 15 mph, when laden. By 1963 the maximum speed~ for all TICs had been increased to 30 mph.

      The controls of TICs were set up similarly to those of a motor car. They had a foot pedal for the clutch, and another for the brake. The gear lever extended directly from the gearbox, in the centre of the car. A hand brake lever was also provided in the centre of the car. The throttle was hand operated.

      The braking arrangement on TICs consisted of a small wooden brake block on each of the wheels. As with quadricycles, the brake blocks initially had a leather lining, but this was later changed to a Ferrodo lining, which was found, to be better. Braking performance was similar to that of quads; that is in flat country, and in dry conditions the brakes were satisfactory.

      In the wet and on grades they were poor. On some Divisions the trike mechanics took it upon themselves to fit Fairmont cast iron brake shoes to TICs. These dramatically improved the braking performance.


      Mechanised Lengths


    • Up until the early 1960s virtually all track maintenance work was carried out manually. There were no machines of any sort (except for motor trikes). With the advent of small and lightweight internal combustion engines the use, of machines such as air compressors became feasible. Thus a programme of mechanisation and amalgamation of fettling gangs was embarked on. Several adjoining "lengths" would be amalgamated into one 91 mechanised" length. The fettlers were provided with a modern new gang shed featuring such conveniences as hot water, toilets and showers. This was a vast improvement from the trolley shed, which did not even feature a pan toilet. Machines were provided in the form of "spot air" compressors, and air tools. Mechanical rail borers, rail saws, and sleeper borers were also provided. Usually a motor lorry was provided for gang transport, to allow greater distances to be covered more quickly. Unfortunately road access to and along the track was usually not provided until much later. In flat country this was not a great problem, as it was usually possible to drive along next to the track. However in hilly country such as the North Coast road access to many parts of the track was impossible. There are still many parts of the North Coast line that are difficult to access by road.

      By the late 1970s most fettling gangs had been amalgamated. However, fettling gangs north of Armidale remained non mechanised until regular services ceased in October 1989, when the gangs were closed down. The last fettling gangs under the control of NSWGR to succumb to mechanisation were those between Border Loop and Brisbane where amalgamation occurred in the early 1990s.


      The Track Supervisor


    • Typical main line mechanised lengths are of 40 to 60 km. In outback areas, and on branch lines they can be over 100 km. These increased lengths meant that "meaning the length" became almost a full time job. Thus with mechanisation and amalgamation of the fettling gangs came structural change also.

      To each gang was appointed a "Track Supervisor" whose job it was to run the length, and systematically inspect the track. An unfortunate side effect of this was that the fettling ganger who had hitherto often had great pride in the condition of his length, was no longer in charge of the length. Inevitably many gangers lost interest in condition of the length. SICs and sits


    • Track Supervisors have used many different types of transport to inspect their lengths. Up until the late 1970s quads were by far the most common form of transport. TICs were also commonly used. To accommodate Track Supervisors Goulburn Workshops especially built the Supervisors' Inspection Car or SIC This was basically a TIC Mark 60 with a fibre glass canopy fitted, for protection of the supervisor and his driver from the elements. SICs towed special trailers called Supervisors Inspection Trailers or SITs. These trailers were provided to carry the Supervisors' tools and equipment, and were fitted with a special tarpaulin so that the supervisor's tools were also protected from the weather. See Figure 16.



      Figure 16.


      The manufacture of SICs began in the early 1960s, and continued until Goulburn Per Way Workshops closed in the early 1980s.


    • SICs afforded an increased level of comfort and convenience to the Supervisors. For this reason they were originally allocated to the Supervisors with the longer lengths, since they had to spend greater amounts of time inspecting their track.


      Hyrail vehicles


    • Most track supervisors in NSW no longer use TICs or SICs as they have been provided with Hyrail vehicles. Those are a standard four wheel drive road vehicle which has retractable rail wheels fitted to it. They provide a greater level of versatility in transport as they allow track supervisors to travel by either road or rail. They also provide all the comforts of a modern road vehicle. They were first introduced in NSW in the late 1970s, or early 1980s but their use did not become widespread until the mid 1980s.



      Errol Hall, Tregeagle (Lismore). Stan Souter, Mittagong. Teddy Martin, Goulburn. Eddy Tracey, Glenreagh. Alan Robinson, Bathurst.P>

      Part 5 The M19, MT14 and ST2 Fairmonts


      In earlier sections it was explained how track maintenance gangs in NSW used Sheffield trolleys,, flat top trolleys and manual tricycles to travel over their lengths, before they were provided with powered machines. As previously explained, the first powered machines were motor tricycles, introduced In about 1910 followed by quadricycles, introduced in the 1920s and Towing Inspection Cars (TICS) introduced in the 1930s.

      The carrying capacity of these machines was two men. Since they were provided for the transport of fettling gangs consisting of four to five men, several machines were provided to each gang, or in the case of TICS, a trailer was towed behind the TIC.


    • In the 1940s the NSWGR administration apparently decided vehicles of greater seating capacity were necessary. These vehicles took the form of Fairmont section cars, obtained from Fairmont Railway Motors Inc. of Fairmont, Minnesota, USA.


    • Three different models were eventually put into service on NSWGR.


    • They were the M19, having a 5-8 horsepower engine., and seating 4 people, the MT14, also having a., 5-8 horsepower engine, and seating 6 people, and the ST2s having an engine of 813 horsepower and seating 8 people. The relative performance specifications of the three models are listed in Table 1.

      All of these Fairmonts were powered by two stroke water cooled engines. These engines were unusual In that they could be run in either direction. To reverse a Fairmont, it was necessary to stop the engine, and restart It in the opposite direction. Ignition (except In the MTI4s) was provided by a trembler coil or "buzz box" similar to those used on Model "T' Ford motor cars. This had the advantage of providing a very strong spark, but the disadvantage of being powered by dry cell batteries for which there was no charging arrangement. This meant that Ignition was prone to failure due to flat batteries. Timing was provided by an adjustable timer attached to the crankcase with contact points actuated by a cam on the crankshaft. The timing range was approximately 90 degrees from retarded to advanced. This large arc of movement of the timer sometimes resulted In failure of ignition due to wires breaking off.

      The MT14 and ST2 Fairmonts had two speed gear boxes attached to the rear axle, being belt driven from the engine by a 4 Inch flat belt. The M19 was ungeared, having a 3 inch flat belt drive a pulley attached directly to the rear axle.

      The drive belt also acted as the clutch, being able to be tensioned and untensioned to engage and disengage the drive.


    • Fairmont controls consisted of a brake lever, a clutch lever, a throttle lever, a timing lever and a mixture screw. In this respect they were similar In design to 1920s motor cars and could be considered somewhat primitive for 1940s machines.


    • Fairmont engines were crank started, and had twin exposed flywheels. The fuel used was two stroke mixture of one part SAE 30 engine oil to eleven parts petrol. They were heavy on fuel with the 8-13 horsepower engines giving about ten miles to the gallon, and 5-8 horsepower engines giving about 20 miles to the gallon. They are therefore expensive to operate by today's standards.


    • Fairmont engines had no balancing weights on the crankshafts, and no elastic engine mounts, which resulted in engine vibration which sometimes produced frame cracks at engine mounting points. However. In operations the cars were surprisingly vibration free.


    • All Fairmonts had tapered roller bearing axle boxes. On the Ml9s and the MT14s suspension was provided by coil spring mounting of the axle boxes to the frame, which gave the cars a smooth, comfortable ride. The ST2s did not have suspension and were rough and Jarring to ride on.

      Fairmonts had extremely robust 16 inch pressed steel wheels which were more than adequate for their purpose. Braking was provided by a cast Iron brake shoe on the tread of each wheel, which provided Fairmonts with excellent stopping power.


    • Fairmonts were not fitted with mufflers, and the ST2s In particular were very noisy In operation.


      The M19


    • The M19 had a frame constructed from aluminium alloy angle sections, bolted together. which resulted In a very light weight car of 270 kg.


    • M19 Fairmonts were allocated to some fettling gangs. They were also provided to trike mechanics who used them to systematically patrol their areas for the purpose of maintaining trikes and other fettlers' machinery.

      Ml9 Fairmonts were also provided to Way and Works Branch Maintenance Engineers and Signal Branch District Engineers, who used them to inspect their respective domains. For this reason the M19s could be considered the elite of the Fairmonts.P> M19 Fairmonts had a drive ratio of 2.3 1 . 1 They were capable of a top speed of about 53 kph on the level. They had a peak power to weight ratio of 22W/kg which Is very high, but being high geared they had little pulling power, and so were not fitted with tow bars.

      They are not suitable for low speed operation ,on steep grades, and so have limited use on the Glenreagh Dorrigo line. In Table 1 appear extracts from the the Fairmont Ml9 promotional Bulletin published in 1946.


      The MT14


    • The MT14 had a frame constructed from light steel channel and angle sections, bolted together. They were a medium weight car of 394kg. They were allocated to some fettling and other gangs.

      MT14s had a drive ratio of 3.89:1 in low gear, and 2.25:1 in high gear. Being low geared they had excellent pulling power in low gear, limited only by the relatively low power of the engines. They were fitted with tow bars, and had a peak power to weight ratio of 15W/kg. They differed from the M19s and ST2s in that they had magneto ignition, with fixed timing, and so did not have a timing lever. This had the advantage of not requiring batteries, but the disadvantages of having fixed timing, and providing a relatively weak low speed spark. The fixed timing meant that low speed torque was lower than otherwise, and the relatively weak low speed spark meant that MT14s could be hard to start, particularly in damp weather. They were capable of a top speed of 54 kph on the level.

      They are ideally suited to towing moderately loaded trailers on the Glenreagh Dorrigo line.


      The ST2


    • The ST2 had a frame constructed from heavy steel channel and angle sections, bolted together. They were a heavy weight car of 517kg. They were allocated to bridge and extra gangs, and a few fettling gangs.

      ST2s had a drive ratio of 2.31:1 in low gear, and 1.33:1 in high gear. It can be seen that they are much higher geared than MT14s. This gives them a very high top speed of about 80kph on the level. Unfortunately this means that high gear is virtually useless for pulling purposes, and even low gear is geared too high for hauling heavy loads on steep grades. To make matters worse, ST2s suffer from lack of traction under load, due to their high peak power to weight ratio of 19W/kg.


    • ST2s were fitted with tow bars and the 8-13 horsepower engine would "pull a mountain out" if the power could be effectively harnessed. During 1985-88 GMR volunteers experimented with ways of improving the performance of a ST2 on the Glenreagh Dorrigo line. The drive ratios were decreased by fitting a smaller pulley to the engine, and a larger pulley to the gearbox, and traction was improved by fitting rubber treaded rear tyres. With these modifications the ST2 was able to pull a vastly increased load on the 1 in 30s of the Glenreagh Dorrigo line. During trials there was power and traction to spare and so the load was gradually increased until finally the drive belt started slipping.

      ST2s were geared too high for optimum use on steeply graded lines, and even on straight flat lines their power and speed was excessive. Without modifying their drive arrangements, the only way to get satisfactory traction from them on steep grades was to load them with suitable weights so as to decrease their power to weight ratio. This is not to say ST2s are of no use on the Glenreagh Dorrigo line. They have done a mighty job there in the past, and a hard working ST2 is an awesome sight and sound to witness. However successfully operating them requires considerable experience, and skill.


    • On the next two pages appear extracts from the M14 instruction Bulletin 555, and from the Fairmont M14 promotional Bulletin published in 1946.


    • The MT14 Fairmonts ~ in NSW were similar to the M14 car shown in the latter Bulletin. However M14s had direct ungeared final drive, similar to the M19s, whereas MTI4s had a two speed gearbox. (The "T' is thought to stand for "transmission").



      Fairmont Model


    • M19 MT14


        a conventional motorcycle clutch and gearbox. with kick starter, and
        • a chain drive to the rear wheel.

    • ST2

      Weight (kg)




      Power (Horsepower)

      5 to 8

      5 to 8

      8 to 13

      Maximum RPM




      Drive Ratio, Low Gear




      Drive Ratio, High Gear




      Maximum Speed, Low Gear (kph)




      Maximum Speed, High Gear (kph)




      Starting Power (kW)




      Peak Power (kW)




      Starting Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg)




      Peak Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg)




      Table 1. Performance data for Fairmonts used by NSWGR


      Part 6 The Wickhams.


    • We now look at the Wickham gang cars. The American built Fairmonts had been introduced in the 1940s, and had proved quite successful.


    • However, for some reason, when further gang cars were required, the NSWGR administration decided to try a completely different type of vehicle, manufactured by an English company. This vehicle was known as the Wickham, and was manufactured by D. Wickham & Co. Ltd., of Ware, Hertfordshire., England. It was classified by that company as their No. 4 open type gang trolley.


    • It is known that a prototype of the No. 4 car was received in NSW by July 1954, for evaluation purposes, with the intention of standardising on a design. The prototype must have proved satisfactory, as a considerable number of the No. 4 cars were subsequently purchased. While the exact number of cars ultimately employed is not certain, it is known to be at least one hundred.


    • The first of these cars entered service in 1955. These cars were built in England, and imported complete.

      A later batch of cars was assembled in Australia (possibly in about 1959) by Marine and Industrial Power Pty. Ltd., of Neutral Bay, Sydney, from parts imported from Wickham & Co.


    • The English built cars may be distinguished from the Australian built, by the type of 1-1/4" square tube used for the all welded frame. The Australian tube has rounded external corners of about 5/16" radius. The English tube is nearly perfectly square, with only a very small radius curve applied to the external corners.

      Wickhams were powered by a J.A.Prestwich (JAP), 600 cc, four stroke, single cylinder, air cooled petrol engine, rated at 6-10 H.P. Power from the engine was passed through a standard automotive type clutch, and then by cardan shaft to a two speed, two directional gearbox. The axle boxes were made of cast aluminium, and fitted with a single tapered roller bearing. The brake shoes were made of cast iron, and applied to the flanges of the wheels. The spoked wheels were of 14" diameter, and made from pressed steel. See Figure 1.


    • These JAP engines were of the dry sump type, with oil being circulated by a scavenger pump. The crank case and cowlings were made from aluminium alloy. There was no crankshaft as such, with the crankpin being located between two internal fly wheels, from whose centres spindles protruded to form the main journals. The big end bearing was a caged roller bearing, and the main bearings were ball bearings. Ignition was provided by a Wipac impulse magneto.

      The engine was started with a crank handle. Starting was usually easy, with only an upward half turn being required.


    • The gearbox incorporated ball bearings , helical cut and bevel gears, with gear changes being affected by dog clutches.


    • Wickhams were supplied to many fettling gangs in NSW, and were generally well received by the men who used them. They were permitted to carry up to six men, and travel at speeds up to 30 MPH (48 kph). They were capable of speeds in excess of 60 kph. They were a medium weight car of 370 kg. They gave generally faithful service for in excess of twenty years.


    • By the mid 1970s, the JAP engines were becoming in need of reconditioning, and some parts for the engines were becoming unobtainable. In particular, the rollers for the big end bearings, and exhaust valves could not be obtained.

      In 1977 the Motor Shop at Chullora Workshops commenced a programme of repowering the cars with Wisconsin engines, having electric start. See Figure 2. Many Wickhams were so repowered, with the JAP engines released being used to provide parts for the remaining JAP powered Wickhams, which were then confined to Tamworth and Grafton Divisions only. Wickhams were also repowered by the Division Trike Mechanics, with the last JAP engines being replaced in the late 1980s or early 1990s.


    • The Wickham cars were not as robust as their Fairmont counterparts, with several areas of particular weakness being apparent. The wheels were not of sufficient strength, and were prone to cracking through the spokes. The single roller axle bearings were occasionally subject to failure, which if not promptly detected would result in the axle destroying the aluminium axle box. The brake hangers were particularly weak, and as early as 1961 it was reported that they were wearing badly and required replacement. The gearboxes suffered from wear to the dog clutches, and occasional bearing failure.


    • In comparison, Fairmonts had extremely robust wheels, and substantial double tapered roller axle bearings. Their brake gear was superior and their gearboxes were also more robust, but not being two directional, were of simpler design.


    • Wickhams however had two distinct advantages over Fairmonts. One being a superior ignition system with consequent better reliability, and the other being the two directional gearbox, which meant the engine did not have to be restarted to change the direction of travel.


    • Wickhams were similar in size and weight to the MT 14 Fairmonts, which were purchased at about the same time. In general the Wickhams remained in service longer than the MT 14 Fairmonts, which is undoubtedly due to the fact that the Wickhams were repowered, while the Fairmonts were not.


    • Repowering the Fairmonts with a more modern engine was effectively impossible since the Fairmonts required an engine which would run in both directions. Although use of track vehicles in NSW gradually declined from the 1960s with the introduction of road transport, many Wickhams remained in service until the 1980s, with last of them giving way to Hyrail road-rail vehicles in about 1995.


    • They thus had lives of up to forty years, which is probably far longer than their manufacturers anticipated, and is testimony to their success, despite their mechanical shortcomings.



      Figure 17 General arrangement of the Wickham gang cars as manufactured. Drawing dated 26/10/54


      Acknowledgments are due to: Alan Robinson, Bathurst. Errol Hall, Tregeagle (Lismore).


      Part 7 The Departmental Heavy Duty Cars


    • In the late 1950s the NSWGR was heavily reliant on track vehicles for the use of track maintenance staff. For heavy work such as that carried out by bridge and extra gangs, powerful ST2 Fairmonts were usually provided. These had been purchased in the 1940s. When the need arose to acquire additional heavy duty track vehicles, NSWGR decided that rather than purchasing additional Fairmonts, they would build their own vehicles.


    • These vehicles were officially designated the Departmental Heavy Duty cars (DHDS) or alternatively, VW Gang Cars. The men who used them usually referred to them simply as Volkswagens, this being a reference to their Volkswagen engines.


    • Four VWs were trialed in 1960. They presumably proved successful as forty were ultimately built by the Goulburn Per Way workshops over the following few years.


    • DHDs were constructed on an all welded tubular frame of rectangular section. The engine was a 1200 cc Volkswagen industrial engine, developing about 36 HP. This is a very powerful engine for a track vehicle. The clutch was of the standard automotive type, driving a cardan shaft to the two speed, two directional gearbox.


    • The axles and axle boxes were the standard LGT (Light Gang Trailer) type. The wheels were of the standard NSWGR wooden spoked type as used on sheffields, flat top trolleys, muck dobbins pull trikes, quadricycles, LGTS, TICS, SICS, and SITS.


    • Quadricycles, LGTS, TICs and SICs had 14" wheels, and pull trikes had 14", 17" and 20" wheels. Sheffields, flat top trolleys and muck dobbins had 20" wheels. The DHD cars had 17" wheels. This gave them the largest wheel diameter of any powered track vehicle in NSW. It is not known why their designers gave them such large wheels, but it may have been in an attempt to improve traction, which is always a problem with high powered vehicles.


    • The gearbox was very similar in design to that of the Wickhams, but was of much heavier construction. The brakes were a direct copy of Fairmont design, with longer links as necessitated by the longer wheel base.

      DHDs were permitted to carry up to eight men, and travel at speeds up to 30 MPH (48 kph). They were a heavy weight car of 530kg.


    • An examination of the design of the DHD reveals several influences. The frame, axles and wheels were NSWGR in origin, the drive arrangement was obviously Wickham derived, while the brake gear had Fairmont parentage. Truly a hybrid.


    • Having combined the best features of three different types of track vehicles, the design should have been a good one, and by all accounts it was. In 1960 it was reported that the DHDs were very easy to drive, well sprung, and silent in operation.


    • Some early teething problems were encountered. In 1961 it was reported that three cases of clutch failure had occurred, and clutches were to be replaced with a heavier type. Exhaust pipes were also modified.

      There was one obvious design fault. The large 17" wheels meant an extremely high top speed. While the ST2 Fairmonts had a reputation for being capable of speed, the DHDs far outstripped them. The large wheel diameter combined with the very powerful VW engine made the DHD a real speed machine. They had a top speed in excess of 100 kph. The capability of such high speed is not only unnecessary, but also very dangerous in inexperienced or foolish hands.


    • Many DHDs remained in service until the mid 1980s, when the NSW State Rail Authority started selling off trikes. About ten have survived in private ownership.