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Notes on Double Deckers

Lineside Notes
for SETS' Double Decker History Tour
Saturday 14 February 1998

By John Horne

Historical notes on Comeng double-deck suburban cars, with a particular focus on cars C3805, T4799 (ex C3803), T4843 and C3765.

The cars on this train are C3805, the first production suburban double deck motor car which entered service on 10th May 1972, T4799, ex prototype double deck motor car C3803 which entered service on 6th January 1969 and re-entered service as a trailer on 1st March 1982, T4843 which was C3803's "matching" trailer which entered service on 12th April 1965 and C3765, the last Comeng suburban motor car which entered service on 21st May 1980. As C3765 is one of the few motor cars that has not been refurbished at the time of writing, it was considered appropriate to have this car as one of the cars on the consist.

From the opening of the first electrified rail line in Sydney in 1926 to the 1960's (and indeed the mid 1970's with the last four wooden driving trailers) the wooden trailer cars were the oldest electric carriages in service. These cars were of a lighter construction than the steel carriages and the wooden bodied Bradfield motor cars that they operated with. Problems with this lighter construction showed through whenever there was an accident with a wooden trailer in the consist: the wooden trailer car generally wore the impact of the collision and a number of them were written off after accidents. These cars were even starting to show signs of their age in the 1950's and when the post war batch of Tulloch cars were built there were 105 trailers built but only 50 motor cars. A number of cars were rebuilt with plywood panelling but this was only a short term measure to extend their useful life.

Accordingly, in the early 1960's a decision was made to have additional trailer cars built so that the remaining wooden trailer cars could be retired from service. Expressions of interest for new designs were welcome and a double deck design evolved with the single deck sections being retained at the outer ends of the car but the main saloon being split into an upper and lower deck. An order was then placed with Tullochs at Rhodes for the construction of 120 double deck trailer cars and apart from a radical new body design other different features included an aluminium body which reduced the vehicle's weight (32 tons as opposed to 35 tons with the single deck vehicles), sliding instead of lift up windows (although on the design drawings lift up windows were to have been installed on the end saloons), fluorescent lights, the relocation of the air tanks from the middle of the car to the ends of the car and a new style of seating which had smaller seat backs than the single deck carriages.

The first 40 double deck cars were fitted with power operated doors and 120 volt lighting systems and operated with the Sputnik motor cars. To achieve this the Sputnik trailers were converted to 36 volt lighting systems, the power operated doors converted to manual operation and the jumper coupling receptacles converted to match the older pre-Sputnik sets. The last 80 cars were fitted with manual doors and 36 volt lighting systems to match the older cars but they had the recessed box above the doors and the control box panels in the saloons so that should these cars ever be converted to power door operation some of the facilities were already there. These cars were an immediate success and it was not uncommon for people to ring the Railways to find out what runs these cars were on so that they could ride them. The major problem with these cars was the lighting: the lights were short length tubes and in the end saloons the lights were very high and the standard of lighting in this area of the cars was appalling. Fortunately, in later years the lighting in these cars was altered to the same high standard of later double deck cars.

Given the overall success of this new design the next hurdle to overcome was the design of a double deck motor car. This was a major job as it meant redesigning the location of the compressor, generator and line switches as this equipment was located underneath the cars in the centre of the cars and the only vacant areas in the double deck design was in the carriage ends above the ceiling height although it mustn't be forgotten that in this area a pantograph had to be located. Accordingly designs were made of a double deck motor car design and four motor cars were ordered to basically the same design as the existing trailers. Different bogies, motors and other electrical equipment was used in each car for evaluation purposes so that the best equipment possible could be ordered with later production cars. These cars were numbered C3801 to C3804 and trailer cars T4839, T4840, T4843 and T4844 were altered to run with these cars. T4843 and T4844 were altered to 120 volt lighting systems, power operated doors and had the jumper coupling receptacles relocated whereas T4839 and T4840 only had to have their jumper coupling receptacles relocated. The four motor cars and these four converted trailers had distinctive builder's plates fitted in that they were of a chromed type as opposed to plated type. Originally T4841 and T4842 were to have been altered instead of T4839 and T4840 but it was considered that the Sputnik sets could operate with only two spare trailers instead of four and T4839 and T4840 were accordingly converted.

The first production double deck motor cars of any description were the 8 DCF double deck interurban cars which carried a few features that were unusual to this group of cars but it is appropriate to deal more fully with this on a double deck interurban tour. The first production double motor cars was the group of cars C3805 to C3857. These cars were delivered in 1972 and 1973. This order of cars was ordered specifically to replace the majority of Bradfield motor cars which were starting to show their age (many Bradfield cars were withdrawn in the late 1960's and early 1970's and considered uneconomical to repair). Whilst these new Comeng cars were of stainless steel construction they were painted when new so that they would match the Tulloch trailers that they operated with.

To achieve equilibrium in the sets 53 Tulloch trailers (T4841, T4842 and T4845 to T4895) were altered to run with these cars, the major modifications being conversion to power operated doors, 120 volt lighting systems and apron mounted jumper coupling receptacles. The conversion of these cars was done at Tullochs and after the last three cars were converted in 1973 (T4857, T4877 and T4881) Tullochs gradually wound down and eventually closed. For the record the last suburban car to leave Tullochs was C7410 after its four motor conversion from C3410.

These cars were the first suburban cars to have double length windows, tan upholstery and had much better lighting than the Tulloch cars. These were also the last production double deck cars to have tip over seats (all later cars having roll over or non-reversible seats), the last cars to have tapered (as opposed to flat) ends at the number one (non-driving) end and had distinctive coffee colored internal panelling (later cars having pale yellow, then bright yellow and finally light blue/grey). These cars had different external panelling to later Comeng cars, flat panelling (as opposed to ribbed panelling) on some of the sections near the car ends and were the only Comeng cars not to have rotary ventilators above the top deck. It is strongly recommended that people obtain internal photos of C3805 showing the distinctive internal colour scheme as this colour scheme is being superseded with the Citydecker overhauls and all cars will now have the same coloured interiors with the exception of a few of the early overhauls which were applied to some of the Goninan cars.

When the early cars on this order were delivered the 4 and 8 car all red double deck sets certainly looked impressive. However, whilst this order of cars was being delivered a decision was made to change the colour scheme to blue and white and it was not long before trains with mixed colours started to run. To make matters worse there was only a gap of about six months between the delivery of C3857, the last painted car and C3858, the first unpainted car and in fact when C3858 and C3859 entered service they ran with two blue and white Tulloch trailers, thereby giving three different colours: blue and white, red and unpainted silver. To make matters worse a number of cars were later painted in the single deck blue and white which meant that the white section was higher than the original double deck type so therefore a fourth colour scheme was created and when the cars were painted Indian red in later years a fifth colour came into existence. This situation was most unsatisfactory and after a number of trials the motor cars were paint stripped and the Tulloch trailers painted grey, although not all Tulloch trailers are the same with some cars having body coloured grey lower decks and other cars having black lower decks.

C3765 is the last Comeng suburban car built and is part of the order D4071 to D4095 and C3741 to C3765. The major distinctive feature of these cars is the unusual panelling in the small saloon behind the guard's compartment in that there is just one panel with an insert for the window whereas all other cars have separate panels for the sliding door recess and entire length of the panel that holds the window. One noteworthy occurence with this group of cars was that the 25 driving trailers were all delivered before the first motor car (D4095 entered service on 23rd July 1979 and C3741 entered service on 18th August 1979) whereas with all earlier orders of Comeng cars there were always more motor cars than trailers cars delivered. This massive excess of trailer cars over motor cars worked well as a similar situation occurred in reverse with the Goninan cars that were being delivered at the same time as there was a large number of Goninan motor cars without matching trailers. In fact when the Eastern Suburbs Railway opened, apart from cars T4101 and T4102 running with C3001 and C3002 the train consists were early Goninan motors with driving trailers from the D4071 to D4095 group.

This group of cars and the Goninan cars were the first cars to enter service with the blue lights above the guard's door and the driving trailers from this order which are being decabbed during their Citydecker overhauls have the unusual distinction of being the only cars to lose this light. Ten driving trailers from this group have been renumbered in the block D4001 to D4010 and these are the only 10 cars out of the 85 driving trailers built at Comeng to retain their driving equipment.

As detailed above C3765 is the last suburban car built by Comeng and there were Goninan cars being built at the same time. This was the first time that suburban cars were being built by more than one contractor at a particular time for 50 years, the last occasion being in the late 1920's with motor cars being built by Clyde Engineering and trailers being built by the Walsh Island Dockyard. All future suburban cars after C3765 were built by Goninans. However, Comeng still continued to build interurban cars for a number of a number years until the delivery of DKM8145 and DKT9191 and the rebuilding of DCM8027 after its accident at Springwood. After this the site closed down and is now unrecognisable, so it is interesting to remiss that the birthplaces of all the cars on today's tour are now used for other purposes.

Most passengers are well aware of the Citydecker overhauls that are now occurring and you are well advised to photograph the remaining unrefurbished cars and even the unrefurbished K Set cars as these cars will be refurbished as soon as the pre K Set cars are completed. We hope that you enjoy the tour and should you have any questions about the tour please do not hesitate to contact any of the SETS officials or myself. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Michael Kerry for his assistance in providing details of dates of entry into service for various cars.

John Horne

On behalf of the Committee
Sydney Electric Train Society.

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Sydney Electric Train Society