SAR passenger rollingstock used on the Trans and Ghan linesComrails Logo

SAR passenger rollingstock used on the Trans and Ghan lines

In 1978, the Commonwealth, South Australian and Tasmanian Railways amalgamated to become what is now Australian National (AN). In the years since the amalgamation many items of the South Australian Railways (SAR) passenger rollingstock have been transferred to run on the former Commonwealth Railways (CR) lines. But this is not the first instance of SAR rollingstock finding their way onto CR tracks.

SAR No.CR No.Ent.ServWrit.Off
119NAP 14.189023.10.1933
94NABP 24.188823.04.1934
95NBP 34.18881954
126NBP 44.18901954
98NHS 14.1888
99NHS 27.1888
Table 1 SAR rollingstock transferred with the Palmerston line

This began initially as a result of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act of 1910, when the CR took over control of the Palmerston and Oodnadatta railways from the South Australian Government. With the take over of the Palmerston to Pine Creek line, the rollingstock then in use was sold to the Commonwealth. It was considered cheaper to do this than to return it to South Australia. The rollingstock included four narrow gauge lavatory cars which were recoded NAP1, NABP2, NBP3, NBP4 and two four wheel combination brake and luggage vans which became NHS class number 1 and 2. All six vehicles were condemned long ago, being either destroyed by fire or the ravages of time. Former South Australian Railways car BF 343

With the handover of the Oodnadatta Railway, in 1926, very little SAR rollingstock was made available for sale to the Commonwealth. Instead the SAR transferred most of the items to other regions of their narrow gauge system. The Commonwealth Railways constructed their own rollingstock and only purchased five 44ft. relay vans, (which became NHBR cars 18 to 23), one sleeping car (Wanilla) and the Steam Motor Coach known as the Coffee Pot. The sums requested of the Commonwealth by the SAR was as follows

Stockmans brakevans
Sleeping car (Wanilla)
Steam motor (coffee pot)

This was considered reasonable, being £3,433 less than the original cost of the vehicles and £7,911 less than the price SAR Commissioner W.A.Webb had asked for them in March 1922. All seven vehicles were handed over, in working order, on 1/1/1926 when the Commonwealth took possession of the Oodnadatta line.

Wanilla was a bogie sleeping car built by the Adelaide Locomotive workshops of the SAR and issued to service on the northern system in 1889 as car number 110. It was named Wanilla in 1917 and when sold to the Commonwealth Railways in 1926 was recoded NRP24. It was subsequently used in regular service as an Inspection and general passenger car on the Ghan and Chaser services of the Central Australia Railway (CAR), until written off in 1963.

SAR No.CR No.Ent.ServWrit.Off
1050NHBR 196.190828.10.1963
1090NHBR 206.190826.02.1964
1142NHBR 216.19081969
5646NHBR 226.1916
5647NHBR 236.191627.05.1969
110NRP 2412.188913.09.1963
Table 2 SAR rollingstock transferred with the Oodnadatta line.

Steam Motor Coach No.1 was officially recoded NJAB1 by the Commonwealth and used on services based out of Quorn. A complete history of the Coffee Pot can be found in the publications of the Pichi Richi Railway who have restored this unique vehicle to working order.

On 12 July 1950, Victorian and South Australian Railways (V&SA) Joint Stock Pullman sleeping car Macedon came under CR control and was coded ARC74. It was reissued in the CR maroon colour scheme with large Commonwealth Railways logo. It was originally purchased for £8,000 with the intent to use it as a spare Trans Australian sleeping car so as to allow other first class sleeping cars to be fitted with air-conditioning. It was intended that ARC74 have air conditioning installed, but because of the urgent need to get the car in service, these plans were abandoned. The only major alteration was to enclose one vestibule and fit it with a shower and toilet. When the standard gauge route to Marree opened in 1957, ARC74 was used on mixed trains as an unbooked sleeping car until being replaced by other surplus rollingstock. South Australian Railways 750

The remaining V&SA Pullman sleeping car Mt Lofty appears to have been acquired from the SAR in the 1960's along with other rollingstock. It was never used, but instead was put into storage at the Port Augusta Workshops until 1977. In that year both cars were internally stripped for conversion to Marketing vans for Ausrail retailers for the Tea and Sugar. ARC74 (Macedon) was recoded VPB74 and Mt Lofty became VPB328. Later the coding was further changed to become OPB. The cars are still in service operating between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie on the Tea and Sugar train.

Another major transfer occurred in 1963, when the CR purchased a number of suburban side loading passenger cars condemned by the SAR. They were converted to EC Employees Sleeping Vans for the Trans Australian Railway (classified NEC when on narrow gauge). Because of the varying lengths and styles of cars purchased, the EC lacked a consistent uniform appearance. All but one of these cars have been written off as a result of improvements in track gang accommodation and the use of ATCO style huts on flat cars.

SAR No.ANR No.Ent.servTo CRWrit. off
288EC 13812/19107/10/635/08/77
270EC 13912/19097/10/638/09/84
283EC 1401910 7/10/638/09/84
285EC 1418/1910 7/10/638/09/84
289EC 14212/1910 7/10/638/09/84
291EC 14312/1910 7/10/635/08/77
8 AEW 1441907 25/09/6316/10/87
286EC 1458/1910 18/05/645/08/77
274EC 1462/190918/05/646/12/73
287EC 1528/19106/08/648/09/84
295EC 15312/191026/06/648/09/84
292EC 154 12/191022/07/648/09/84
400EC 15510/191418/05/6427/05/78
477(909)EC 1644/19223/06/65
300(918EC 1659/191110/12/655/08/77
397(920)EC 16610/191425/06/655/08/77
490EC 16730/11/655/08/77
Table 3 Details of SAR rollingstock converted for employees use.
Mount Lofty car after conversion to Tea and Sugar OPB 328

Also in 1963, the CR obtained ex V&SA sitting car 8AE which was converted to the Mobile Theatrette Car. This conversion involved the removal of all compartments to provide a large open space for seating and projection screen. Several of the lift up windows at one end were replaced with louvres, as found in iron garages. The other end was covered with galvanised iron sheeting. The car OWA144 was recently sold to the Ghan Preservation Society. Overland car 7AE was also purchased in 1963 but never used, instead being stored in the open at Port Augusta until eventually written off in the late 1970's.

Between 1977 and 1980 four 750 class and three 780 class steel cars were transferred to standard gauge. The 750 class were originally composite first and second class saloon country cars built in 1942. AN have reclassified the cars as BE class non-air conditioned economy class sitting cars. The 780 class were first class saloon country cars, built in 1942, and were reclassified BF (economy sitter) by AN. These cars now travel between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie on freight trains as well as the Tea and Sugar, moving staff and other locals along the Trans Australian Railway. Two cars were destroyed by fire in 1983, whilst the remaining five are still in service.

SAR No.ANR NoEnt.servTo ANRWrit. off
750BE 34627/05/4210/11/77
751BE 35829/06/4212/06/80
752BE 35130/07/4215/12/79
753BE 35225/08/4210/10/8013/08/83
780BF 34323/12/4126/08/77
781BF 34423/12/412/12/7711/10/83
782BF 34519/03/425/08/77
Table 4 SAR 750 and 780 class mainline country passenger cars.
Mount Lofty car after conversion to Tea and Sugar work as OPB 328

Transfers occurring after the amalgamation included, not only the 750 and 780 class steel cars, but also the SAR AD and BD air-conditioned cars and a number of CD brakevans. Constructed at Islington in 1964-65 for the Port Pirie passenger and East-West Express, the fleet originally consisted of two AD first class, three ABD composite class and four BD second class cars. The ABD cars were later changed to all first class cars and became AD cars. When the Port Pirie line was converted to standard gauge in 1982, the four BD cars became surplus to broad gauge requirements and were transferred. The AD cars eventually followed, the last car, AD2, being converted to standard gauge in May 1987.

SAR No.ANR No.Ent.servTo S.G
AD 1AG 37611/196411/85
AD 2AG 37511/19645/87
AD 3AG 3744/196530/11/84
AD 4AG 3734/196521/03/84
AD 5AG 3724/19657/02/84
BD 1BG 37011/196427/07/82
BD 2BG 36811/196411/06/82
BD 3BG 36912/196430/06/82
BD 4BG 3711/196519/08/82
Table 5 D type passenger sitting cars converted to standard gauge

The eleven CD brakevans were issued in 1965 and were followed by three more in 1970 which were built specifically for the standard gauge and classified SCD. The CD/SCD brakevans have now been coded AVCY by AN with three CD and two SCD vans on standard gauge. SCD2 is presently on broad gauge and is reserved for The Overland.

SAR No.ANR No.Ent.servTo S.G
CD 4AVCY 3897/19652/10/82
CD 9AVCY 3909/1965On B.G
CD 10AVCY 3919/196517/06/86
CD 11AVCY 39210/19652/10/82
SCD 1AVCY 3781/1970
SCD 3AVCY 3791/1970
SCD 2AVCY 3881/1970On B.G
Note: SCD2 and CD 9 have had standard gauge numbers reserved for them, but are currently still on broad gauge with their old SAR numbers.
Table 6 CD class brakevans converted to standard gauge

The SAR's 8300 class brakevans (of which a number had been originally built for standard gauge) are now classified AVAY. With the abolition of guard's from most freight services, several of these vans have been converted for Less than Container Load traffic and coded ABLP, with others being in use on breakdown trains coded AZXP.

SAR No.ANR No.Ent.servRecoded
8349AVAY 39702/63 AZXP
8364AVAY 38011/64AZXP
8365AVAY 38101/64ABLP
8367AVAY 38209/68
8369AVAY 38311/68AZXP
8370AVAY 38411/68AZXP
8372AVAY 38509/68AZXP
8373AVAY 38611/68ABLP
8385AVAY 39810/71
8389AVAY 40111/71ABLP
8390AVAY 40210/71
8391AVAY 40309/71
8392AVAY 40412/71
8393AVAY 38712/71
8394AVAY 39612/71
Table 7 8300 class brakevans used on standard gauge


  1. Commonwealth Railways and Australian National rollingstock record cards, diagrams and plans.
  2. Commonwealth Railways general correspondence files.
  3. Commonwealth Parliamentary Papers, Commonwealth Railways annual reports to parliament with appendices, 1916-1940.
  4. J.Y.Harvey, The Never-never line, Hyland House, Melbourne, 1987.