All on the Same Frame
This article is reproduced from Western Rails magazine Vol. 9 No. 3 March 1987
During the 1890s the English Carriage & Wagon builders such as Stableford & Co, the Gloucester Railway Carriage & Wagon Co. and the Olbury Railway Carriage & Wagon Co, were busily producing thousands of wagons for the colonies of the British Empire. Orders could be received for wagons of gauges ranging from 2' to 5' 6" and obviously no single wagon design could suit all gauges or conditions. To remain competitive the methods of design and manufacture had to be both simple and flexible. Consequently most wagons were of modest proportions and used a wide variety of standard parts. Nearly 90 years later In Western Australia, as the last remaining examples of these wagons are written off, the economic conditions mentioned above, ironically have contributed to at least 16 being given a new lease of life.
The wagons referred to above were built on a composite wood and steel frame, 30'long and 6' 10" wide and using 9" x 3" steel channel outside frame members bolted to wooden longitudinal and cross members. The Western Australian Government railways imported over 1600 wagons using this frame, commencing In the 1896/7 financial year, Of modest proportions for the 3' 6" gauge, these wagons are well within the wagon outline gauge for the more modern South African 2' gauge. As originally imported, the most numerous type was the bogie high side truck, the R class, of which just under a 1000 were on the books in the early years of this century, Possibly the most durable of all wagons using this frame, the opportunity was taken to convert other styles of wagon with the same frame, such as covered vans and platform trucks, to this design. Used for wheat and general produce only four examples remain of this once prolific class, All are at Whiteman Park.
There were at least two designs of covered van using this frame imported, the class V covered van and the class Y powder van, By far the most numerous were the V vans of which a maximum of 325 were recorded on the books in 1899. Although a useful vehicle - many were modified very early on to suit the demands of traffic including the first two of the ubiquitous VWs, workmans sleeping van. In the 1903/4 financial year, Another classification was the Wo type meat van of which two were modified in 1903. A more prolific modification was the fitting of louvre panels to a large number of the class for the carriage of fruit, these were classified VA, The Bennett Brook Railway has 5 of the V type, being 3 VW's and two V vans.
The flat top came in two varieties, class U platform wagon and class Q timber bolster wagons, The U class, of which a maximum of 90 were listed in 1901 were not as successful as hoped and 59 were altered to the Q type in 1905/6. A further 8 were rebuilt as the WAGR's first bogie tank wagon, class Ja, in 1908, This left only a handful of U wagons which satisfied traffic needs until all were written off in the 1960's and 70's. The timber bolster wagon type Q was more durable in WAGR service as the QBB. It must be mentioned that both R and V wagons were also converted to the QBB design. Both sheep and cattle trucks were also built, being classes S and T, As originally imported there were 5O class S and 85 class T, None survive, Other types of railway vehicle also built on this style of frame were the type Z brake van with either one or two platform ends and clerestory roofs and a type BE Agricultural Bank Managers Van rebuilt from a type R wagon in 1908,
In 1984 the Western Australian Light Railway Preservation Association purchased three written off QBB's from Westrail salvage and with the aid of a Community Employment Programme scheme, rebuilt the frames, modified the drawgear by lowering the centreline of the coupling height by 9 inches to suit the South African 2 foot gauge standard and built new coach bodies out of wood for service on the Bennett Brook Railway. Two were built as standard saloon and classed AQ whilst the third was fitted with a brake wheel from a written off W wagon. This combination coach, brake was classified AQB.
The bogies used on the above mentioned wagons on the Bennett Brook Railway are the original ones supplied with the wagon, regauged. The bogies are a bolted together, arch bar type, with 7.5" x 4" journals and white metal bearings, Suspension is supplied by six coil springs in two sets of three, located in two spring welts, either side of the bogie frame, Floating on these springs is a bolster, originally wood, now steel. The wheel diameter is 2'7.5" or 800 millimetres. Again WALPRA has pioneered new ground in Western Australian preservation and tourist railway fields as we were the first group to dismantle, regauge and re erect any bogies, Westrail through their Midland Workshops were of great assistance as new axles had to be machined and the wheels pressed on. WALPRA also acknowledges the support and faith shown by the Tourist Commission who assisted with a grant to regauge 8 wheel sets, Part of the process of regauging is the reduction in width of the following components by eighteen inches, the difference between 3'6" and 2', the bolster, bogie frame, the brake spreader bar and associated brake linkage.
Modification to the frames of the 15 ex Westrail bogie wagons was necessary so they could be used on 2' gauge. These include the removal and relocation of the wooden Headstock and subframe bearers supporting the headstock, replacing with 9" x 3" steel channel section. This provides clearance for the repositioned wheels of the regauged bogle whilst also increasing the strength of the wagon, The Jones coupling is bent to enable it to be fitted to the existing union rod assembly and be repositioned 9" lower, to suit South African coupling height. The union rods are two 1.5"diameter steel rods, 24 feet long, threaded at each end and situated 9" apart running through the centre of the wagon. The Jones couplings are attached to these. Their purpose is to take the trailing load of the train which would otherwise be taken by the frame. Finally Westrail are to be congratulated on making 10 of these wagons available on a permanent loan basis to the Association. These wagons are class R, 1751,1783, 3644,4461. class V 3251, 3263, 3273,3326 and a QBB number 3578. These wagons, when modified, will provide the Bennett Brook Railway with the oldest passenger rolling stock of any railway group in the state (most dating from the 1890's) and It is the only way representatives of the class mentioned above could have been saved from being scrapped. Special thanks must go to Westrail's salvage officer Mr Jim Kelly, for his patience and interest in helping W.A.L.P.R.A. save these wagons.
Westrail Wagons at Whiteman Park
Table showing Wagons of this type used by WAGR
Thanks to Ross Barron for his assistance with the reproduction of this article.
Bennett Brook Railway
Webmaster N. Blinco