Tait (train)

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A Tait at Newport Workshops in 2014
Tait Interior Elecrail 2014.jpg
The interior of a tait restored by ElecRail.
Manufacturer Victorian Railways
Built at Newport Workshops
Replaced Steam hauled carriages
Constructed 1910-1953
Entered service 1910 (as locomotive-hauled carriages)
1919 (as EMU cars)
Scrapped last in 1984
Fleet numbers 201-461M (motor cars),
470-473M (double ended motor cars)
201-265D (driving trailers),
201-372T & 380-442T (trailer cars)
1-103G (dual lighting trailers)
Operator Victorian Railways (1910-1983)
Metropolitan Transit Authority (1983-1984)
Line(s) served All Melbourne Suburban
Articulated sections None
Maximum speed 80 km/h (50 mph)
Traction system 4 x 105 kW (141 hp) GE239
Electric system(s) 1500 V DC overhead lines
Track gauge 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in)
Four car Tait train at the Spring Vale Cemetery platform

The Tait trains, also referred to as the "Red Rattlers", were a wooden bodied Electric Multiple Unit train that operated on the suburban railway network of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. They were introduced in 1910 by the Victorian Railways as steam locomotive hauled cars, and converted to electric traction from 1919 when the Melbourne electrification project was underway.[1] The trains derived their name from Sir Thomas James Tait, the chairman of commissioners of the Victorian Railways from 1903 to 1910.[2] The first cars were built during 1909 with the last entering service in 1951.[3]

The trains were initially known as "Sliding Door" trains, as opposed to the Swing Door then in service. They were later known as "Reds" or "Red rattlers" from the 1950s when the blue-painted Harris trains were introduced.[1]


First set of Tait suburban passenger carriages hauled by steam locomotive Dde 750, 1913.

Tait trains had a partly open saloon layout, with bench seats running across the train, the saloon being divided by partitions into a number of smaller areas. Each seating aisle was provided with its own exterior sliding door.

Incandescent lighting, a ceiling with pressed tin patterns, luggage racks above head height, and stained woodgrain walls were fitted inside each compartment. Interiors were split into smoking and no-smoking compartments until late 1978 with the abolition of smoking on trains,[3] and carriages were designated as first or second class until 1958 when one class suburban travel was introduced.[3]

The exterior of the trains were of two main styles: the original cars had a clerestory roof, and those built from the late 1920s onward had a simpler arched roof.[3]

From 1971 the interior was simplified to cut maintenance costs, with some doorway windows being replaced by metal and plywood, and the wooden latticed sun blinds being removed.[4] The motor bogies on the trains were originally of pressed steel construction, being changed for a new design in cast steel in the 1930s.[4]


General Electric traction equipment was fitted to the trains, of the same type as that in the Swing Door trains and enabling the trains to be operated in mixed sets using multiple-unit train control.[4]

Set configuration[edit]

A number of carriage types were built—"M" driving motor cars, "T" trailer cars, "D" driving trailer cars, and "G" trailer cars fitted with gas lighting for use on locomotive-hauled country trains in holiday periods.[5] Trains usually operated as a M-T-T-M+G-T-M setup.[6]

The "D" type cars were the least common of the car types. Of the 66 cars built with a guard's compartment, only 18 were fitted with control equipment and coded "D" in 1923.[4] The rest were known as "ringer" trailers, having a white ring on the door indicating the compartment was available for the use of passengers.[4]

The Tait trains originally entered service as six-car sets, the majority made up of three "M" cars and three trailers. From the 1920s sets were extended to seven-car sets, with the introduction of the "G" trailer cars.[4] These sets were made up of a four-car "block" and a three-car "unit".

Regular two car operation of Tait trains commenced in 1964, with a "block" of cars made up M-D-M-D that could be split as required.[4] One car operation commenced in 1968, after the conversion of 470M the previous year and the end of union disputes over their introduction.[4]

In May 1968 an eight-car Tait train was tested on the Frankston line, made up of three motor cars and five trailers, entering service under the new timetable in August 1968.[4] After 1973 these eight-car sets were reconfigured with a 50:50 motor–trailer mix to avoid special rosters restricting three motor car sets to flatter lines.[4]

From 1973 three-car sets were also reintroduced, as M-T-D consists.[4] Six-car M-T-T-T-T-M consists were also formed for peak hour use.[4]


Five motor carriages were converted to electric parcel vans numbered 1CM to 5CM between 1921 and 1926.[7]

Incomplete trailer car 441T was converted to experimental trailer car 201BT in 1950 with double width sliding doors to test design features for the Harris train.

48 'ringer' cars were converted to D cars between 1964 and 1972.[4]

Four motor cars were converted to double ended motors in 1968-1970 and renumbered 470M to 473M.

447M was converted to an overhead inspection car in 1980.


The Tait trains were replaced from 1974 by the Hitachi trains sets, and the later Comeng trains.[1]

From 1981 the last 37 of them began to be replaced by 50 Comeng trains. Tait trains were not allowed in the City Loop due to fire hazard presented by their wooden bodies, so they spent most of their final years on the Port Melbourne, St Kilda and Sandringham lines.

Due to industrial problems the last Tait trains were withdrawn from service in 1984.[1]


The Elecrail division of Steamrail Victoria restored 470M to working order. It also has 341T under restoration. 327M, 472M and 2CM are stored.

Carriages 317M, 381M, 208T and 230D were retained by the then Public Transport Corporation as a heritage set. They have since been transferred to Elecrail.

The Mornington Railway has 98G.

Many Tait car bodies were sold privately. Several have been converted to railway-themes restaurants and many others are on private properties.


External links[edit]