E type carriage

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E type carriage
E type carriage on a heritage train, led by T class locomotives.
Interior of a restored AE coded first class carriage
Manufacturer Victorian Railways
Operator(s) various heritage operators
Car length 71 feet (21.64 m), 60 feet (18.29 m) for CE vans
Track gauge <5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm),
has operated on 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)

The E type carriages were wooden express passenger carriage used on the railways of Victoria, Australia. Originally introduced by Victorian Railways Chairman of Commissioners Thomas James Tait for the interstate service between Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide, these Canadian-inspired carriages remained in regular service for 85 years over the entire Victorian network.[1]


Carriages on Victorian long-distance express services at the start of the 20th century were, in comparison to the Pullman cars operated by the New South Wales Government Railways relatively cramped and austere.[1] Chairman of Commissioners Thomas Tait, previously the Transportation Manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway,[2] introduced a carriage design that was 71 feet (21.64 m) long, and as wide as the loading gauge allowed. Much of their external design was based on typical Canadian carriage design, with a clerestory roof curved at the ends, doors only at the ends of the car, and six-wheel bogies, although their interior design retained the compartment and corridor layout typical of English railway practice.[1]

The cars were built over a steel truss underframe, with wooden bodies constructed with cedar and clerestory roofs to give ventilation and daytime lighting. Nighttime lighting was initially provided with Pintsch gas, and six-wheeled bogies with eight brake blocks each (two outside the outer wheels and two each per centre wheel) under all vehicles. Drop-toilets for both genders were provided in all passenger vehicles except the dining cars, along with staff toilets in the twelve mail vans.

About three decades into their lives, 15 first-class carriages had air-conditioning added, the first (36AE) being out-shopped in December 1935. It was claimed to the first such car in the British Empire, but was beaten by the Canadian Pacific and the New South Wales Government Railways.[3]


E carriage four wheel bogies.jpg E carriage six wheel bogies.jpg
Four and six wheeled bogies as used under the cars.

Of the joint stock carriages, the first class and sleeping carriages were constructed at Newport Workshops by the Victorian Railways while the second class carriages and most of the vans were constructed by the South Australian Railways' Islington Railway Workshops. Later carriages of the E design were constructed at Newport Workshops.

The first batch of E-class carriages were built between 1906 and 1911, with 38 AVE 1st class cars, 16 ABVE 1st/2nd class cars, 39 BVE 2nd class cars, 25 DVE guard's vans, 10 ESBV, 2 EES and 2 EEB mail vans, 6 Sleeping cars and 2 Parlor cars, a State Car was built in 1912, with a similar design to that of the Parlor cars. The DVE, EEB and EES classes were 60.16 feet (18.34 m) long, the remainder 71 feet (21.64 m). All had wooden bodies, clerestory roofs and six-wheel bogies. On his website, Peter J. Vincent notes that he suspects the 'E' classification referred to 'Express'.

The cars were recoded, AVE to AE, BVE to BE, DVE to CE, EEB to D, EES to DS and ABVE to ABE in the 1910 renumbering. In 1935 some surplus carriages were converted to BCE cars. The original total of 144 was increased, with a further 30 cars being built from 1919 onwards. However, two of the new cars were replacements, so the total never exceeded 182 cars.


Interior of a second class BE coded carriage
Roof detail inside a compartment

First Class sitting cars[edit]

These carriages were built from 1906 with eight compartments, each seating 6 first-class passengers for a total of 48 along with a lavatory/wash basin arrangement at either end of each carriage. In the first four carriages, two compartments at the Gentlemen's end were reserved for Smoking travellers, while another two compartments adjacent to the Ladies lavatory were reserved for ladies only; this was later educed to one Ladies compartment, with the Non-Smoking compartment count increased from four to five, to match the remainder of the class.

26 cars were built and numbered AVE 1 to AVE 26. In the 1910 recoding the class was relettered to AE, with the original numbers retained. Construction continued with a further twelve cars released to traffic through 1910 (Nos. 27-38), and a final four cars were added in 1923 (Nos. 39-42). Cars 5-10 and 39-42 were in Joint Stock service (shared) between Adelaide and Melbourne, on trains such as the Overland.[4] Although all construction was at Newport, only around 25 of the carriages were constructed by the Victorian Railways; the remainder (spread fairly randomly throughout the class) were constructed at least partially by contractors in the Newport area.

Two of the class, 21AE and 26AE, were converted to carriages 1BG (named Kiewa) and 2BG (named Moyne) in 1961. These had buffet modules and were used on longer-distance trains; the 'G' in the code may have indicated Grampians, a Victorian mountain range the cars would often run through. They were converted back to sitting cars in 1961, but they were not completely restored to AE-form. They had three compartments at one end, and the remainder of each car was longitudinal seating. 2BG was destroyed in a Glenorchy level crossing smash, in 1971; by 1975 BG 1 had been transferred to the Yarram line.

Car 36AE was notable as this car was the prototype car for air conditioning carriages in VR service, the test for the "Spirit of Progress" cars. 36AE entered service 13 December 1935, after air conditioning modifications, which took seven months to complete. In 1961, it was renumbered 49BE. The car was destroyed in a derailment at Laverton during 1978.

34AE was converted to a buffet car in 1937 and named Taggerty two years later. In this form a kitchen and long counter facing eighteen seats filled most of the carriage, with three first-class compartments seating the same number of passengers in the rest of the carriage. Taggerty ran in VR long-distance services until 1983, when it was sold. It now resides in a park in Dimboola.

In 1952 cars 7 and 8AE were sold to the South Australian Railways to become their 550 and 551. The cars were later forwarded to the Commonwealth Railways, with 550 being written off in 1993 and 551 (after other incarnations) preserved by the Ghan Preservation Society in Alice Springs.

In the early 1960s, some AE cars had their bogies switched with those formerly under the Spirit of Progress carriages, as those cars were converted to standard gauge. However, while the bogie frames were moved over inwards, the AE cars retained their original wheelsets(?). Around the same time, AE 36, 1, 3 and 12 were recoded to BE cars 49 through 52. 50BE stayed in that form, though the latter two cars were converted back to AE classification in the early 1980s as numbers 51 and 52.

In 1971, 37AE was converted to the second HW 1 as a crew car for the Weedex train. In this form it ran around Victorian lines, while the train sprayed weed-killer onto the tracks.

1AE (still coded 50BES), 2AE, 30AE and 1BG are in the custodianship of the Seymour Railway Heritage Centre, along with the frame of 39AE. 12AE is currently in the care of Steamrail Victoria, and 1HW ex 37AE is stored under their care, unserviceable, in Newport Workshops East Block yard. 18AE was with the Victorian Goldfields Railway, but it was moved to Seymour by rail for restoration in late 2010.

40AE's body was seen in Harcourt in 1993.

Composite First & Second Class sitting cars[edit]

10 cars were built between 1906 and 1909 at or near Newport Workshops, classed ABVE. The cars seated 23 first and 31 second class passengers in eight compartments; one Smoking at the outer ends, adjacent to the two male lavatories, and one Ladies in the middle, connecting directly to the Ladies lavatories of the same class. As in the AVE and BVE cars, the Ladies compartments had direct access to their respective toilets, in trade for one seat each. Additionally, each car had a two-seat bench opposite the male toilets at each end, giving a total seating capacity of 58 passengers. In the 1910 recoding the cars were relettered to ABE with numbers retained, and around this time a further 6 were built to the same design as numbers 11-16. Nine of the cars were recoded to BE in about 1960, with a further four of the class scrapped between 1970 and 1982. 5ABE and 16ABE are preserved at Seymour Railway Heritage Centre while 3ABE and 7ABE are currently under the care of Steamrail Victoria. 12ABE was also under Steamrail's care, but it was scrapped in 2008 after deteriorating markedly.

In preservation, 7ABE has been fitted with a small kiosk and was originally Steamrail's snack bar carriage until 14 BRS was acquired by Steamrail.

Second Class sitting cars[edit]

Air conditioned 19BE as preserved by the South Gippsland Railway

These carriages were built from 1906 with nine compartments, each seating 8 second-class passengers for a total of 72 along with a lavatory/wash basin arrangement at either end of each carriage. Like the AVE cars, the first four cars had two compartments at the Gentlemen's end were reserved for Smoking travellers, while another two compartments adjacent to the Ladies lavatory were reserved for ladies only; this was later reduced to one Ladies compartment, with the Non-Smoking compartment count increased from five to six. BVE cars numbered 5 and higher began their lives with two Smoking, 6 Non-Smoking and 1 Ladies compartment each.

39 cars of this class were built initially; the majority were numbered BVE 1 to BVE 31, although construction continued with cars 32-39 being released after the 1910 recoding, so they started life as BE cars with the remainder of the class recoded to join them. In 1923 a further four cars, 40BE to 43BE, were built to supplement 5BE-10BE in the joint-stock arrangement.

The Joint Stock cars were built at the South Australian Railways' Islington Railway Workshops; the other 33 carriages were built at Newport, although about two-thirds of those were built by local contractors rather than Newport Workshops.

Cars BE 44 to BE 48 were converted from BDSE mail sorting cars between 1922 and 1929 (see details below). Cars BE 49 to BE 61 were converted from AE and ABE cars during 1981, as the start of the transition from wooden stock to all steel cars and altered rostering of carriages into small fixed sets. The first four of these, 49BE - 52BE, were ex-AE cars, while the remaining nine, 53BE to 61BE, were ex-ABE cars. 51BE and 52BE were relettered back to AE shortly after.

To overcome problems with different seating capacities within the BE group, two suffixes were added to the class in 1982. Using the standard BE capacity of 72 passengers, cars with a greater capacity (76 passengers) were coded BEL and cars with less capacity (64 passengers) were coded BES. Cars listed as BEL were 44 to 47 while BE 50, 53, 55-61 were reclassed to BES, same numbers, during 1982; it is likely that cars 52 and 54 were also relettered but records have not been found to confirm this. All these cars were withdrawn during 1983/1984 thanks to the introduction of the N sets.

1BE, 14BE, 26BE and 33BE are currently preserved at Seymour Railway Heritage Centre, 17BE, 25BE, 30BE, 38BE and 46BE (ex BDSE) are currently preserved with Steamrail Victoria while 2BE, 3BE, 4BE and 29BE are stored; 15BE and 20BE are with the Victorian Goldfields Railway but were moved to Seymour for restoration in late 2010, 19BE, 34BE and 36BE are allocated to the South Gippsland Railway, and 42BE (constructed at Islington Railway Workshops, South Australia) is preserved at the National Railway Museum at Port Adelaide. 45BE has been named Hastings and is currently at Moorooduc on the Mornington Tourist Railway, along with 57BE and 58BE. 47BE is privately owned.

Guard's Vans[edit]

Clerestory roofed 18CE as preserved by Steamrail Victoria

From 1906, construction of the DVE vans started. At 60 ft 2 in (18.34 m) long, the vans were used for small amounts of freight (in some cases including meat, fish and coffin areas), and they incorporated guards cupolas at either end of the carriages. Vans 1 and 2 were built at Newport, with 3 through 6 at Islington. Originally this meant two fish-fitted vans were available for the Adelaide run and another two for the Albury run, but shortly after those services began the Newport pair were swapped for DVE 5 and 6, so that the Joint Stock (fish-fitted) series was 1 through 4, and they were to be used exclusively on Adelaide services. Construction continued at Newport in much the same fashion until 1910, when the 17th van was classed CE and the previous 16 DVE vans were reclassed to same. The CE fleet continued to expand through 1911, with the last vehicle being 25 CE.

The first 25 DVE/CE vans were split into three subtypes. Vans 1 through 4 had two outer guards' compartments 7 ft 3 38 in (2.22 m) long, two outer baggage compartments of 15 ft 8 14 in (4.78 m) long, and a central fish compartment of 13 feet (3.96 m). Vans 5 and 6 were similar, although the central compartment was switched to regular traffic instead of fish, and expanded to 14 ft 8 in (4.47 m) long with the outer two compartments reduced to 14 ft 8 14 in (4.48 m) in length. Vans 7 through 25 were altered further, with the guards' compartments reduced to 5 ft 6 12 in (1.69 m) wide; this was done so that the three central compartments could be expanded, with the outer two reaching 15 ft 11 12 in (4.86 m) across and the centre 15 ft 9 14 in (4.81 m).

The fleet was further expanded from 1923, with vans 26 through 32 built to the same design (and 26/27 added to the Joint Stock fleet), and i 33 to 37 built with an arched roof similar to the then-new W type carriage design. Those four were also fitted with four-wheel (two-axle), rather than six-wheel (three-axle) bogies.

Between 1926 and 1928, vans 11 through 14 had one of their guards' compartments removed at one end to make way for two transversely mounted coffin chambers. The end door was sealed as a result, but the vestibule connection remained.

In 1930, a collision at Seymour wrecked 15CE. A new van, also numbered 15CE, was built to the style of CE 33-37 instead of as the original 15CE. 33CE was the only wooden vehicle to be painted in the VicRail 'Teacup' livery, which followed the Victorian Railways' blue and gold.

In 1963 35CE was modified for standard gauge service. It was reclassed to 1VHE: (V) Victoria; (H) (NSW guards van code); (E) (E-car van), although in 1969 the van was restored to its former identity.

Vans 35 CE and 36 CE spent some time with Vinelander stencils.

18CE, owned by Victrack, is currently serviceable thanks to the efforts of Steamrail Victoria. 31CE, also owned by Victrack, is currently under restoration by the Victorian Goldfields Railway. It is thought that both 13CE and 19CE were originally leased to Steamrail, but no record of either van has been seen since.

5CE is preserved in Bright at a museum at the former railway station. The body of 7 and 16 CE were noted at Drouin, 8 CE at Hallam, 10 and 21 CE at Officer, 20 CE at Hanging Rock, 23 CE at Beaconsfield, 24 CE at Warrnambool, 33 CE at Gembrook and 36 CE at Yea.

Composite Second (sitting), Guard and Mail Sorting cars[edit]

1BCE as preserved by Steamrail Victoria

A batch of ten 71 ft long ESBV carriages were built in 1909-1910, generally to the standard E design but with around half the carriage devoted to mail sorting for use on express trains on runs such as Melbourne to Bendigo, among others. The cars had two seats at one end opposite the male lavatory, one smoking, three standard and one ladies' compartment for a total seating capacity of 41 passengers; the latter compartment had direct access to the ladies' lavatory from within the compartment at the expense of one seat. The ladies lavatory was directly opposite a staff lavatory which joined onto the staff-only mail sorting compartment, which was a little under 30 feet long. This compartment contained a sorting desk with a pintsch-gas heated wax pot (for letter sealing), a cupboard, four seats and thirty-four pigeon holes on one side, and a framework for storage of sixty mail bags on the other. Besides the inter-carriage diaphragms the mail sorting compartment was only accessible by a sliding door on each side of the carriage, much like those on DVE vans. ESBV 6 through 10 were slightly different internally compared to ESBV 1 through 5 - if looking from the mail sorting area towards the passenger area the corridor would have been on the right, rather than the left as in the first five cars.

After less than a year in traffic, the 1910 recoding saw the ESBV vans relettered to BDSE.

In 1913-14 the last three BDSE cars were modified internally; the ladies compartment and lavatory were removed and replaced with an expanded mail sorting area (now a little under 40 feet long, but with only 2 seats, 21 mail bag frames and 12 pigeon holes); in addition three compartments were smoking with one non-smoking; a reversal of the former arrangement. Notably, all four compartments were now gentleman-exclusive. The external sliding doors near the middle of the car were not moved, but an additional pair of sliding doors were added at the non-passenger end of the carriages. Capacity of these cars was recorded as 36, but that doesn't appear to count the two seats opposite the male lavatory. It is thought that these changes were made to allow for the reduced need to sort mail en route, as postal sorting capabilities increased.

Between 1922 and 1923, BDSE cars 8, 9 and 10 lost their mail sorting facilities altogether, and these were replaced with regular passenger compartments. The cars were renumbered to BE 44, 45 and 46 respectively, and they were joined by BDSE 3 and 5 in 1929; these two became BE 47 and BE 48.

In 1935, the remaining five BDSE carriages were converted from mail sorting use to baggage and van use, as class BCE and with numbers 1-5, formerly 4, 1, 2, 6 and 7. The change was in response to the spread of mail sorting facilities at country locations in addition to the lack of goods traffic on passenger trains; this meant that large guard vans such as the CE type were not as economic to run due to a lack of passenger capacity. The BCE cars kept their five passenger compartments, though the mail sorting section was completely stripped and the sides redesigned; in lieu of four double-windows and a sliding door, steel sides, a single door and a sliding door were substituted. Cupolas were also added to the cars, over the middle of the carriage, for guards to look over the roofs of the train.

All five BCE cars have been preserved:
1BCE - Steamrail Victoria
2BCE - Victorian Goldfields Railway (Not operational), this carriage was moved to Seymour for restoration in late 2010.
3BCE - Seymour Railway Heritage Centre
4BCE - Seymour Railway Heritage Centre (not operational)
5BCE - Steamrail Victoria (not operational)

Additionally, three BDSE cars were saved:
9BDSE as 45BE - Mornington Railway, serviceable
10BDSE as 46BE - Steamrail Victoria, owned by Victrack, serviceable
3BDSE as 47BE - Privately owned, being restored.

Mail storage vans[edit]

In 1907/8, two 60'2" mail vans were constructed by Newport Workshops as part of the E car order. They were classed as EEB 1 and 2 and were externally similar to their DVE cousins, except that they lacked the guard's cupolas and vestibules on either end of the carriage [1]. Rather, the EEB cars were entirely empty save for two internal semi-partitions for strength, to be used for the transport of twenty tons of mail only.

In the 1910 recoding the EEB vans were recoded to D 1 and 2. In 1923 van D 1 was destroyed in an accident at Glenorchy, and the number was reused on a new joint stock steel van in 1931; this van was similar internally but with a steel body, curved roof, and an extra ten tons of weight compensated by its 25-ton capacity. The new car was painted into the then-new hawthorn green Overland livery in 1935, then blue as a temporary van in the Spirit of Progress until the proper van was completed for inclusion in that train. It finished its career in various shades of red, before passing from Australian National to Steamranger.

In 1929 van D 2 was destroyed in another accident, this time at Callington, SA. As a result, none of the non-vestibule E type carriages survived beyond then.

Mail sorting vans[edit]

With the EEB cars another two 60'2" vans were constructed, but rather than merely storing the mail en route, these were designed for sorting of the mail with an onboard crew. Classed EES 1 and 2, these vans were fitted with facilities for storage for fifteen tons of mail bags, pigeon holes and two desks each long enough for four mail sorting staff, along with a lavatory. One side of each van had three doors, and the other side had only two.

(A third EES car was converted from O 17 in 1908, although it was a completely different design and completely unrelated to the E series. Built in Adelaide in 1887, it became DS 3 in 1910. In 1923 it was converted to a Way and Works car, WW 4. The car had been scrapped by 1941.)

In the 1910 recoding the EES cars became DS 1 and 2 (not to be confused with the DS van of the Spirit of Progress). In March 1928 they were converted to standard baggage cars and renumbered to D 3 and 4. In this identity they survived until 1973, when they were written off at Islington.

Dining cars[edit]

In 1908 three Dining cars entered service, Goulburn, Campaspe and Wimmera, intended for use on the express trains to both Adelaide and Albury (Sydney). All three cars had ornate metal ceilings and high backed leather chairs. In each car the kitchen was fitted with an ice chest, a pintsch-gas stove, a sink and a workbench, and was capped with an open buffet at either end. This was centrally situated between two saloons, one seating 24 first class and the other 18 second class passengers. A corridor on one side of the carriages allowed passengers and staff to walk between the two ends of the car.

Two further cars were built in 1927; Avoca and Hopkins. These two had a similar underframe to the standard E type carriage, but a new body design using steel plates rivetted to a frame. The cars externally looked very similar to the E type Sleepers, Werribee, Indi and Ovens. However, the pair were so heavy, at over 70 tons, that they had to be placed on Tait Motor-car bogies to support the tremendous weight. Aside from the three Pullman cars, these were the heaviest items (by axle load) of rollingstock to run in Victoria, possibly until modern times. Couplings were an oddity; the two were fitted with standard screw couplings when new, but by late 1935 they were both converted to autocouplers. A few months later they went to transition couplings, then back to proper autocouplers in 1936. Inside, the cars were petitioned at about the half-way mark, with 48 seats arranged in a 2+2 with 12 tables saloon configuration. Beyond this was a counter/buffet area facing the dining area; a corridor then ran along one side of the kitchen area, with the rest of the car devoted to a kitchen and food preparation area.

Goulburn was altered in 1932 for use as standby Commissioners car for "Reso" and "Holiday Train" tours, with the fitting of 8 berths and two showers in old first dining saloon and an office and dining room in 2nd class area. In 1938 a third shower was fitted, but during WWII the car was stored at Ballarat. In 1953 it was overhauled for the Royal Train and painted blue and gold, and in 1988 it received a grey scheme as a support vehicle for another royal tour, and it is currently under the control of Steamrail.

Campaspe had a similar history until 1927 when it was replaced with a steel dining car; at that time it was transferred to Albury Express as a buffet car, then a hospital car during WWII. It was stored at North Melbourne until 1952 when it was converted to sleep 16 men in longitudinal upper and lower bunks with a centre aisle. It ended up on Breakdown train at Dynon in the 1980s. Eventually it was allocated to Plan R (Seven-O-Seven Operations) Victoria and later transferred to the Seymour Railway Heritage Centre, where it is currently awaiting restoration to operational condition.

Wimmera ran as a Dining car until 1938, when it was converted to the Medical and Vision Test Car. It was withdrawn from service in 1981, but re-entered service in August 1988 painted blue and yellow on Commonwealth Bogies with the name "Wimmera" on side of car. It is currently at the Newport railway museum.

Avoca was converted to airconditioning in early 1936, as the second carriage on the VR network to have this modification following 36AE. In 1937 it was used as the standby for the Spirit of Progress, in case Murray was not available at the time. The cars quickly became known as Iron Tanks by most rail workers, or nicknamed "Hell" by crew members who had to work in the kitchen section with its huge wooden fuel stove, which was not airconditioned. Crew members could regularly be seen gasping for fresh air at open windows. The car was painted into blue/gold in December 1953 for the royal train. The old briquette stove was replaced in April 1969 with a Porta-gas model. Roller bearings were added in the late 1960s, and the bogies were completely replaced in 1973 with a then-modern fabricated design, reclaimed from Spirit of Progress carriages. These were suitably modified to support the tremendous weight of Avoca which tended to sway about on rough track. In May 1984, as part of the New Deal rollingstock renumbering, Avoca was given a new identity of RS235, the first time it had been considered as part of the S fleet. Around this time the car was repainted into a "heritage" livery, reminiscent of the dark maroon with yellow lining applied to the first E cars when they were built. Today, Avoca is owned by Victrack and under the care of the Seymour Rail Heritage Centre.

Hopkins had a similar history to Avoca except that it was not airconditioned, up to February 1950. It was then sold to the Commonwealth railways, reclassed as DB75, fitted with airconditioning and converted to standard gauge, entering service in November of that year. On 19 February 1952 it had been repainted into the Commonwealth Railways colour scheme and by December 1954 new bogies of the BK type were fitted. It was used mainly on the Trans-Australian Express, and later on the Ghan. It was written off on 29 March 1968, possibly as surplus to requirements.

Parlor cars[edit]

See also: Parlor car
Parlor car Tambo, a joint stock sleeping car converted by the Victorian Goldfields Railway

Parlor cars Yarra and Murray were built in 1906 to the E car design, with an open observation car balcony at one end, along with a glass end window and lounge. They were used on the Sydney Limited until the introduction of the Spirit of Progress.[5]

Starting from the end of the train, the Parlor cars were equipped with a 6 ft (1.83 m)-wide open balcony, surrounded with a wrought-iron fence at waist height and gates (usually kept locked) on either side. This was equipped with folding chairs. A glass pane separated the balcony from the 22 ft 6 in (6.86 m)-long observation room, with three large windows on either side, twelve comfortable armchairs and a fixed bench seating three; over this was a bookshelf for passengers' convenience. A corridor then ran along the right-hand-side of the carriage, with four compartments adjacent. Respectively, these were the Special (private) compartment, a ladies' compartment and the adjacent ladies' toilet (accessed, unusually for the design, from the corridor rather than directly from the compartment), and lastly the Conductor's compartment which also contained limited space for luggage and supplies. This latter compartment was retrofitted with external swinging doors to assist with loading of goods. Beyond the corridor was a 12 ft 6 in (3.81 m) smoking compartment with only one long window on each side and five chairs identical to those of the observation compartment; this had a door on each side opening to the platform, although one of the chairs would have to be moved if the platform was on the compartment side rather than the corridor side. Lastly, a short central corridor led to the inter-carriage vestibule, with a Gentlemen's lavatory split over both sides (toilet on the corridor side, wash basin on the compartment side).

All 33 passengers paid an additional Parlor Car fare on top of the fare for a reserved, first class seat.

Yarra was restored by the Australian Railway Historical Society in the 1960s and remains in service today.[6]

State Car No.4 was built in 1912 to a similar exterior design, although the internals were replaced with nine sleeping berths.

Sleeping cars[edit]

A total of nineteen E-type sleeping cars were built at Newport Workshops, primarily for the Adelaide - Melbourne service. The first four cars had been built by 1908, and were originally named Melbourne, Ballarat, Wolseley and Adelaide. In 1910, these cars were renamed Loddon, Glenelg, Finniss and Torrens respectively, after rivers between the two capital cities. In 1911 Onkaparinga and Barwon were built, to be followed by Baderloo, Dargo, Pekina and Tambo in 1919. In 1923, four more cars were named Angas, Coliban, Acheron and Inman.,[7] and a further two cars, Buchan and Wando, were constructed to a modified internal design with the smoking/saloon area replaced with a tenth sleeping compartment. This tenth compartment was slightly longer than the rest.

The last three cars, Werribee, Indi and Ovens, were released to service in 1928. While technically E-type carriages, at first external glance they'd be difficult to pick as such. These cars were painted in standard VR red, but the roofs were of the then-new curved style, as had recently been used on the W cars. Additionally, the sides were plated over with steel sheeting. Internally the design was identical to the previous pair of Buchan and Wando, with the tenth sleeping compartment.

Each car was 75 feet (22.86 m) long, with a steel underframe mounted on the normal 12 wheeled bogies. They consisted of nine sleeping compartments, each containing two sleeping berths in a bunk arrangement, with a private wash basin and cupboards. An additional saloon at one end of the car, usually reserved for smoking and known as the Gentleman's Lounge, could have another two berths folded out from the walls if needed. This area usually held a standard first class three-person seat in addition to four loose, leather chairs; these chairs were replaced with two chairs of a different design by the 1950s. This end of the car was identifiable externally by its single, long window. Under normal circumstances higher fares (on top of first-class fares) were charged for sleeping compartments, but the Saloon section was charged at normal rates. Two compartments at the opposite end of the coach to the smoking saloon were reserved for ladies and swing doors in the 51 ft 2 in (15.60 m) long corridor separated these compartments from the rest of the non-smoking cabins, with another door between those and the smoking saloon. Access to the cabins was by sliding doors. There was an Attendants room at both ends, one of which had tea making facilities and a lavatory.

Like the rest of the E cars, the Sleepers initially had a strong Edwardian style with features including carved panelling, pressed metal ceilings, frosted glass and lamp pendants all being ornately decorated.

External finish included a row of bevelled mirrors above each window with an engraved star burst pattern, although this was removed in later years due to corrosion issues. There were 3 above each normal window and 7 above each saloon window. Each door had coloured leadlights in place of plain glass above the window panel.

The first run in service, of the initial batch of four sleeping cars, occurred on 17 October 1907 when cars Melbourne, Adelaide and Ballarat were included as part of a Parliamentary special tour of the Murray. They travelled from Melbourne to Echuca, departing Spencer Street at 5:30pm. Regular scheduling off the cars on the Melbourne Express occurred from 31 October 1907.

From 1936, they were externally painted dark green with "The Overland" in chrome plated letters on the fascia panel above the windows. From 1943 the green scheme was traded out for the standard Victorian Railways bright passenger red, and the carriage names were traded for "Sleeper No.X". Werribee, Indi and Ovens took positions 1, 2 and 3, followed by Buchan, Wando, Acheron, Coliban, Inman, Pekina and Loddon. Around this time Werribee, Indi, Ovens and Buchan were fitted with airconditioning.

Cars Angas, Baderloo, Barwon, Dargo, Glenelg, Finnis, Onkaparinga, Tambo and Torrens were not renumbered per this scheme.

As built, these coaches, (gas lit and screw coupled), weighed 37 ton 7 cwt. and as with the other "E" series coaches the fitting of strengthened underframes, electric lighting and automatic couplings increased the weight of the 1911 built cars to 39 tons 11 cwt., while the later cars weighed in at 41 long tons (42 t; 46 short tons). Passenger capacity was 18 people in 9 compartments.

Five of the carriages were transferred to form the "Train of Knowledge" for Victorian Railways in 1965. Between November 1983 and May 1984, these carriages were upgraded. Restoration work included repainting, revarnishing, new upholstery, new carpeting, retention toilets and reinstatement of the original sleeping car names (Acheron, Coliban, Inman, Pekina and Loddon).

Today, Tambo is privately owned and has been half-converted to a Parlor car style, similar to that of Yarra and Murray. It currently runs on the Victorian Goldfields Railway, while Acheron, Inman, Ovens, Pekina and Wando are under the care of the Seymour Rail Heritage Centre; Coliban, Indi, Loddon and Werribee are with Steamrail Victoria. Buchan is also at Newport, currently being restored in the West Block portion used by 707 Operations. Torrens is statically preserved at the ARHS museum in Newport and Finniss is with their South Australian equivalent, while Onkaparinga has recently been restored at the Port Dock Rail Museum.[8] Angas was with the Yorke Peninsula Tourist Railway until recently, when it was sold to be used as a bed and breakfast.[9] Dargo is privately owned.

In service[edit]

First delivery phase[edit]

Melbourne to Albury (Sydney)[edit]

From the beginning, the E cars were organised into fairly fixed consists, as demonstrated by their delivery dates. 28 August and 30 October 1906 each had the release of an AVE-AVE-AVBE-BVE-BVE-DVE consist, with the accompanying Parlor cars released to service a few months later; Yarra on 31 October and Murray on 19 December 1906. These trains ran from Melbourne to Albury, connecting to the New South Wales express trains to Sydney at Albury station. All of these cars save for Murray had been released to service by the 1906 Melbourne Cup.

Originally, these trains were intended to run with the DVE van adjacent to the locomotive tender, followed by the second class, first class and Parlor car portions; however, for the first few years the DVE ran between the last First Class and the Parlor car. It has been speculated that this may have been due to management and unions being uncomfortable with the concept of the guard being so far from the end of the train (which he was supposed to protect).

Melbourne to Adelaide[edit]

The second batch of E cars consisted of twenty-four vehicles; six AVE and BVE cars, four Sleeping cars and DVE vans, and two EEB and EES vans. The SAR built 9 of the cars plus one underframe at Islington Workshops to cover 40% of the construction cost (as agreed between the SAR and VR commissioners), though the body of this tenth car was constructed at Newport.

Victorian country services[edit]

After provision of carriages for the Adelaide and Albury services, Victoria chose to continue construction of the E fleet in order to replace older carriages on some of its principal intrastate routes. For this purpose, a further 28 AVE/AE, 14 ABVE/ABE, 29 BVE/BE, 3 Dining, 19 DVE/CE and 10 ESBV/BDSE cars were constructed. By the end of the 1912/13 financial year, these cars in conjunction with the W cars were being used on trains to and through Ararat, Ballarat, Bendigo, Cobram, Geelong, Maryborough, Port Albert and Wangaratta among others.

The ESBV and EES cars were used for sorting of mail en route, so as to reduce the load on smaller post offices which would not have had the staff required for such a task. Other than the abovementioned Adelaide express train with its EES vans, the ESBV cars were usually utilised on services to Albury, Adelaide (on a regular passenger service), Bacchus Marsh-Ballarat-Stawell, Bendigo, Cobram, Melbourne-Geelong-Ballarat, Port Albert, Port Fairy and Sale-Maffra-Bairnsdale.

Second delivery phase[edit]

By 1919 the demand for sleeping cars skyrocketed on the Melbourne-Adelaide train; this was due to a lack of watercraft still in serviceable condition after World War 1, and by the recent opening of the then-new Trans-Australian line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie and on to Perth. Four new sleeping cars were constructed to a similar design, although these had upgrades in the form of electric lighting (the first in the E fleet), and a different form of seat/berth design so that the seat backs were not used in the beds.

Demand steadily increased over the next few years, and by the early 1920s it had reached a point where even more carriages were required. This resulted in the 1923 construction of another six sleeping cars, four first- and four second-class passenger carriages and 2 CE vans for Joint Stock service, plus another five CE vans for regular service. Once again Islington Workshops were called upon to provide a fair share on construction and associated costs, so the BE and CE Joint Stock cars were built there, with the Sleeper and AE cars built at Newport.

A year later another five CE vans had been outshopped by Newport Workshops, bringing the total of that class to 32. In 1924 another five were assembled, giving the CE total of 37 vehicles. These five were built with curved roofs between their cupolas but were otherwise similar to the remainder of their class.

In 1927-28 two new dining cars, Avoca and Hopkings, and three new sleeping cars, Werribee, Indi and Ovens, were constructed. While technically E-type carriages, at first external glance they'd be difficult to pick as such. The cars were painted in standard VR red, but the roofs were of the then-new curved style, as had recently been used on the W cars. Additionally, the sides were plated over with steel sheeting.

Internally the design for Avoca and Hopkins was similar to that of Goulburn, Wimmera and Campaspe except that the seating was all at one end of the carriage and the kitchen was at the other end, rather than a central kitchen with dining areas at both ends. Werribee, Indi and Ovens was much the same as the other sixteen Sleeper cars, except that the saloon section was removed entirely and replaced with a tenth compartment with the same sleeping/sitting convertible seats. However, this tenth compartment was slightly longer than the rest.

By the end of their second decade in service the class as a whole had undergone some modifications; most cars were fitted with electric lighting, half the BDSE fleet had been converted to BE cars and both DS cars were converted to D type vans due to the declining requirements for on-train mail sorting.

The final E type carriage to be constructed was 15CE in July 1930, replacing the previous 15CE which had been destroyed in January of that year. The new 15CE was also given the curved roof of 33CE-37CE.

From 1935 the E fleet started to gain automatic couplers, along with strengthened underframes, anti-telescoping beams at either end, air-conditioning and rubber pads in the bogies to reduce vibration and noise. 36AE was the first pure-sitting car in the British Empire to be fitted with this system; other non-VR cars had been fitted previously, but these were all at least partial buffet or sleeping cars. Notably, 36AE had almost-full-length ducts for the air conditioning system on either side of its clerestory roof; this gave a similar appearance to the curved roof carriages.

In 1937, AE cars 21, 26 and 34 were to be converted to buffet cars of a similar internal arrangement to the previously existing buffet cars; only one buffet car was completed (and named Taggerty in 1939) due to World War 2, with the other two cars later converted to partial buffets and named Kiewa (ex 21AE) and Moyne (ex 26AE). These latter two were released to service in 1955 on the Warrnambool and Horsham lines. They were also the last E cars to be fitted with air conditioning.

By the late 1930s, the 13 air-conditioned E cars (AE 1, 3, 12, 36, BE 4, 19, 31, 34, Sleepers 1-4 and Taggerty) were rostered with one or two sitting cars to the Albury Express, one sleeping car to the Overland and three cars (Sleeper-AE-BE set) to all Mildura Overnight trains. Around this time, all the Sleepers lost their names, to be replaced with "Sleeper No.X". The three newest Sleepers became No.1 through 3, and the older sleepers occupied numbers 4 through 10; Angas, Baderloo, Barwon, Finnis, Glenelg, Onkaparinga, Tambo and Torrens were not renumbered, with many of these sold to the SAR in the early 1950s.

World War II and after[edit]

With the outbreak of the second world war, the E fleet, along with the rest of the Victorian Railways, was placed under great strain.

In 1938 Wimmera was removed from dining car service and altered to the Medical and Vision Test Car. It ran around Victoria as part of its own train with an onboard doctor, supplying medical testing facilities to Victorian Railways staff and occasionally to local towns as well.

Special purpose cars, such as the Medical and Vision Test car, the Parlor Cars and Taggerty were placed into deep storage around the state, because they were of little use to the war effort and there was no remaining capacity for special trains to operate. A number of E cars were loaned to the SAR during the war and for a time afterwards, to cover a shortfall of rolling stock on their system. Furthermore, Campaspe and Sleeper No.5 joined 12 cars of other types in a military troop train. The war's lack of maintenance also resulted in the Joint Stock vehicles being repainted from their 1936 Hawthorn Green scheme to the standard VR red from 1943.

Little changed at the end of the war as it took many years to catch up on the backlog of maintenance. In 1949 Taggerty was restored to the Bendigo train after a seven-year absence. In 1954 Queen Elizabth II and the Duke of Edinburgh travelled around Australia, and when travelling around Victoria by rail their train included E cars State No.4, Goulburn and 34CE, in addition to State No.5, the Dining Car from the Spirit of Progress, Avoca and three AS cars. This made State 4, Goulburn and 34CE the first E cars to be painted in VR Blue and Gold, shortly followed by Kiewa and Moyne as mentioned above.

From the late 1950s a number of CE vans, in addition to the air conditioned sitting AE and BE cars, were painted into Blue and Gold, perhaps to reflect their higher status. The program started with 17CE, 35CE and 36CE in 1957, and the first sitting car to be treated as such was 1AE in 1959. Four years later the program was completed, with the repainting of Taggerty. Also from 1959, over 100 carriages were fitted with upgraded axle generators to strengthen their internal lighting, as well as allowing the older-style generators to be cascaded to the PL carriages. All BCE and ABE cars were altered, along with most of the Joint Stock vehicles (excluding the Joint Stock CE's), and the majority of the remaining AE and BE fleet.

Standard Gauge completion[edit]

With the 1962 completion of the new standard gauge line from Wodonga to Melbourne, a large portion of the S and Z fleet of steel carriages were lost to the new services on that line and the VR realised that this would create a shortfall of air conditioned rollingstock on the broad gauge. In a proactive move in 1961, Kiewa and Moyne were stripped of their restaurant fittings and altered to BG 1 and 2 with saloon-style seating through most of the carriages and three compartments each. 1BG was noted exclusively on Yarram trains from 1971 through 1986 when it was withdrawn, although traffic before this period is not known.

As the steel cars were transferred across, their old bogies were retrofitted under E type carriages (though the cars kept their original axles). Cars fitted with four-wheel bogies were 1-4, 11, 13, 17-19, 23-25, 28, 30, 35, 36, 38, BE 4, 19, 31, 34 in addition to Kiewa, Moyne, Taggerty and CE 15, 33-37 as noted above.

Also around this time, the four air conditioned AE cars were renumbered to BE 49-52, giving the new total of BE 4, 19, 31, 34, 49, 50, 51, 52, BG 1, 2, Sleepers 1-4 and Taggerty.

2BG was destroyed in a collision at Glenorchy in 1971.

In 1962, 35CE was converted to standard gauge and recoded to 1VHE (No.1, Victorian, Guard's Van, E type respectively), and it was used as a spare van for standard gauge services until 1969 when it was converted back to broad gauge. At this time it regained its original identity of 35CE. This is the only E type carriage to ever have served on a gauge other than broad.

Late 1960s to the early 1970s[edit]

In 1966 30CE among others had new windows with rubber surrounds fitted and the sliding doors to the guards' compartments at each end were replaced with outward-swinging doors. Although 30CE was not the only van to undergo this alteration, it is not known how many other vans were altered in the same way.

From 1968 a handful of Joint Stock cars were repainted from VR passenger red to SAR red/brown. Known numbers are 42AE, 41BE, 42BE and 27CE.

Around 1970 the Victorian Railways decided to eliminate the Second Class category from its rollingstock fleet, as part of a modernisation program. At this time all references to Second Class were eliminated; however passenger confusion resulted in new Economy decals being applied from 1972, starting with composite vehicles.

1970s - the beginning of the end[edit]

The first E-type carriages to be scrapped (other than those which had been damaged in service) were Glenelg, Barwon, 5BE, 40BE and 43BE in the late 1960s. Following this, VR-owned E-type carriages begane to be cut up with 17AE, 11BE and 9ABE in 1970. Scrapping continued at a slow pace through to 1974, when the practice ceased temporarily.

In late 1973 the SAR banned the use of E type carriages on regular services, and when they were running they were restricted to 80 km/h (50 mph), and the VR matched this with a similar ban on Joint Stock through the VR system. Affected cars were Tambo, Dargo, 6, 9, 10, 39-42AE and 6, 7, 10, 41 and 42BE.

A handful of CE vans (15 and 30-33) had experimental LP-gas heating installed in lieu of footwarmers; this new system operated by heating water that was circulated around the vans through pipes. 37CE was similarly modified in 1978, though its boiler was heated with diesel fuel rather than LP gas.

By the end of the 1970s, less than 40 E type carriages were required on a daily basis. Although the figures are guides only, Albury, Cobram, Traralgon and Warrnambool each ran with BE-BE-CE (though Warrnambool had an additional ABE), Bairnsdale with BE-CE and Ballarat with only 1 BE; Bendigo with a single CE van; Dimboola with ABE-BE-CE, Seymour with a single ABE, Swan Hill with an ABE, a CE and Taggerty, and Yarram ran with only 1BG. Only Geelong had anything more than dregs leftover, with 5 AE cars, 2 BE cars, 2 ABE cars and 2 BCE cars in service.

New Deal and the abolition of wooden rollingstock[edit]

With the 'New Deal', major reductions were made in the E type fleet as new N sets were introduced to service, along with service acceleration and closing of many stations around the Victorian network. The poorest carriages were withdrawn almost immediately, and the remaining cars were organised into fixed consists; some of those included airconditioned carriages. Around this time changes to the BE fleet coding were undertaken, to better reflect their internal capacity. Cars converted from BDSE in the 20's became BEL, while cars converted from AE and ABE carriages became BES. Notably, only a handful of these carriages were relettered, although official publications recognised the new codes. However, cars 51BE and 52BE were coded back to 51 and 52AE (not reclaiming their original numbers). It is not known if the cars held the BES code at all, although it is unlikely.

Furthermore, all the airconditioned cars received minor improvements, such as carpeting and paper headrests. Taggerty was allowed to operate on all lines, presumably as a backup vehicle for when a BRS car was unavailable. 33CE was repainted into Vicrail 'teacup' orange, being the only wooden vehicle to receive the new livery.

In 1983 the E cars used in the Train of Knowledge were refurbished, being re-released to service in May 1984. The train consisted of Sleeping cars 5-10, as well as non-E-type carriages Avoca, Carey, Melville and Moorabool.

The final run of non-airconditioned E sitting cars came in 1985, with the delivery of the H cars, as 14BE ran in the 7:52am Bacchus Marsh to Spencer Street pass on Friday, 30 August 1985. This left only the airconditioned sitting cars, the non-airconditioned sleeping cars in the Train Of Knowledge, the airconditioned sleeping cars kept as a backup for the Mildura overnight train, and Goulburn and Wimmera. By August 1989 the count had reduced further when all sleeping cars were withdrawn, leaving only the eight E cars equipped with air conditioning ( 4, 19, 31, 34BE, 50BES, 51AE, 52AE, 1BG) still in service.[10] The last regular train worked with E class cars was the 5:40 pm V/Line South Geelong service on 24 December 1991.[1]

1BG was retained by the Public Transport Cooperation for testing of new safeworking systems. The other seven sitting cars were withdrawn and stored, along with Wimmera when it was decided to use local doctors rather than running the medical and vision test train. Goulburn was kept in service but saw little to no regular use, and in 1994 it was allocated to Steamrail. Otherwise, by the 1990s the only E type carriages still of any relevance to V/Line Passenger were of the Classic Carriage fleet; 2AE, 30AE and Yarra.

21st Century[edit]

Today, V/line has no interest whatsoever in the wooden carriages. As listed above, the E type cars have been dispersed among various preservation groups and private owners.

60 E type carriages remain, around half statically preserved and the rest either operational or undergoing restoration. Going back to the 1910 codes, 9 AE cars survive along with 5 ABE cars, 17 BE cars, 8 BDSE cars and 3 CE vans, 1 D van, 11 Sleeping cars, Wimmera, Goulburn, Campaspe, Avoca, Yarra and State Car No.4.

Additionally, 16BE has been restored as a café at Seville - www.worldisround.com/articles/376216/photo7.html

Model railways[edit]

HO Scale[edit]


As of March 2012, only HO scale plastic models of the E-series carriages are available (although there have been brass models released in the past). Kits produced by Steam Era Models can be kitbashed into AE, ABE and BE types and End of the Line Hobbies in South Australia are selling made-up kits plus BCE and Sleeping varieties, while Auscision Models have released a series of "ready-to-run" carriages in VR Heritage Brown (AE, ABE, BE, CE), VR Red (AE with 4-wheel bogies, ABE, BE) and VR Blue (CE only). They are sold as single carriages ($125.00 ea) or as sets of four ($450.00 ea) and arranged by age, with sets from 1921–1954, 1954–1963, 1963–1971 and 1971-1985.[11]

A second run is expected to be released in June 2016, though manufacturing price increases have lifted a single carriage to $140.00ea and a four-car set to $550.00ea.[12]

VPS01 (2012) 1921-1954 04AE 05ABE 01BE 18CE
VPS02 (2012) 1954-1963 18AE 06ABE 03BE 19CE
VPS03 (2012) 1963-1971 23AE 12ABE 23BE 24CE
VPS04 (2012) 1971-1981 28AE 16ABE 25BE 29CE
VPC01 (2012) 1921-1954 02AE
VPC02 (2012) 1921-1954 03ABE
VPC03 (2012) 1921-1954 02BE
VPC04 (2012) 1921-1954 05CE
VPC05 (2012) 1954-1963 17AE
VPC06 (2012) 1963-1983 24AE
VPC07 (2012) 1954-1971 18BE
VPC08 (2012) 1971-1985 24BE
VPC09 (2012) 1954-1971 07ABE
VPC10 (2012) 1971-1981 08ABE
VPC11 (2012) 1954-1984 09CE
VPC12 (2012) 1954-1984 11CE
VPC13 (2012) 1954-1974 V&SA 10AE
VPC14 (2012) 1954-1974 V&SA 42AE
VPC15 (2012) 1954-1974 V&SA 06BE
VPC16 (2012) 1954-1974 V&SA 07BE


Trainbuilder has produced a brass range of the rarer E Type carriages, retailing at $475 to $575 each depending on type, plus postage.

For $475 - 36CE in VR Blue/Gold, or 33CE in VicRail "Teacup". For $525 - Werribee, Indi and Ovens sleeping carriages in VR Blue/Gold For $575 - Clerestory Sleeping Cars: V&SAR Passenger Red - Baderloo, Inman, Coliban and Pekina; SAR Angus (sic), Finnis; VR Passenger Red - Wando, Acheron, Coliban, Inman, Pekina, Loddon and in VR Blue & Gold, Sleeping Car No.5.


State Car 4, of E carriage design used on Victorian Railways Royal Trains


  1. ^ a b c d Lee, Robert (2007). The Railways of Victoria 1854-2004. Melbourne University Publishing Ltd. pp. 142–143. ISBN 978-0-522-85134-2. 
  2. ^ Lee, p.122
  3. ^ Lee, p.160
  4. ^ Overland
  5. ^ Chris Drymalik. ""Murray" - Victorian Railways Parlor Car". ComRails. comrails.com. Retrieved 2008-12-23. 
  6. ^ Chris Drymalik. "Yarra". ComRails. comrails.com. Retrieved 2008-12-23. 
  7. ^ Comrails
  8. ^ Port Dock
  9. ^ bed and breakfast
  10. ^ Lee, p.254
  11. ^ http://www.auscisionmodels.com.au/E%20Car%20Page.htm
  12. ^ http://auscisionmodels.com.au/E%20Car%20Page.htm