Silver City Comet

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Silver City Comet
Silver City Comet PH101 at Central.jpg
Power van PH 101 at Sydney Central on
a test run to Moss Vale in 1937
Service typePassenger train
First service27 September 1937
Last service3 November 1989
Former operator(s)State Rail Authority
EndBroken Hill
Distance travelled920 km (570 mi)
Line(s) usedMain Western
Broken Hill

The Silver City Comet was a train service that operated from September 1937 until November 1989 between Parkes and Broken Hill in western New South Wales.[1] It was the first air-conditioned train in Australia.


The original engines were built in Belfast by Harland & Wolff under licence from Burmeister & Wain known as the "Harlandic" type. An eight cylinder in line uniflow two-stroke engines with blower scavenging which developed 330 bhp (250 kW) at 1200 rpm. The transmission was a Voith-Sinclair torque converter design with two final drive gear ratios, geared for 130 km/h (81 mph) or 115 km/h (71 mph). Two "National" 22 kW (30 hp) diesel generator sets producing DC power for train lighting and air conditioning.

In 1953, spare parts supply difficulties and engine age prompted the NSWGR to re-engine the fleet with four 6–110 GM diesel engines rated at 250 bhp (190 kW) at 1800 rpm coupled in pairs driving Allison torque converters to the inner axle of each bogie. These are coupled in pairs through a GM Model TCLA 965 torque converter to gear boxes connected to each of the bogies. A Standard Waygood GM 120 volt, 50 kW (67 hp), generator set for power requirements including train lighting, cooking and air conditioning. The power van was re-classed 'DP', tare weight was 63 long tons (64 t; 71 short tons).


Broken Hill had two tramways which were established by the early 1900s. One was closed in 1926 due to being unprofitable while the other was converted to standard gauge rail in 1919 and eventually connected to Sydney via the Broken Hill line in 1927.

When the rolling stock was ordered, it was planned that they would be utilised on both the Parkes to Broken Hill and Dubbo to Bourke services. In September 1937, the Silver City Comet commenced operating three times a week between Parkes and Broken Hill connecting with the Western Mail from Sydney. This was increased to daily from May 1938 before reverting to thrice weekly in October 1939. This released some stock for transfer to Sydney to operate Federal City Express services to Canberra from October 1939 until November 1945.[2] In April 1940, the remaining stock was also transferred to Sydney to operate Newcastle Flyer services for a few months.[3]

From January 1957, Silver City Comet stock operated a three times per week service from Parkes to Orange and Dubbo. Following the introduction of the Central West XPT service to Dubbo, in April 1982 this was cut back to Orange, but was extended to start at Forbes.[3] By 1983, the Parkes - Forbes section was by bus. By 1986, the mail was withdrawn. Silver City Comet was retimed to connect with Central West XPT, three days per week each way. The Orange - Forbes connection on the other four days was now by airconditioned bus.

Rolling stock[edit]

No.104 in silver livery at the New South Wales Railway Museum, Thirlmere

The New South Wales Government Railways placed orders for five diesel power vans[4] with Eveleigh Carriage Workshops and 12 trailer cars with Ritchie Brothers, Auburn in the mid-1930s. The double ended power cars were each fitted with two Harland & Wolff Hardlandic diesel engines. PH 105 was destroyed by fire at Ivanhoe in January 1950 with the remaining four repowered with General Motors 6–110 engines between 1952 and 1957. DP 102 was withdrawn after being struck at a level crossing at Forbes in August 1982. The carriages were the first in Australia to feature air-conditioning.[5]

Originally painted silver with blue lining, in the 1950s they were repainted in the standard tuscan and russet livery. By the 1970s they had returned to their original livery. In the 1980s they were repainted into the State Rail Authority's candy colours before once again being returned to their original livery in time for their 50th anniversary in 1987.[6]

In its twilight years, the Silver City Comet became a popular train for enthusiast tours including operating to Melbourne (Vic.) in February 1983, up the North Coast line to Brisbane in April 1986 and the Main Northern line to Tenterfield in October 1989.[7][8]

In September 1987, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their entry into service, a set operated tours from Sydney to Canberra and Kiama.[9]

Trailer Cars[edit]

Along with the power cars, 12 air-conditioned passenger trailers were ordered from Ritchie Brothers of Auburn NSW. The trailers were built in three configurations – four First Class sitting cars (coded BT 201–204), four Second Class sitting cars with buffet (coded RFT 205–208) and four Second Class sitting cars (coded FT 209–212). Two additional parcel trailers (coded HT 301–302) were also constructed by NSWGR Carriage Works at Eveleigh, NSW.

The passenger trailers were each 55 feet long while the parcel trailers were 42 feet long. All cars featured a full-length side skirt below the floor level, partially covering the bogies and underfloor equipment. They were all painted in the same silver and blue livery as the power cars.

The trailers were constructed principally of aluminium alloy on a steel underframe. The cars were arranged internally with two saloons separated by male and female toilets. Entrance doors and vestibules were provided at each end.

The trailers were refurbished in the early 1950s to bring them up to the same standard as the new air-conditioned HUB and RUB daylight express carriages. The original First Class seating was retained and reclassified as Second Class, while new First Class seating was installed. Two buffet cars (DR 205 and 207) were also converted into full dining cars.

FT 212 was converted to a relief parcel trailer in 1953 and was condemned following a shunting accident in 1968. Following the demise of DEH 212 an Emergency Parcel Trailer (ETP 1475) was converted to operate with the Comet and renumbered EDH 320. This vehicle was condemned in 1981. To fulfil the luggage and parcel loading requirements on Comet services following the withdrawal of DH 301 and 302 and EDH 320, two surplus 500 Class trailer cars (HCT 504 and 508) were converted into Comet parcels trailers in 1985.

Demise and Preservation[edit]

On 3 November 1989, the final Silver City Comet ran with road transport taking over the service.[10]

Following their withdrawal in November 1989, the rolling stock was disposed of by auction at Parkes on 22 December 1989. The State Rail Authority donated a power van and four carriages to the City of Broken Hill that was placed on display at the Sulphide Street Railway Museum, and a carriage to the City of Parkes. The Dorrigo Steam Railway & Museum and New South Wales Rail Transport Museum (now the NSW Rail Museum) each purchased a power van and four carriages respectively.[11] These latter two sets both moved to the Rail Motor Society, Paterson in April 1990.[12] Dorrigo's stock was moved to Kooragang Island in May 1994[13] and subsequently to Dorrigo, while the Rail Transport Museum's stock moved to Thirlmere in April 1999.[14]

Power Car Roster[edit]

Power Vans
No Entered service Rebuild Organisation Location Status
PH 101 September 1937 DP 101 Sulphide Street Railway & Historical Museum Broken Hill static exhibit
PH 102 August 1937 DP 102 condemned after accident August 1982, scrapped
PH 103 January 1938 DP 103 Dorrigo Steam Railway & Museum Dorrigo static exhibit
PH 104 May 1938 DP 104 NSW Rail Museum Thirlmere static exhibit
PH 105 September 1938 destroyed by fire January 1950, scrapped

Trailer Car Roster[edit]

Trailer Cars
No Entered service Rebuild Organisation Location Status
BT 201 September 1937 DB 201 Dorrigo Steam Railway & Museum Dorrigo static exhibit
BT 202 September 1937 DC 202 Sulphide Street Railway & Historical Museum Broken Hill static exhibit
BT 203 January 1938 DC 203 Parkes City Council Parkes static exhibit
BT 204 September 1937 DF/DZF 204 Dorrigo Steam Railway & Museum Dorrigo static exhibit
RFT 205 September 1937 DR 205 NSW Rail Museum Thirlmere static exhibit
RFT 206 September 1937 DB 206 Dorrigo Steam Railway & Museum Dorrigo static exhibit
RFT 207 January 1938 DR 207 Sulphide Street Railway & Historical Museum Broken Hill static exhibit
RFT 208 September 1937 HFT 208 NSW Rail Museum Thirlmere static exhibit
FT 209 August 1941 HFT 209 Sulphide Street Railway & Historical Museum Broken Hill static exhibit
FT 210 October 1938 DB 210 NSW Rail Museum Thirlmere static exhibit
FT 211 May 1941 DF/DZF 211 NSW Rail Museum Thirlmere static exhibit
FT 212 July 1941 DEH 212 condemned after accident December 1968, scrapped
HT 301 September 1937 DH 301 condemned April 1983, scrapped
HT 302 March 1938 DH 302 condemned April 1983, scrapped
EDH 320 November 1970 condemned December 1981, scrapped
PT 504 September 1985 Sulphide Street Railway & Historical Museum Broken Hill static exhibit
PT 508 September 1985 Dorrigo Steam Railway & Museum Dorrigo static exhibit



  1. ^ Railway Service Provision New South Wales Government Archives
  2. ^ Stokes, HJW (1984). Railways of the Canberra and Monaro Districts. Canberra: Australian Railway Historical Society, ACT Division. p. 21.
  3. ^ a b Cooke, David (1984). Railmotors and XPTs. Sydney: Australian Railway Historical Society NSW Division. pp. 40–50. ISBN 978-0-909650-23-0.
  4. ^ "1937 – Silver City Comet Power Van (100 Class)".
  5. ^ Comets of the Silver City Archived 8 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine Railpix
  6. ^ "Happy Birthday Silver City Comet" Railway Digest September 1987 page 278
  7. ^ "Another Comet Passes By" Railway Digest July 1986 page 199
  8. ^ "By Comet to (Almost) Wallangarra" Railway Digest December 1989 page 415
  9. ^ "Silver City Comet – 50th Anniversary" Railway Digest November 1987 page 347
  10. ^ "The Official Last Comet" Railway Digest February 1990 page 55
  11. ^ "Comet sets sold at auction" Railway Digest February 1990 page 47
  12. ^ "Is this the way to Parkes?" Railway Digest July 1990 page 254
  13. ^ "Paterson" Railway Digest July 1994 page 35
  14. ^ Preservation & Tourist" Railway Digest June 1999 page 43

Further reading[edit], then via the index to the two Silver City Comet sets. Railmotor Society's webpage, with a comprehensive history of construction, layouts and changes through the years.