Southern Aurora

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Southern Aurora
Southern Aurora passing Wagga Wagga Railway Station.jpg
Preserved version of the Southern Aurora at Wagga Wagga station in April 2012
Service type Overnight sleeper train
Status Ceased
First service 16 April 1962
Last service 2 August 1986
Successor Sydney/Melbourne Express
Former operator(s) State Rail Authority
Start Sydney
End Melbourne
Distance travelled 956 kilometres
Service frequency Nightly in each direction
Train number(s) SL1/SL2
Line used Main South, NSW
North East, Victoria
Rolling stock stainless steel carriages

The Southern Aurora was an overnight express passenger train that operated between Australia's two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne. First-class throughout, including the dining facilities, the Southern Aurora featured all-sleeper accommodation. The train first ran on 16 April 1962 after the opening of the North East standard gauge line from Melbourne to Albury,[1] eliminating the break-of-gauge between the capital cities.[2]

The carriages used featured fluted sides and consisted of roomette and twinette sleepers, lounge cars and diners,[3] and were owned jointly by the New South Wales Government Railways and Victorian Railways.[4] A MotoRail service was added from July 1973 which enabled passengers to travel and take their cars.[5]

On 7 February 1969 the train was involved in the Violet Town railway disaster, when the southbound Southern Aurora collided head on with a northbound freight train, resulting in eight deaths.[1]

With declining passenger numbers it was decided to combine the Spirit of Progress and Southern Aurora into one train, the unimaginatively named Sydney/Melbourne Express. The Southern Aurora ran for the last time on 2 August 1986.[1][6]

After the demise of the train, the majority of the carriages passed to the Australian Railway Historical Society, Canberra and New South Wales Rail Transport Museum who have maintained them in operational condition.[7][8] The latter often operates them on tours under the Southern Aurora banner.[9]


Original fleet[edit]

A fleet of 34 stainless steel carriages were jointly purchased by the Department of Railways New South Wales and Victorian Railways for the commencement of the service. The carriages were built by Commonwealth Engineering, Granville. They were[10]

  • 9 NAM twinette sleeping cars with a capacity of 20 passengers numbered 2335-2343
  • 2 DAM deluxe twinette sleeping cars with a capacity of 18 passengers numbered 2333 & 2334, with 2333 being owned by Victorian Railways.
  • 3 RMS dining cars numbered 2358-2360
  • 3 BCS lounge cars numbered 2355-2357
  • 11 LAN roomette sleeping cars with a capacity of 20 passengers numbered 2344-2354
  • 3 PHN power/brake vans numbered 2361-2363
  • 3 MHN luggage brake vans numbered 2364-2366

Additional cars to the same design were also ordered for use on the Spirit of Progress, these cars consisted of:

  • 3 NAM twinette sleeping cars with a capacity of 20 passengers numbered 2367, 2368 & 2373
  • 3 PHN power/ brake vans numbered 2369-2371

Violet Town crash[edit]

Seven were destroyed in the Violet Town rail accident on 7 February 1969 with replacement stock built in 1970/71.[11][12] The replacement cars of the same design were given new numbers.


Some of these cars were withdrawn following the cessation of the North Coast sleepers in February 1990 and the balance when the Sydney/Melbourne Express ceased in November 1993.

Some were placed on RailCorp's heritage register and placed in the custody of the New South Wales Rail Transport Museum.[13] with most others auctioned in August 1994.[14] Queensland Rail purchased six and moved them to Townsville with the aim of refurbishing for use on The Inlander but the program was cancelled.[15] Canberra Railway Museum has at least eight.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "VR timeline". Mark Bau. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  2. ^ Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin December 1962 pp181-188
  3. ^ "Southern Aurora". Peter J Vincent. Archived from the original on 4 January 2006. Retrieved 2008-02-05.  External link in |work= (help)
  4. ^ "Abbreviations and Glossary of Terms: S". Comrails. Chris Drymalik. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  5. ^ Vincent Adams Winter (1990). VR and VicRail: 1962 - 1983. p. 205. ISBN 0-9592069-3-0. 
  6. ^ "Farewell to an Ideal" Railway Digest October 1986 Page 204
  7. ^ "New South Wales Rail Transport Museum". 150 years of NSW Railways. RailCorp. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  8. ^ "Australian Railway Historical Society (ACT): Rollingstock index". Retrieved 2009-11-22. 
  9. ^ Awake in a New World Heritage Express
  10. ^ Dunn, John (2008). Comeng A History of Commonwealth Engineering Vol.2 1955 - 1966. Rosenberg Publishing. ISBN 9781877058738. 
  11. ^ "Melbourne/Sydney Express Cars" Railway Digest November 1986 page 353
  12. ^ "20 Years Ago" Railway Digest December 1990 page 454
  13. ^ RailCorp S170 Heritage and Conservation Register RailCorp 17 September 2012
  14. ^ "Rolling Stock - Carriage Auction Results" Railway Digest October 1994 page 38
  15. ^ "Ex-NSW Cars Still Await Reuse in Townsville" Railway Digest April 1997 page 16
  16. ^ ARHS ACT Wongm's Rail Gallery

Further reading[edit]

  • The Southern Aurora Sleeping Cars - Design and Construction Adam, Eric Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, October, November 1990 pp231–243,255-270

External links[edit]

Media related to Southern Aurora at Wikimedia Commons