Southern Aurora

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Southern Aurora
Southern Aurora passing Wagga Wagga Railway Station.jpg
Preserved version of the Southern Aurora at Wagga Wagga station in April 2012
Service typeOvernight sleeper train
First service16 April 1962
Last service2 August 1986
SuccessorSydney/Melbourne Express
Former operator(s)State Rail Authority
Distance travelled956 kilometres
Service frequencyNightly in each direction
Train number(s)SL1/SL2
Line(s) usedMain South, NSW
North East, Victoria
Rolling stockStainless steel carriages
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in)

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]

A fleet of 34 stainless steel carriages was jointly purchased by the Department of Railways New South Wales and Victorian Railways featuring fluted sides and consisted of roomette and twinette sleepers, lounge cars and diners.[3][4][5] A motorail service was added from July 1973 which enabled passengers to travel and take their cars.[6]

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 and the destruction of two S class locomotives and seven carriages.[1][7][8]

With declining passenger numbers, it was decided to combine the Spirit of Progress and Southern Aurora into one train, the Sydney/Melbourne Express. The Southern Aurora ran for the last time on 2 August 1986.[1][9]

After the demise of sleeper trains in the early 1990s, many of the carriages passed to the Australian Railway Historical Society, Canberra Railway Museum and New South Wales Rail Transport Museum (now the NSW Rail Museum) who have maintained them in operational condition.[10][11] The latter often operates them on tours under the Southern Aurora banner.[12]

From December 2017, four NAM Twinette carriages were restored at the Lithgow State Mine Heritage Park & Railway on behalf of Vintage Rail Journeys.[13] From September 2019, two LAN Roomette carriages, one NAM Twinette carriage and one MHN Luggage were restored at Goulburn Locomotive Roundhouse on behalf of Vintage Rail Journeys.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "VR timeline". Mark Bau. Retrieved 5 February 2008.
  2. ^ "Opening of the Through Standard-Gauge Passenger Services between Sydney and Melbourne" Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin issue 302 December 1962 pp181-188
  3. ^ Dunn, John (2008). Comeng A History of Commonwealth Engineering Vol.2 1955 - 1966. Rosenberg Publishing. pp. 234–239. ISBN 9781877058738.
  4. ^ "New Trains for Melbourne-Sydney Through Service" Railway Gazette 29 July 1960 page 143
  5. ^ "Luxury Trains for Sydney-Melbourne Service" Railway Gazette 21 October 1960 page 143
  6. ^ Vincent Adams Winter (1990). VR and VicRail: 1962 - 1983. p. 205. ISBN 0-9592069-3-0.
  7. ^ "Melbourne/Sydney Express Cars" Railway Digest November 1986 page 353
  8. ^ "20 Years Ago" Railway Digest December 1990 page 454
  9. ^ "Farewell to an Ideal" Railway Digest October 1986 Page 204
  10. ^ "New South Wales Rail Transport Museum". 150 years of NSW Railways. RailCorp. Archived from the original on 17 June 2008. Retrieved 5 February 2008.
  11. ^ "Australian Railway Historical Society (ACT): Rollingstock index". Retrieved 22 November 2009.
  12. ^ Awake in a New World Heritage Express
  13. ^ Lithgow Railway Workshop to give new ‘aura’ to the Southern Aurora Lithgow Mercury 5 December 2017
  14. ^ Thrower, Louise (5 December 2019). "Southern Aurora restoration 'recaptures the magic'". Goulburn Post. Retrieved 13 December 2020.

External links[edit]

Media related to Southern Aurora at Wikimedia Commons