Swing Door (train)

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Swing Door
SwingDoor Newport Workshop.jpg
A Restored Swing Door at the Steamrail Open day in March 2014. The carriage was destroyed by fire less than a year later.
ManufacturerVictorian Railways
Built atNewport Workshops
ReplacedSteam hauled carriages
Constructed1887-1909 (built), converted 19
Entered service1887 (as locomotive-hauled carriages)
1919 (as EMU cars)
Number built144 motor cars,
32 driving trailers,
112 trailers
Fleet numbers1-164M (Motor cars, with gaps),
1-32D (Driving trailers),
1-111T, 126T (Trailers)
Articulated sectionsNone
Maximum speed83 km/h (52 mph)
Traction system4 x 105 kW GE239
Electric system(s)1500 V DC overhead
Track gauge5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)

Swing Door trains, commonly known as "Dogboxes" or "Doggies", were wooden-bodied electric multiple unit (EMU) trains that operated on the suburban railway network of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Swing Door cars had outward-opening doors. They were reasonably narrow, to ensure that two passing trains could not foul each other if doors were accidentally left open. At certain locations clearances were tight and there are stories of Swing Door cars losing doors that were not closed.[1] The fleet could be seen running in any arrangement, from one car (using a double-ended M car), up to seven cars.


Formerly restored Swing Door Carriage at Newport

The Swing Door trains were originally 13.72-metre long (45 ft 0 in) and 15.28-metre long (50 ft 2 in) steam-hauled bogie passenger cars, the majority of which had been built between 1887 and 1893. When converted to electric traction between 1917 and 1924, the cars were extended by two compartments to a total length of 17.4 metres (57 ft 1 in), and then fitted onto new under-frames and bogies.[2] The conversion process was suddenly halted in 1924, with partially converted cars being patched up and returned to service with their original codes and numbers.[1]

Converted Swing Door cars originally entered service with class codes such as 'AT', 'BCM', and 'ABCD', indicating both class and type. In 1921 this was largely simplified to 'M' (Motor car), 'T' (Trailer car) and 'D' (Driving trailer),[1] the trailers being First class and motor cars Second class, with some exceptions.[2]


The maximum size of the Swing Door train fleet was:[2]

  • 144 'M' motor cars, numbered 1-164M, with gaps but including:
    • First class motor cars 1, 8, 15, 46, 65, 78AM (re-coded M after 1958)
    • Double-ended composite motor cars 155-159, 162-164ABM; 157-159, 162-164 were later converted to Parcel Vans 10-15CM
  • 32 'D' driving trailers, numbered 1-32D
  • 112 'T' First class and Second class 'BT' trailers, numbered 1-111, 126T (or BT)

In service[edit]


Conversions for electrification[edit]

Driving motors - AM, ACM, ABM, ABCM, BM, BCM, CM, M[edit]


It had been intended to convert 164 locomotive-hauled carriages, including First class and Second class cars - with and without guard's vans, as well as composite cars, to M (Motor) cars. When the conversion program was terminated, only 144 had been completed, leaving 20 gaps [5, 7, 22, 24, 27, 31, 33, 36, 38, 42, 45, 47, 52, 53, 55, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62] in the sequence. Each M car had 7 or 8 compartments, depending on the configuration of the original carriage; usually 3 compartments were allocated for smokers per car. When initially issued to service, most were designated ACM and BCM denoting either First or Second class accommodation respectively. When this system was abandoned, Motor cars all became Second class, except for six which were retained for special duties (AM), and the double-ended single units (ABM). On 10 February 1935, 18M and 44M were damaged in a serious collision at Croydon, and the bodies scrapped; the frames and electrical equipment was retained, and they were rebuilt with new bodies of the current Tait design, being renumbered 442M and 443M.


Motor cars 1, 8, 15, 46, 65, and 78, were built as ACM units, and retained as First class AM cars until single-class suburban travel was introduced in 1958. In this form they were used, paired with a standard (Second class) M car, as locomotives for E trains. These trains ran to the end of the electrified overhead sections at Lilydale and Frankston, hauling non-electrified passenger trains. There the motor cars would be cut off, the remaining carriages split, and steam engines took each portion to Warburton & Healesville or Mornington & Stony Point respectively. Consequently, these six AM cars were set for 850 Amperes current load rather than the normal 650, and often the trailing motor car would be cut-out whilst starting a train to avoid excessive jolting. These motor-pairs were also occasionally used for goods trains, and sometimes an ABM would be substituted for the AM car.


Motor cars 155 to 164 were originally intended to be built as double-ended single units for use on short or low-patronised lines, where it was uneconomic to roster a steam locomotive and crew. Routes where these operated included Hawthorn-Kew, Camberwell-Ashburton (later Alamein) and Eltham-Hurstbridge.

This group of ten vehicles were to be constructed similarly to the rest of the Swing-door motor fleet, with a large guard/driver compartment at one end. However, eight of them had a small driver-only compartment added at the opposite end, all but two being rounded in the same manner as the van end. There were eight compartments with room for ten passengers each, and from the van end the layout was two First class smoking compartments, two First class non-smoking, two Second class non-smoking, two Second class smoking, then the smaller drivers’ compartment.

When the first two cars, 2 and 3, entered service in 1917 they were class ABCM, though by 1923, with the rest of this group, they were coded simply M, becoming 156M and 157M respectively.

Like the rest of the suburban electric passenger fleet, these cars were painted all-over dark red-brown, later crimson with a black underframe and moonstone grey along the windows. In the 1950s this was changed to the familiar 'tomato' red, with moonstone grey on the window frames only.

160M and 161M never had the extra driving compartment added at the rear end.

Rostering confusion led most of the double-ended M cars 155, 157-159 and 162-164 to be re-coded as ABM between 1929 and 1932.

155ABM was converted to workmens sleeper carriage No. 70WW in 1959, and withdrawn from service in 1975. This was the only swing-door motor carriage to later become a workmens' sleeper of any type.

160M was withdrawn in 1974; 161M in 1969.

156M, Jolimont Workshops yard pilot[edit]

156M seems to have been left out of the ABM recoding because even at that early stage in its career it had been informally elected to the position of Jolimont yard pilot.[3] This would be formalised in 1963 when that car, along with single-ended 113M, would be withdrawn from passenger service; both were later painted blue with a wide yellow band similar to the CM parcel vans, in the late 1970s, and permanently allocated to the Jolimont yard pilot roster. To indicate this, small lettering was placed above the middle-side [1].

Near the end of its career, 156M was painted in all-over green in place of its previous blue scheme, though retaining the yellow stripe along the sides. The ends were painted white with a yellow outline, and the standard The Met yellow/green stripes along the lower edge of each end. [2] [3] [4]

Parcel motors CM[edit]

After World War II the population of Melbourne skyrocketed, and with it the need for increased suburban parcel traffic capacity. To answer the call, in 1955 157M was withdrawn from passenger service and converted to a parcel van as 10CM. In 1961 3CM was damaged, so 10CM had a raised cupola added in the middle for viewing of the overhead wiring.[3] The design was tweaked in 1962. Otherwise, the sides were completely stripped and replaced with a similar style to that of the Tait parcel van fleet, though the car maintained its thinner body of 8’6”. Outward-swinging doors were kept, in three pairs at spacing to divide the car into four roughly equal sections though the outer two were partial driver compartments. The guard facility at the raised-roof/pantograph end was retained. When complete, 10CM was painted in blue with a thick yellow stripe along the sides, curving to a point in the middle of the ends. The number and code was adjacent to the outer sets of doors, and either side of the middle door was advertising for the Victorian Railways’ parcel services, identical to the Tait design.

162M, 163M and 164M were converted in a similar fashion to 155M, with new identities 11CM, 12CM and 13CM respectively, and entering service in 1957 (11CM) and 1959 (12CM and 13CM).

That left 158M and 159M as the only passenger-service double-ended swing door electric cars. These were withdrawn from passenger service and recoded to 15CM (1964) and 14CM (1963), but only as a stopgap measure while 3CM and 10CM were busy with various electrification works, and so the conversions were minimised; seats were removed and a walkway down the centre was cut between all the compartment partitions, but the cars did not have the sides replaced, and they stayed red.

The temporary CMs 14 and 15 were the first to be withdrawn in 1970, with 10CM following in 1972. 11CM lasted another eleven years, finally being withdrawn in 1983, and 12CM and 13CM were taken out of service in 1986 when the last of the railway parcels service dried up.

10CM is stored awaiting restoration at Newport Workshops, while 13CM is in a similar position, stored at Moorooduc behind the Mornington railway workshops. 12CM, formerly at Mornington, was moved to Newport as a chassis only at some point in 2017/2018, and is being used as spare parts for 93M, the body having been scrapped some years prior due to poor condition.

Driving trailers – ACD, BCD, D[edit]

As part of the swing-door conversion project, a fleet of driving-trailer carriages were constructed.

A total of 32 carriages were eventually built to this type of design. All weighed 26t 10cwt, with capacity for 30 smoking passengers and either 40 or 50 non-smoking passengers. Externally, all carriages were 8’6” wide, and length-wise numbers 1-19 and 24-27D were 59’9” over body, 61’8” over buffers, while 20-23 and 28-32D were 9¾” shorter in both dimensions. The first group of longer cars had their bogies spaced at 45’6½” and the second long group at 43’3½”. All the shorter cars had bogies spaced at 40’0”.

These had seven or eight compartments, with a van on the end as a guard’s compartment as well as a small area reserved for the driver. The drivers’ compartment took the first 2’10½” and about half the width of the carriage, with the guard’s elevated seat directly opposite. The van measured 5’3¾” in the vast majority of D cars, exceptions being 14-16 (6’3¼”), 20-21 and 23 (5’6 15/16”) and 31-32 (5’9½”).

Passenger compartments varied in length and number. Each was rated for ten passengers, five on each bench, but the width of any given compartment could be anywhere from 5’9¼” to 7’3⅞”, with up to three sizes in any given vehicle.

As of 1915 there were 32 carriages destined to later become D type driving trailers. These were AC cars 5, 8, 10, 12, 17, 28, 29, 32, 34, 39, 52, 63, 70 and 139-143; ABC cars 17-20 and BC cars 6-7, 12, 29-30, 32, 36 and 39-41.

Between 1919-1921, all the AC First-class cars listed became ACD, first-class driving trailers, except Nos. 63 and 70; all BC Second-class cars listed bar 12BC became BCD, and none of the ABC cars went to a classed electric carriage. By 1924, all thirty-two carriages had become first-class D cars.

All the ex-AC types had seven compartments except 63 and 70; those and the ex-ABC and BC cars had eight compartments. In all cases, three compartments were reserved for smoking passengers and the rest reserved for non-smoking.

The first swing-door D car withdrawn was 21D in 1951. 26D and 9D followed in 1956 and 1957 respectively, and withdrawals of the Swingdoor fleet accelerated from there. 18D and 22D were removed from service in 1962, and the next year took 4, 8, 10, 13, 20, 23 and 30. 3 and 5 in 1964, 7 and 11 in 1965, 14D in 1966 and 28D in 1967, then a short reprieve.

The final withdrawals were 1-2, 6, 15-17, 19, 25, 27 and 31-32 in 1973 and 12 and 29D in 1974.

24D stayed on register until 1979, when it was formally withdrawn for preservation. In 1981 the car was involved in a runaway and sustained damage, but was later repaired.

32D was stored at Newport for a number of years, providing a useful source of spare parts for the restoration of 12BT and 24D; it was scrapped in 2008.[4] This car retained the wooden headstocks with which it was built, which would have made operational restoration difficult.

Trailers – AT, BT, T[edit]

This group encompasses one hundred and fifteen carriages, at different stages.

As of 1910, the bogie passenger compartment fleet consisted of a range of A, AB, and B type carriages of 45 ft and 50 ft lengths. These were respectively of the first, composite and second class, with capacities around 70 passengers each. Most of the carriages dated from the late 1880s, though 51B and 54B entered service in 1900, 5A and 77B were built in 1902, and 63B and 66B were built in 1904 and 1905 respectively. From approximately 1908 to 1922, the bogie passenger fleet had underframes and bodies extended to increase the capacity of any given train (by wasting less space with couplers and buffers). Typically, two compartments were added to one end of each carriage, with a final over-body length of 57'4½". Originally the majority of these carriages had seven compartments of 6'3 1/8", with two more added at only 6'0 11/16" each.

The four exceptions were carriages 49B, 51B, 20AB, and 79AB (108B from 1911). These cars had the same external dimensions, except that 49B and 51B were originally built with eight compartments of 6'1 5/16" and a ninth added at 6'11½"; 20AB and 79AB (108B) originally had seven compartments - three First class in the centre at 6'11" each, flanked by two Second class compartments of 5'9¼" each; later two standard 6'0 11/16" compartments were added at one end.

By the time carriages were being withdrawn from steam-hauled service for conversion to electric train trailers, the eventually-converted fleet comprised 25 x 1st-class cars in the range 1A to 149A (very few consecutive, but the majority numbered 100 or higher), and a further 89 2nd class carriages, most in the number range 1-222 plus 129B and 134B. Those carriages were withdrawn and refitted with electric lighting and control cables for motor communication.

The conversions did not happen immediately, but by 1921 1st class trailers 1AT-12AT and 14AT-18AT, and conversion work was progressing for the fleet of second class trailers 1BT through (roughly) 100BT. In 1921 it was decided that having class segregation among each class of the suburban fleet was too difficult to manage appropriately, and so the trailers all became first class and the motors all second class. The AT carriages became 1-12T and 14-18T respectively, joined by 13T and 19-26T which had not been converted in time for the AT classification. BT cars became 27T to 111T, plus 126T. 109T, 110T, 111T, and 126T had been the pre-conversion odd vehicles 20AB, 49B, 51B, and 108B.

As Tait-type rollingstock in the 1925-onwards batches entered service, some swing-door T cars were returned to steam passenger service, with modifications for electric running removed and gas lighting re-instated, but extra compartments retained. The first three were 87BT, 94BT and 96BT. It is likely that if they had been converted to T trailer cars, they may have been numbered 113T, 120T and 122T, and it is possible that 126T had not been intended as the highest numbered class member. These three carriages were restored to their 1910 identities of 54, 63 and 66B respectively on 29 January 1924. All three cars had the same alternate compartment arrangement as 110T and 111T. However, in practice the numbers 112T-125T and 127T-199T were never filled with swing-door rollingstock.

In 1929 further carriages were deemed surplus to electric fleet requirements, and carriages 6, 19, 20, 21, 24, 26, 43, 39, 100, and 101T were converted back to B type country carriages, however instead of regaining their former numbers, they became 162-171B, these being the next available after the highest numbered B carriage at the time.

A further re-classification of First class T cars was made in 1940, when a shortage of second class accommodation on the suburban system became evident, the situation being exacerbated by the Second World War and its associated petrol rationing. Fourteen of the swing-door trailer fleet wer re-coded to BT, although keeping their T fleet numbers. This conversion involved the upholstered seats being swapped for second-class wooden benches (with cushions); signage on the carriage sides was altered to reflect this. The carriages so treated were 4, 8 and 12 in 1940, followed by 29, 36, 38, 41, 42, 45, 64, 77, 79, 85 and 87 in 1941.

In 1954 some of the cars converted away from electric stock in 1929 returned to the swing-door electric fleet. 162B and 163B returned to their previous identities of 6T and 19T respectively, but 165B, 168B, 171B and 169B became T cars 20, 21, 24, and 26, ignoring their previous identities of 21, 43, 101, and 39T.

In 1958 class designation on the Melbourne suburban system was abolished altogether, meaning that the fourteen BT trailers were no longer any different from the rest of the fleet, all cars receiving upholsterd seating as the new standard. However, those cars kept their BT code, and they were joined by seventeen other vehicles to make a total 31 BT trailers. These later conversions (and probably the earlier ones as well) included a shunter's cock being added similar to Tait G cars, to aid shunting Units (M-T-BT-) onto Blocks (M-T-T-M). This resulted in 7-car dogbox trains being formed as M-T-BT+M-T-T-M, releasing the G carriages for other services.

The first two withdrawals of T swingdoor cars were in 1953 and 1956, with 46T and 86T respectively. 26 (ex 39), 65, 70 and 166T were withdrawn in 1957, and twelve cars knocked out in 1958. Mass withdrawals started at the end of 1961 with 91T, and an average of ten cars per year were withdrawn from then through to the end of 1974. Some cars were converted to workmens sleepers, but the majority had valuable fittings removed, then were railed out to Allendale on the former North Creswick - Daylesford line, and burned. Withdrawals in this period averaged eight cars per year; fewer in the period 1967-1972 as the Hitachi fleet was designed and introduced into service, but many more either side of that period. The last two in service, withdrawn during the first half of 1974, were 76BT and 80T.

The carriages converted from steam to electric then back to steam but which did not return to electric later on - 54B, 64B, 66B, 164B, 166B, 167B and 170B - were withdrawn largely in line with others of that class.

Set configuration[edit]

When the conversion project was halted, the swingdoor fleet equalled 32 Driving Trailers, 112 regular Trailers, 144 Motors (including the double-ended (ABM) and high-powered (AM) motors). The core of the Tait fleet had also been delivered by 1927.

At that time, it is reasonable to assume that the break-up of the electric fleet was:

  • 5x Tait Parcels Vans
  • 8x Single-motor Cars (including 156M)
  • 3x M-M pairs for E-Trains; Lilydale for Healesville and Warburton, and Frankston for Mornington and Stony Point.
  • 42x M-D Pairs
  • 97x M-T-G Units
  • 116x M-T-T-M Blocks

For the majority of the day, the Blocks would have run most services, with the single motor cars running short distances like Ashburton and Hurstbridge, and the Pairs are known to have been reserved for flatter lines like Newport-Altona, if not worked in pairs (M-D+M-D) in place of a regular Block. In peak hours on quieter lines, the standard Block was supplemented with a Pair; on the busiest routes, a Unit would be attached. As noted in the Tait article, during the Easter and Christmas seasons, the G cars (T-type trailers with gas lighting available as well as electric) would be withdrawn from suburban service and utilised as extra capacity on country trains.

Double-block sets of M-T-T-M+M-T-T-M were never in normal service.


General Electric traction equipment was fitted to the trains, of the same type as that in the Tait trains and enabling the trains to be operated in mixed sets using multiple-unit train control.[2]

Conversions and alterations[edit]

Six Swing Door M cars were converted to parcels vans (numbered 10CM to 15CM),[5] and two M cars, 156M and 113M, were modified for use as shunters in the Jolimont Workshops.[1]


From the late 1950s to 1970 the swing door trains were replaced by the Harris EMU trains. The last 7-car Swing Door train was withdrawn in February 1973, with the remainder (in smaller formations) lasting on the St Kilda and Port Melbourne lines only until the end of that year. A special "farewell" day was run on 26 January 1974. The Parcel vans remained in service until the mid-1980s, and the workshop shunters until the 1990s.[1]

During their long service lives, many Motor cars had their original fabricated bogies replaced by newer cast-frame bogies; these cast-frame bogies from scrapped Swing Door trains were recycled for use under the Y class diesel locomotives built in the 1960s.


Only a handful of cars survived into preservation.

A further four carriages, 107M,[7] 12AT, 24D and 137M,[7] were owned by VicTrack and stored at Newport Workshops West Block under the care of Elecrail. The two motor cars were operational and the trailer car was "a few weeks away from restoration" when at about 1am on 4 March 2015, a fire caused massive damage to that part of the complex.[8][9][10][11][12][13] The remains of 12AT and 24D were cut up; the frame, undergear and bogies from 137M have been retained pending assessment, and 107M's cab is the only section of the body to have survived.[14]

  • 32D: Was kept as a source of spare parts at Newport until 2008, when what was left of the vehicle was scrapped.


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