Victorian Railways narrow-gauge freight vehicles
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There were five different types of rolling stock on the narrow-gauge lines of the Victorian Railways.
Unlike the broad gauge, VR's 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow-gauge network never had four-wheeled wagons (aside from a handful of trolleys). Because of this, a single design of open wagon emerged and this was the only type of wagon ever used on these lines. This was the NQR class, a wagon with the same length and loading capacity as a broad-gauge four-wheeled open wagon to make transferring freight between the gauges easier. The wagons, numbered 1 through 218, were built between 1898 and 1914. The wagons used the same underframe as most other non-locomotives on the VR narrow-gauge lines.
Letters and numbers were originally painted only on the end bulkheads and doors, both of which could be removed as traffic dictated, and this made wagon identification difficult until the decals were transferred to the underframes of each wagon.
In April 1919 NQR wagons 31, 33, 36, 38, 39 and 46 were rebuilt into the first of the NBH passenger carriages, numbered 1 through 6 respectively and used for second-class passenger holiday traffic by adding seats, a removable roof on poles and tarps for wagon sides and doors. Over the years, a number of NQRs were provided with removable wood and steel frameworks with canvas roof canopies and side curtains, and internal seating to supplement the rest of the passenger stock during busy holiday periods. Puffing Billy has re-created these for emergency capacity. Five more NQRs, numbered 219-223, were built between 1990 and 1992 initially for passenger use so were fitted with the removable frames.
In 1926 the class was relettered from NQR to NQ, reflecting their use more often than not as flat wagons rather than open wagons. Most of the class then remained in service until the early 1950s, when the four VR lines closed and mass scrappings of narrow-gauge stock began.
Puffing Billy Railway currently has NQRs 135 and 219-223 inclusive fitted with seats and a canopy, and NQR 146 without a canopy. All seven have a capacity of 28 passengers, and a weight of 6 long tons (6.1 t; 6.7 short tons). In goods service NQR wagons 21, 91, 186 and 216 are in service with a goods capacity of 11 long tons (11.2 t; 12.3 short tons) and a tare weight of 5 long tons (5.1 t; 5.6 short tons), and NQR can be fitted with seats if necessary to match the configuration of NQR 146.
The Railway also possesses untrafficable wagons: NQ 19 is configured for pulpwood while NQ 149 is fitted with a water tank that can hold 9,000 litres (2,000 imperial gallons; 2,400 US gallons) of water, and open NQRs 59, 92, 103, 125, 142, 151, 153 and 203. There are also six off-register NQR wagons, numbers 23, 26, 29, 94, 110 and 169. All of these excepting NQR 149 have a tare weight of 5 long tons (5.1 t; 5.6 short tons) and a loading capacity of 11 long tons (11.2 t; 12.3 short tons), while NQR 149 has a tare weight of 6 long tons (6.1 t; 6.7 short tons) and a loading capacity of 10 long tons (10.2 t; 11.2 short tons), due to the weight of the water tank.
This class consisted of 15 vehicles. Construction started in 1899, but the first NMM did not enter service until 1903. After this the rest of the class followed slowly, with the last of the class not entering service until 1917. The looked similar to the MM cattle trucks, despite being built 25 years earlier.
As part of the late 1920s recoding, the class was altered to NM. Around the same time, all but the class leader had autocouplers fitted (1 NM was not converted until 1941).
In the mid-1920s there was a derailment on the Moe–Walhalla line. In the consist were NM vehicles. It was determined that the derailment was caused by "spooked" horses in an NM vehicle. The vehicle was coupled next to an NA tank engine which was running bunker first. The smoke from the funnel apparently was the reason for the distress. After this investigation, the ends of all the NM class were progressively boarded up.
As the narrow-gauge lines were closed, the wagons were sold off. Most were scrapped; 13 NM is used by Puffing Billy on wood trains, and 6 NM was recently rescued from a farm and is currently in storage awaiting restoration.
The standard louvre van design for the Victorian narrow-gauge lines, the NUU vehicles were constructed in three batches; the first seven from 1899 to 1901, an eighth in 1906 and the last six in 1911, for a total class of fourteen. They looked very similar to the U vans of the broad gauge, although two photographs of NUU 1 show that its body may have been white for some time.
In 1926 the class was relettered to simply NU, with no changes to numbers. NU 4 was scrapped in 1938, but otherwise the class remained intact until 1954, when seven members (2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 12) were sold to Coulston & Hyder, who dispersed the wagons among locations on the Wangarrata to Whitfield line. As of 1996, vans 7 and 12 were at Moyhu, while van 11 was destroyed by fire in 1978. Wagons 6 and 1 were scrapped in 1957 and 1958 respectively, while in 1954 van 13 was recorded as being sold to the Puffing Billy Preservation Society. In 1977, the remaining vans 3, 10 and 14 were handed over to the Emerald Tourist Railway Board, and removed from Victorian Railways records. The Puffing Billy Railway now possesses vans 3, 8, 10, 13 and 14.
It is worth noting that between 1972 and 1977, van NU 10 was lettered as NW 10, presumably for the storage of tools rather than for general goods.
In June 1910, it was decided that a van for the transportation of explosives would be useful; probably for the Moe-Walhalla line as Walhalla was a gold-mining town. Whalhalla was a gold mining town and the rail line had been built from Moe to provide a faster means of transportation than bullock teams from the sailing boats from Melbourne to Port Albert/Sale via Heyfield.
NPH 1 was built on the standard design of underframe as most other narrow-gauge stock, but because it was not anticipated that explosives traffic would require use of the entire wagon, it was partitioned to give 4 long tons (4.1 t; 4.5 short tons) capacity for explosives, while the remaining 6 tons was for general goods. Unlike the NU and NT classes, this meant that the van had four doors total.
However, in late March 1911 the wagon had been converted to entirely general goods use, with the partition removed and a recoding to NH 1, the "H" in the class being a reference to the broad-gauge H box-vans then in use. The van was allowed to carry 10 tons of general goods. It gained autocouplers in 1928, and was sold the scrap dealer Coulston & Hyder in 1954. By 1988, the vehicle had been found and was placed into the Museum at Menzies Creek.
In October 1899 a single insulated van, NTT 1, was built for the transportation of goods that needed to be kept cold, such as raw meat. Like NUU 1, it was painted white from new. Its walls were 5 1⁄4 inches (130 mm) thick.
The wagon was relettered to simply NT in 1926, but little else is known about the wagon's history until 1988, when it was found and placed in the Menzies Creek museum. Today, it is used at Belgrave station for storage.