W type carriage

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W type carriage
Semi-elliptical roofed BW carriage.jpg
Elliptical roofed 61BW as preserved by Steamrail Victoria
Manufacturer Victorian Railways
Operator(s) various heritage operators
Track gauge 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)

The W type carriages were wooden passenger carriages used on the railways of Victoria, Australia.


In the early 20th century, the Victorian Railways converted the central part of their network to electric traction. As part of this project, they converted a large number of 'Swing Door' rollingstock to electric traction and this left a gaping hole in the fleet. As a result, the 'W' series of passenger cars were built. There were four variations, the AW, ABW, BW and CW, built from 1911.

There has been great interest in the origin of the 'W' group letter. In most other cases the letter has been derived from a basic feature or use of the car type. In the 1900s, new express passenger cars were being built to replace ageing equipment and these were lettered 'E'. The W cars were a similar design but modified for general stopping trains, Peter J. Vincent believes the 'W' may represent 'Wayside' or non-express passenger type.

Design and Construction[edit]

All the original passenger carriages (built 1911–1918) were about 58 feet (17.68 m) long, 9 feet 6 inches (2.90 m) wide and fitted with clerestory roofs. The 1925 cars were the same dimensions but with curved roofs, and the 1926-and-beyond cars were 64 feet 0 34 inch (19.53 m) long instead (67 feet 2 inches or 20.47 metres over couplers), widened to 10 ft (3.05 m), and retained the curved (arched) roofs.

The single-class passenger vehicles had one compartment reserved for ladies and two compartments reserved for smoking. They were also fitted with single-gender lavatories at each end, and vestibules (with lock-able doors) for walking through to other cars in a given train. There was a water fountain located about halfway down the corridor in each car.

The guards vans were built at 50 feet (15.24 m) long over body, 9 feet 6 inches (2.90 m) wide. The first fifteen were built with the standard clerestory roof and entered service between 1913 and 1914. Vans 16-20 were constructed in 1935 and shared the dimensions of the predecessors (rather than taking the wider body of the new-built passenger cars of the time), but had curved roofs fitted.


AW cars[edit]

Built from 1911, 29 AW cars were built. They were numbered 1AW to 29AW, and had the then-standard clerestory roofs. Over the years these were found to be insufficient for the traffic, and so numbers 30AW–35AW were built in 1922, the last to have the clerestory roof style. They seated six people in each of the 6 compartments (one reserved for ladies and two reserved for Smoking), plus two more people at each end for a total of 40 passengers. As patronage grew and older cars were retired, construction resumed in 1925. This batch consisted of 36AW through 40AW, but these cars were fitted with the new style of curved roofs.

Of the first 23 cars, when looking from the Ladies end towards the Smoking end, the corridor was on the right-hand side for cars with even numbers, but on the left-hand side for cars with odd numbers. It is not known whether this pattern extended across the rest of the shorter carriage fleet.

The final batch of AW cars was constructed in 1926 and 1927, again fitted with curved roofs, and numbered 60AW to 68AW. Cars 69AW and 70AW were ordered but not built. These new cars were capable of seating 70 people across 7 compartments, again one reserved for ladies and two for smoking.

This resulted in a total of 49 AW carriages from 1911 through to 1927.


In December 1937, the newest carriages, 60AW through 68AW, were converted to add 2nd-class capacity to the system:

AW number BW number AW number VFW number Final number AW number BW number AW number VFW number Final number
60 AW 71 BW 60 AW 1 VFW 71 BW 64 AW 75 BW 64 AW 5 VFW 75 BW
61 AW 72 BW 61 AW 2 VFW 72 BW 66 AW 77 BW 66 AW 7 VFW Sold to ACT ARHS museum
62 AW 73 BW 62 AW 3 VFW 32 MT 67 AW 78 BW 67 AW 8 VFW 78 BW
63 AW 74 BW 63 AW 4 VFW 34 MT 68 AW 79 BW 68 AW 9 VFW 79 BW
65 AW 76 BW 65 AW 6 VFW 33 MT

Note that 60AW-63AW and 65AW were built in 1926, while 64AW and 66AW-68AW were built in 1927.

They were converted from AW to BW in December 1937, then BW to AW in 1955/56, and to VFW in 1972. The VFW's that were reconverted back to BW's were converted in 1979, while VFW's 3, 4 & 6 were converted to MT's in 1983. 7VFW was sold in 1983 as well.

The VFW cars were painted in VR Blue and Gold, and were on 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge. The cars were used for special excursion trips, generally scouting or defence 'specials' that required one train. These nine cars were joined in 1972 with the addition of 36AW, which was placed on standard gauge in the VR Blue and Gold, and numbered VBW1.

ABW cars[edit]

57 ABW cars were built between 1911 and 1926. The earlier Clerestory-roof stock was initially numbered 1ABW to 42ABW and released to service between 1911 and 1914. In 1918-19, cars 43-47ABW were added to the fleet. Then, in early 1925 cars 48ABW through 52ABW were constructed, with the new design of a curved roof, but still retaining all other dimensions of the earlier group. From 1926, new curved roof, longer and wider stock was numbered 60ABW through 63ABW and 65ABW.

The shorter, clerestory-roofed stock was able to seat 44 passengers across six compartments; 19 in First Class and 25 in Second. This breakup was achieved by the two seats at either end, two full and one partial-compartment provided for each class. The two outer-end compartments were classed as Smoking, while the centre two part-compartments (seven seats each) were for Ladies. The fourth seat against the centre-side wall was removed to make way for a door to the ladies' lavatory, while the gentlemen's lavatories were held at either end of the carriage, opposite to the two spare seats and adjacent to the interconnecting diaphragm. The Smoking sections of each car were segregated from the middle by way of a hinged door, and each class section had its own drinking fountain.

Odd-numbered cars from 1 to 42 had the corridor on the left when looking from the first-class end, while the even-numbered cars in this range were built reversed. It is unknown what style was adopted for cars 43-52, 60-63 or 65; however photographs indicate that 44ABW matched the even-number style while 50, 51 and 52ABW matched the odd-number style. Taking into account batch build dates, it is likely that 43 through 47ABW matched the odd/even alterations, while 48-52, the curved-roof batch, were built to the even-number style. Externally, this could be determined by the length of timber panels between windows; the first-class seats were 0 feet (0.000000 m) deeper, thus the first class compartments were 6 feet (1.8288000000 m) each versus 5 feet (1.5240000000 m) for the second class compartments; and this is reflected in the window spacing, on both the compartment and corridor side.

Although diagrams are not available, photos appear to indicate that the long version of the ABW design, with the curved roof, was set out internally in much the same way as the shorter carriages. A side-on view on the Steamrail Flickr site indicates that three first-class compartments were included, much the same as the design of the short carriages, while four second-class compartments are provided in place of three. Therefore, it is likely that again, the outer two compartments were for smoking passengers, the inner two compartments were for ladies with a seat cut-out in each to make way for the door to the ladies' lavatory.

From 1961 to 1970, the original, clerestory ABW cars were recoded to ABU to separate them from the larger capacity 64-foot cars. 1ABW was scrapped in 1951 and thus was not converted. The cars that still remained in the 1970s were converted to BU classification, thus becoming second class only.

About 1981, cars 61ABW-63ABW were converted to 80BW-82BW and 65ABW was converted to 31MT.

The cars ran until the late 1980s when replaced by the then-new 'N' sets.

BW cars[edit]

Built from 1911 to 1918 were cars 1BW to 39BW. They were designed to match the AW cars, but were second class and seated 56 people across 7 compartments, plus two at each end. They were almost exactly the same as the AW cars in every other way.

In 1925, cars 40BW through 44BW were built, with the new style of curved roofing. They were otherwise identical to the previous batch.

In 1926 and 1927, cars 60BW through 70BW were added to the fleet. Like the 1925 set, they had curved roofs. They were also slightly longer and wider, and had an extra compartment. This allowed them to seat 68 people.

In 1937/1938, nine were converted from AW cars, to the 71BW–79BW range. This was a result of an increase in second-class passengers. These were converted back to AW cars by the late 1950s. in 1980, the cars were again renumbered back to 71BW to 79BW, after spending some time as Standard Gauge 'second division' cars (the VFW class).

In 1981, BW 80–82 were converted from ABW 61–63.

As a trial it was decided in 1982 to re-letter 67BW and 70BW to BWL, indicating the larger seating capacity. However, the trial was terminated and no more were re-lettered.

In the preservation era, 62BW and 80BW were retrofitted with small kiosks replacing a single compartment. It is thought that the kiosk in 62BW may have been taken from 7BV or a guards van.

1, 35 and 62BW appeared in the season one episode "The Copy" of Round the Twist, and were used for filming of scenes between Healesville and Yarra Glen.[1]

10BW and 27BW were destroyed in a collision at Seymour in 1935, 24BW and 29BW was destroyed by fire at Ballarat Car Sheds, 1977 and BW 30 was scrapped in 1970.

CW cars[edit]

Clerestory roofed 14CW as preserved by Steamrail Victoria.

To supplement the W-series passenger cars, fifteen vans were built in 1913–1914 with clerestory roof outlines and numbered CW 1–15. An additional five vans were built in 1935, numbered 16–20. These vans were built with the arched roof style introduced from 1926.

Over time these vans had their wooden sides replaced with steel.

64AW, 64BW & 64ABW[edit]

An interesting note is that 64ABW was never built, and never entered service. Peter J. Vincent's theory is that 64ABW was not built in the 1926 batch because of confusion between the 64-foot length of the new cars, and carriage number 64.

Also, 64AW and 64BW each entered service a year after their batch-counterparts, in 1927 instead of 1926. This was supposedly to reduce confusion. However, an extra ABW was not needed, and so instead of building 64ABW, the VR probably used its parts to construct one of 65AW to 68AW. This cannot be substantiated, but is the most likely explanation.

In service[edit]

First delivery phase, 1911–1914[edit]

1AW-29AW, 1ABW-42ABW, 1BW-35BW

Second delivery phase, 1918–1919[edit]

30AW-35AW, 43ABW-47ABW, 36BW-39BW

Third delivery phase, 1925[edit]

36AW-40AW, 48ABW-52ABW, 40BW-44BW

Fourth delivery phase, 1926–1927[edit]

60AW-68AW, 60ABW-63ABW, 65ABW, 60BW-70BW

Fifth delivery phase, 1935[edit]


Standard Gauge service – VFW and VBW[edit]

VFW 7 is at Junee Roundhouse Museum VBW 1 is at Dorrigo Steam Railway

New Deal, the abolition of wooden rollingstock and preservation[edit]

The W type carriages were slowly phased out of service from 1981 as part of the 'New Deal' reforms of passenger rail operations, with a number going into preservation. They are now shared by Steamrail Victoria and other rail preservation groups. Being a mainstay on the Victorian Railways network for so long, the W-series has a large number of representatives still in service today. However, when the time for preservation rolled around the longer, wider cars were preferred due to their higher seating capacity and as a result, most of these are higher-numbered.

At Healesville's Yarra Valley Railway, cars 63AW (as 34MT), 1BW, 32BW, 35BW are currently either stored or being restored. 43BW and 62BW were recently reduced to underframe only, as the timber in the carriages had rotted beyond repair.

The Mornington Railway looks after 24AW, 65AW and 27BU, all with a silver stripe down the side.

As of 2013, Steamrail's business plan recorded 64AW, 32ABU, 40ABU, 63ABW, 60BW, 61BW, 63BW, 67BW and 68BW as serviceable; carriages 25AW, 65BW (underframe only), 66BW, 70BW, 71BW (ex 60AW) and 80BW (ex 61ABW) were marked as stored; 80BW has since been transferred to Maldon, while 32ABU and 40ABU, formerly utilised as transition-carriages for coupling to the V type carriages because of the screw-couplings fitted, have been transferred to the South Gippsland Railway. Until late 2008, 62AW was also stored on-hand, see below. The in-service cars are used during, among other runs, the suburban shuttles that run a few times each year. 14CW is used occasionally; not as a guards van, but with fencing installed over the sliding doors as a sort of observation carriage, while 15CW is kept in the workshops.

Korumburra's South Gippsland Railway has possession of the operational 17CW, and has recently leased 32ABU and 40ABU from Steamrail.

Elliptical roofed 17CW as preserved at the South Gippsland Railway

The Victorian Goldfields Railway controls 23AW, 39AW and 25ABU, all kept at Maldon station. As part of a transfer agreement, the railway has borrowed 80BW (ex 61ABW) from Steamrail, from 23 June 2012. This car was swapped for 67BW, which returned to the Steamrail depot on the same day.

68AW is privately owned and currently numbered 79BW. 31BW was also sold, and it now functions as a restaurant in Tyabb's antique village, near Tyabb Station on the Stony Point Line. 16BW and 38BW have been sold for housing and are now situated north of Ballan. 1CW is stationary at Coal Creek. On Peter J. Vincent's site it is noted that 9CW was sold to what is now 707 operations, but it does not appear on their website and was last seen in the late 1990s near Trentham. 13CW now resides at Turtons creek in South Gippsland Victoria alongside tait carriage 220.

Around 2008–2012 a number of stored carriages had to be moved around Newport to make way for new suburban stabling. When this was attempted it was found that a number of carriages had been left in the open for too long, and were beyond repair. As a result, 62AW (as 32MT), 64BW, 69BW and 4CW, which had been in storage at the "Tarp Shop" yard, was scrapped sometime between 28-Sept-2008 and 01-Oct-2008. At the same time other yards were being sorted through, and it was found that Healesville's 43BW and 62BW were beyond repair. Both of these have been reduced to underframes.

Model railways[edit]

Kits are produced by Steam Era Models for the short, clerestory-roofed AW and BW carriages; these can be kitbashed into an ABW. Resin-cast curved roofs are available for purchase separately in both short and long versions, from either Blue and Gold models,[1] or End of the Line Hobbies in Adelaide. The latter company also offers kit construction services, so it is possible to have a carriage built and posted.[2]

Samhongsa produced a series of the long W type carriages in brass a few decades back, individually packed. The range included red boarded-sides 60AW, 61AW, 62AW; 60BW, 62BW, 65BW; 60ABW, 62ABW, 65ABW and, in blue, 1VFW, 2VFW and 3VFW. In plain sides, the range included 64AW, 66AW, 67AW; 64BW, 66BW, 67BW and, in blue, 5VFW, 6VFW and 7VFW.

Trainbuilder has released brass models of the short W series, at a price of $575+P/H per carriage with lighting included. 35 variants are available, including some each of the AW, BW, ABW, ABU and BU classes; some with arch, some clerestory roofs, some with plate, others timber sides and for the ABW, ABU, BW, BU variants, some marked "Second" and others marked "Economy". 1VBW in blue and gold is also available.[3]