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B1664 Railway carriage, second class, timber / iron, made by Joseph Wright & Sons of Saltley, Birmingham, England, 1854, used on the first railway in New South Wales between Sydney and Parramatta in 1855, restored by apprentices Wagon Works, Clyde Workshops, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1965-. Click to enlarge.

Second class railway carriage used on first railway in NSW

This second class carriage is No. 6 of the original 12 second class carriages ordered by the Sydney Railway Company for the first railway to be built in New South Wales from Sydney to Parramatta in 1855. It was built in 1854 by Joseph Wright and Sons, one of the foremost carriage builders of its day. It arrived in Sydney by ship in timefor the official opening on 26 September 1855. Its survival in the railways for over 100 years is remarkable.

The second class carriages were similar to the …


Object No.


Object Statement

Railway carriage, second class, timber / iron, made by Joseph Wright & Sons of Saltley, Birmingham, England, 1854, used on the first railway in New South Wales between Sydney and Parramatta in 1855, restored by apprentices Wagon Works, Clyde Workshops, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1965-1967

Physical Description

This is a four-wheel rail passenger carriage capable of carrying 40 seated passengers in four compartments accessible by eight doors with glazed drop windows. Each door it fitted with brass door handles and grab handles, and footboards run the length of the carriage sides. Two modern electic lights secured over the internal partitions provide light into the adjacent compartments. The original seats had fibre-padded seats. The interior is varnished timber with a painted ceiling. The exterior of the carriage is of varnished teak with "SECOND CLASS" in gold letters on each door. The number "9" is also painted in gold transfers in panels between the doors, above the crest of the Great Southern and Western Railway. (There is no significance to the choice of number 9 for the carriage.) Above the doors are louvred air vents, which were a characteristic of carriages constructed by its builder, Joseph Wright & Sons. The roof is made of timber covered with white canvas to provide some thermal insulation; it also features two air vents. The carriage has no brakes and is now fitted with single-spoke wheels, whereas the original wheels had hand-forged bifurcated spokes. The springs may also not be original.



3700 mm


2500 mm


4300 kg



The second class carriage was built by Joseph Wright & Sons of Saltley, Birmingham, England in 1854. Joseph Wright was born at Reading, England, in 1792 the third son of William and Susan Wright. He was apprenticed to a stage coach builder in London, showed great ability and in 1828 or 1829 became a coach proprietor and later an operator of Royal Mail coaches over many routes, including London to Birmingham. Wright soon became a partner in the London firm of Wright and Powell, which began to prosper after Powell left in 1834.

Joseph Wright commenced building railway carriages in 1835. He is credited with building the first coaches for the London and Birmingham railway, the predecessor of the London and North Western Railway (LNWR), which partially opened in 1837.

The need for expansion saw Wright purchase 5 acres of land in the village of Saltley, outside Birmingham. This was conveniently adjacent to both the Grand Union Canal and the then recently opened Birmingham to Derby railway line, allowing the efficient transport of both raw materials and finished products.

Production there began in 1845. The Saltley works appears to have been managed by Joseph's eldest son, Henry Wright, assisted by his youngest son, Joseph Wright junior, and the company became known as Joseph Wright & Sons. Joseph senior remained in London, where he managed the carriage works and various contracts he held to run railways. In 1848 an additional lease was taken for more land at Saltley, and by 1853 the works employed around 800 men. Such was the success of the Saltley establishment that the London works were closed by the early 1850s and production concentrated at Saltley.

By the 1850s the Wrights had developed a high reputation for workmanship and innovation. They developed eight-wheel carriages and were at the cutting edge of carriage design at the time. As British railway companies became larger, through extensions and amalgamations, many set up their own carriage and wagon works and became less reliant on private builders such as Joseph Wright & Sons. To offset this change, the Wrights turned to the fast growing overseas railways, many of them British-engineered and British-run, whose promoters looked to Britain for rolling stock. Consequently, Joseph Wright not only supplied the first railway carriages for New South Wales and Victoria but for Bulgaria, Chile, Denmark, Egypt, India, Norway, Paraguay, Spain and Sweden.

By the late 1850s rivals with newer works and more up-to-date plant had begun to compete with Joseph Wright & Sons. The firm expanded and became a limited company, attracting additional capital. Unfortunately, in 1859 Joseph Wright suffered an untimely and accidental death from gas poisoning; this was not an unusual cause of death in the early days of domestic gas supply. Nevertheless, the plans he had put in place were carried out by his sons, who formed the Metropolitan Railway Carriage & Wagon Co Ltd in 1862. The following year the registered office of the company was changed from London to Saltley, and in time the manufacturing base extended to horse trams and then steam trams.

The village of Saltley developed into the world's greatest concentration of railway carriage and wagon manufacturers, with the Metropolitan, Midland, and Brown & Marshall firms all within a 2-kilometre radius. By 1900 the Metropolitan Company's Saltley works had become the largest of its kind in the United Kingdom. It became the Metropolitan Cammell Carriage & Wagon Works in 1929 and was later part of the Metro-Cammel Group.

During the Second World War the company's record office was damaged and many of the records were lost. After the war the remaining records were donated to the Birmingham Central Library. The old Wright factory was closed in 1962 and production was concentrated at the nearby Midland works. The company traded under the Metropolitan-Cammell name until taken over by GEC-Alsthom in 1989; in 1998, after GEC withdrew from the partnership, it became Alstom (without the H) Transport. The building of carriages in Saltley eventually ceased after 159 years.



The first passenger carriages in England, other than the open box types used for the "lower classes", were just road stage coach bodies built on a four-wheel underframe. Until the early 1840s, passengers could still ride on the outside box seats of the coaches, as they had done on the road. By the 1850s British carriages had become standardised into compartment carriages on four or six wheels. During the late 1840s saloon-type carriages began to be used, especially as "Smoking" cars and for family groups.

The president of the Sydney Railway Company, Sir Charles Cowper, initially urged that the rolling stock for the first railway in New South Wales should follow the American practice of cheaper and lighter vehicles, as both countries had similar geographical size and requirements. Departing from the rigid-type wheelbase of the fixed axle and wheelset English design, the bogie carriage was introduced in America in 1831 and by 1850 was virtually in standard use there, with end platforms and a saloon-type interior. The advantage of the bogie carriage was its ability to accommodate lower standards of track construction and maintenance. However, the English influence prevailed and four-wheel carriages dominated the New South Wales railway scene until the 1880s. From that time the bogie-type carriages were most often used. After 1892 there were no regular rosters of the four-wheel carriages, but they were pressed into service on holiday, charter and excursion trains. The last regular use of the carriages was on the isolated Lismore line until 1914.

The original order from the Sydney Railway Company to its London agent, James McConnell, was for twelve 6-wheel second class carriages, painted dark green, also known as "Queen's colour". The carriages that arrived were of the four-wheel type, and the finish was varnished timber. The reasons for these changes are not known.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald's shipping news of the time, the first shipment of four second class carriages for the opening of the railway arrived on the Peruvian 505-ton barque Belle Islena on 26 September 1854. The 1754-ton ship Ebba Brahe, which arrived on 6 January 1855, carried another two carriages, while the last six carriages were transported on the 916-ton ship John Fielden, which arrived on 13 January 1855. These last carriages were unloaded at Campbell's Wharf at East Circular Quay on 28 January 1855 together with Locomotive No.1.

In all, 290 four-wheel passenger carriages were used on the New South Wales railways, comprising one sleeping, 24 first class, 49 composite, 156 second class and 60 third class carriages. Of these 109 were imported from Wright's Birmingham works and the remainder were built locally by P.N. Russell & Co; R.A. Ritchie; Hudson Brothers; Thomas Braid; and Moyes and Donald; and one was from the Newcastle workshops.

The features of Wright-built carriages used to determine their authenticity are as follows.

" Laminated side frames (later colonial-built vehicles did not have laminated frames, probably because more suitable solid timber was available).
" End and centre spring shackle hangers (colonial-built vehicles had only end hangers).
" Hand grabs and door handles.
" Marking of inverted "V" plates on the outside of the underframe held by three bolts securing the W-guard to the frame (colonial-built vehicles had semi-circular plates).
" Louvre ventilators were fitted over the doors only, and lights were built over the windows. Placing louvres only over the doors was a Wright characteristic.

All carriages of this early period had the standard link draw hook coupling with side chains. The original buffers were probably not sprung and only had rubber pads behind the wooden buffer face to cushion the end loading shocks. The original first (three compartment) carriages had a 12 foot wheelbas, while all the remaining carriages and luggage vans were 11 foot. All the wheels were 3 feet 6 inch diameter.

According to Cooke, Estell, Seckold and Beckhaus, 'Coaching Stock of the NSW Railway' Volume 1 published in 1999, in November 1890 the Museum's second class carriage No.6 was converted into a workman's van and renumbered 38. Then, in about 1914 it was renumbered again to W730. This book also notes that W730 was set aside in 1942 to be rebuilt for the Museum. It also states that "a shop order for this work to be carried out on a casual basis was issued in 1943 and closed in 1948". There appears to be confusion in this source regarding the restoration details of the Museum's second and third class carriages. The shop order actually refers to workman's sleeping van (WSV6), originally the third class carriage No.2 of 1855 (not the second class carriage No.6 of 1855) the history and restoration of which is detailed in the entry for B1614, the carriage which was restored at Eveleigh in 1947.

The old second class carriage rebuilt as workman's van W730 was found derelict in 1961 at the Civic Car & Wagon Workshops near Newcastle and was due for scrapping. Permission was sought to carry this out, but the Railways' Archives Officer, Mr John Forsyth, decided to investigate and photographed the carriage before it was destroyed. The result of his investigation revealed that the carriage was an original 1854 Wright-built vehicle, one of the original 12 used on the first line to operate between Sydney and Parramatta in 1855, and therefore of great historical significance. The carriage was transferred to the Eveleigh Carriage Workshops on 14 and 15 March 1961 and then inspected by Mr Forsyth and Norm Harwood, Keeper of Exhibits at the Museum. It was in a very dilapidated condition and completely devoid of all internal fittings such as seats, partitions and glass. A hole for a stove chimney had been cut into the original roof and a concrete base had been added to the floor of the carriage to accommodate the stove. Nevertheless, the carriage was recognised to be extremely significant and restoration was undertaken for the Museum.

The carriage was taken to the Wagon Works at the Clyde Railway Workshops, where the restoration was done by first year apprentices under the direction of their Supervisor, Mr Ted Bartley, Senior Instructor of the Apprentices Section, and his teachers. The doors, windows, seats, panelling and ventilators were all reconstructed from information and photographs supplied by Mr Forsyth. The timbers in the carriage sides and ends were so rotten that they had to be replaced with teak. Only the roof and undercarriage were actually restored. The brakes, which were not original, were removed, as well as the tail and side lamp brackets. It was necessary to fabricate buffers similar to those on the third class carriage, and to replace the footboards. The springs were reset to close up the space between the leaves, and all the paint was burnt off and the woodwork carefully examined for original brands or numbers. Care was made to ensure that the carriage was as accurate as possible. Two 10 inch round, brass downlights were purchased for the carriage from Salmon Brothers of Woolloomooloo.

The restored second class carriage was officially handed over to the Museum on 16 June 1967 at the siding opposite the Works' Manager's Office of the Clyde Railway Workshops by the Commissioner for Railways, Mr N. McCusker The carriage was accepted on behalf of the Museum by the then President of the Museum's Trustees, Sir Norman Ryde, who was Chairman of Directors of the Greater Union organisation.

In 1981 the second class carriage was displayed with Locomotive No.1 in Stage I (renamed the Harwood building in 1985) of the Powerhouse Museum (then called the Power House Museum) in the southern end of the Ultimo Tram Depot. In 1988 it joined Locomotive No.1 and the first and third class carriages for display in its current location in the area of the Museum know as the Galleria.

According to Mike Newport, who provided information on the Wright firm and was employed at Alstom's Washwood Heath Works in Birmingham, there is barely a remnant of any Joseph Wright & Sons carriage in Britain today except for one preserved coach body. Apart from the three carriages in Sydney, the only other known survivors are frames (possibly carriage vehicles) in a museum in Sweden.


Credit Line

Gift of NSW Department of Railways, 1967

Acquisition Date

16 June 1967

Cite this Object


Second class railway carriage used on first railway in NSW 2023, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 7 February 2023, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Second class railway carriage used on first railway in NSW |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=7 February 2023 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}