NotesThe 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.