Vandalised carriage

The private preservation of Carriage B (or NAM 2330)

NOTE: You know we love using correct language! But sometimes it makes no sense to people outside of our industry! So, just a little note for this blog – NAM is the name for our Twinette (double) carriages and LAN is the name of our Roomette (single) carriages. We don’t normally use this terminology much on tour (rather we use the naming convention ‘Carriage A-E’). However, for this Blog we are using NAM 2330 as it becomes easier to identify the specific carriage we are discussing. 

Most of you will know by now the history of the Southern Aurora and how Simon and Danielle came to own 17 carriages. We thought you might like to hear the story of one particular carriage – we know it as NAM 2330 or on most of our tours it has been “Carriage B”.

NAM 2330 is an interesting carriage for a couple of reasons:

  • it was built for the Brisbane Limited/Brisbane Express prior to working on the Southern Aurora and therefore is slightly different to our other carriages; and
  • it was taken out of service at a similar time to the remaining Southern Aurora fleet, but the damage to it while out of service was more extensive than our other carriages.

We always use NAM 2330 as a bit of a case study or example when discussing our restoration. It was one of the most time consuming carriages to restore, but also one of the ones we are most proud to still have in service.

NAM 2330 History 

The carriage started its life in around December 1960 having been purchased by the Department of Railways for the Brisbane Limited/ Brisbane Express rail service. This is where Danielle’s auditing background came in handy in the research (!), as it seems that the Brisbane Limited carriages took longer to produce than contracted. The original contract (contract signed in 1955 for 24 carriages) was reduced to 10 carriages in 1959.  As a point of interest, the Southern Aurora carriages were built and delivered throughout 1961 and the Brisbane Limited carriage set was combined at some point with the Southern Aurora set of 34 carriages. Danielle has a lot of theories – but she needed to move on with the story so hasn’t done any investigation into the use of public monies for this blog.

Subsequently, NAM 2330 was used on the Southern Aurora until August 1994. At this time it was sold into private ownership and stored at Eveleigh. It was subsequently purchased by the Canberra Railway Museum, ACT (along with many other ex-Southern Aurora Carriages). We bought this carriage on 2 August 2017. 

What we notice immediately about this carriage, and you will too when you walk through it on a tour, is the size of the Conductors Compartment. In the other NAM carriages we own, the Conductors Compartment’s door is placed off the corridor. There is a sink and an open cupboard with shelves for our Guest Attendants to keep cups and mugs and cleaning equipment. 

In NAM 2330, the door for the Conductors Compartment is off the vestibule rather than the corridor. This change makes the compartment seem much larger: although the footprint is the same as other carriages. This is in part due to the open cupboard being the length of the wall – making the cupboard twice as large as the other carriage’s. Guest Attendants love it! There is so much more space to fill with guest amenities. The LAN (single carriage) Guest Attendant loves being next door as well, as their storage is even smaller than our other NAMs!!

The Restoration Process

When we took ownership of NAM 2330, it had been through a lot. The most severe damage had been done by vandals who had gotten into the carriage and graffitied the interior of numerous compartments. Additionally, there were issues with water ingress which pulled the wallpaper from the walls, there were rips and tears in the wall treatments as well as a number of seats having been taken and simply not around for us to restore. Many of the windows were smashed and some of the internal window units (which house the venetian blinds) were missing entirely. A lot of the light fittings had been taken to provide parts for other carriages. Air conditioning roof vents were missing. The big water tanks under the carriage had been taken, and the massive brackets which hold them were missing.

Those ‘in the know’ didn’t think that this carriage would ever be able to be restored back to operational service. 

We took seven of our carriages to the Lithgow Railway Workshops in late 2017. The team there went through a series of restoration processes to get four of the carriages back up and running. This included a ’12 yearly’ inspection, which involved replacing all the pins and bushes in the brake gear, crack testing the bogies frames, ultrasonically testing the axles and re-qualifying the bearings. This restoration was crucial to ensure that the carriages were certified to actually run on the tracks. Most of this restoration can’t be seen though. The fun stuff was inside the carriages.

Every one of our carriages had to be cleaned – normally buckets and buckets of sugar soap are used on the walls, the doors and fittings to get the dust and grime off them. Additionally, in NAM 2330 we had to also remove the spray paint. Some of it was able to be removed with thinners, without affecting the original 1962 vinyl wallpaper underneath. Unfortunately, not all of the paint was able to be removed from the walls. We find that spray paint can be really hard to budge if it has been on for a long time; if it is hot for any length of time; and also some paint colours are harder to remove than others. Two of the compartments had to have the wallpaper painted over with colour matched vinyl paint – Lithgow Railway Workshops did such a good job, that unless it was pointed out to you, you wouldn’t know

For NAM 2330 it was mainly in compartment 1/2 and a couple of the walls had to be painted to cover it up.    

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You will be pleased to know that now you would be hard pressed to find anything wrong with NAM 2330. The carriage was finished in 2019 and has been in service in our fleet ever since.

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What we do like to let our guests know, though, is that we have left just a little bit of spray paint in public areas of the carriage. So, when you are on the train, you can have a little look and see a small reminder of this time in the history of the carriage.

Simon and Danielle call themselves Private Preservationists, and Carriage NAM 2330 is a fantastic example of what that means to Vintage Rail Journeys. In 2023, we won an ATHRA (Association of Tourist and Heritage Rail Australia) Passenger Vehicle Restoration Award for this carriage. We are proud of not only this carriage, but all of the carriages we now have in our fleet of restored ex-Southern Aurora Sleeping Carriages.

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