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History of the SAR

Before beginning an outline of the rolling-stock of the South Australian Railways a brief look at the history of the railway system is worthwhile, for only then can one appreciate the reason for the multiple gauges and the need for the diversity of rolling-stock.

The South Australian Railways was created out of the need to transport produce from its source to a suitable destination. In the early years this destination tended to be a port for further trans shipment of the produce. This is borne out by the fact that the earliest railways in South Australia were :

  • The Goolwa to Port Elliot railway. The first public railway in Australia which was built in the 1850’s and opened on 18th May 1854. This provided a blue water outlet for the river Murray traffic of wool, wheat, wood, timber and other farm produce. This was further expanded to Victor Harbour and to Milang which at one stage was the busiest river port on the Murray.
  • The Adelaide to Port Adelaide Railway. The first publicly owned railway in the British Empire. Built in the 1850’s and opened on 19th April 1856. This transported produce and people to and from Adelaide and the Port.
  • Adelaide to Kapunda Railway. A broad gauge railway link from Adelaide to Kapunda and subsequently onto Burra in 1870 to transport copper to Port Adelaide.
  • Port Augusta to Alice Springs railway. This was part of the proposed Great Northern railway, a plan to link Adelaide with Port Darwin. The building of the railway began on Friday 18th of January 1878 and the Pt Augusta to Oodnadatta section opened in 1891. Completion of the line to Alice Springs did not open until 1928. Part of the Great Northern Railway was to be a line from Darwin to Alice Springs but that was only completed as far as Birdum. The purpose of this railway was twofold, firstly political in its endeavour to open up the interior of the continent and secondly to transport farm produce to port. It is significant that the miners had the greatest impact on the parliament in getting the line approved although the mines along the railway were short lived.

Local Lines

The development of a series of narrow gauge lines from ports into the hinterland had occurred, driven mostly by local needs. These lines included:

  • Beachport to Mt. Gambier.
  • Kingston to Naracoorte.
  • Port Wakefield to Hoyleton.
  • Wallaroo to Snowtown.
  • Port Broughton to Barunga Range.
  • Port Pirie to Yongala.
  • Port Augusta to Hawker.

The outcome of this development was that by 1880 the railway system in South Australia consisted of eight separate entities. The working of the South Australian parliament was such that lines were being laid to areas whose parliamentary representatives were given to stronger arguments for the extension of the broad gauge rail system - not necessarily where the need was greatest. To this end, by the turn of the century, the only line not connected to the main broad gauge was the line from Port Broughton. As well as this consolidation several other lines had by this time been built, these included:

  • Adelaide to Willunga
  • Adelaide to Spalding
  • Adelaide to Wilmington
  • Adelaide to Mt Pleasant
  • Adelaide to Truro
  • Adelaide to Robertstown

a well as the links for Adelaide to Melbourne and Peterborough to Cockburn.

The major feature of these links was that most were of broad gauge but the majority of those laid north of  Terowie were of narrow gauge. This created a materials handling problem for some 120 years, only being completely rectified with the completion of the ‘Standardisation Project” in 1995.

With this brief outline of the history of the railways in South Australia it can be seen that the rolling-stock used by the railways was a result of a combination of several independent systems, two gauges and the requirements to carry different produce from varying sources.

The produce carried and identified above include wool, wheat, milk and other farm produce, wood, timber and other building materials, and ores and minerals including cooper and coal. People, paying passengers as well as railway staff were the other significant load. All of these items required special handling and a type of railway wagon to facilitate the transport of the produce. Each of these types of vehicles had a classification.

The main classifications of rolling-stock were :

Freight Wagons - Broad & Narrow Gauge

Wagon
Type

Class

Cattle
Vans

C

CS

SC

SCB

SCC

CB

CC

CD

CE

CF

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Container
Flats:

FCS

FQS

RM

RMA

RO

NRN

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Covered
Vans:

M

MRP

MG

VC

VD

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Explosive
Vans:

SE

EE

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.

Hoppers:

HS

HC

HB

H

HCA

SH

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Insulated
Vans:

RB

RBP

RRP

R

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Louvered
Vans:

DW

DWP

SLP

DS

DWR

SL

D

LB

LC

LD

NLB

DWF

DA

.

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.

.

.

Motor
Car
Carriers:

ALP

GG

GK

GN

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Non
Container
Flats:

FB

FBT

FBR

FBF

PFB

PFBF

SFB

FWC

RL

RLX

RF

RG

NRH

RN

.

.

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.

.

.

.

Open
Wagons:

W

O

OWS

OB

OBR

OMB

SO

SOC

OS

NGJ

NGH

GB

GD

AOGA

AOGY

OF

OBF

Y

YA

X

XX

Sheep
Vans:

S

SBS

SB

SS

SSC

SB

SC

SF

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Freight Wagons: Broad and Standard Guage (Bogie Exchange Vehicles)

Wagon
Type

Class

Container
Flats:

SFCW

FOX

FQX

SFQX

RMX

ROX

RQX

.

Covered
Vans:

VEX

VFX

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Hoppers:

HCX

SHCX

SHBX

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Insulated
Vans:

RX

.

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Louvered
Vans:

LX

SLX

LCX

LDX

LEX

.

.

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Motor
Car
Carriers:

ALX

OAX

SAX

OMX

GCX

GNX

.

.

Non
Container
Flats:

FBX

FPX

SFBX

SFKX

SFWX

RGX

AQOX

.

Open
Wagons:

OX

ELX

SGX

SGMX

GBX

GMX

GOX

GQX

Tank
Cars

STAX

STWX

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.

The SAR have no specific coding separation between the items on the narrow gauge system and those on the broad gauge system. That is, a Horse Box could be designated a BH on both the narrow and broad gauge systems. Wagons would also change their code depending on modifications or other factors, so although all of the codes are not identified above, the full 500 plus codes are included in the index and wagon details which follow.

The Commonwealth Railways separately designated rolling stock on the Standard and narrow gauge systems as will be seen.

Passenger Vehicles:

These are identified by class as well as by an alphabetical coding system. This is too extensive to be discussed here. Each class or prefix will be discussed in detail, where known, in the associated detail section.