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For nearly 50 years, railway pay buses were used to move cash around the railway network to pay station staff and permanent way workers stationed along the tracks.
They were a familiar sight running to a regular timetable and affectionately known as ‘pay buses’. With the advent of electronic banking, the pay buses became redundant. In April 1986 the operation of pay buses ceased.
One of the earlier NSW Government’s Railway (NSWGR) experiments was Rail Motor No.1, based on an obsolete truck chassis that was fitted with a passenger carrying body and railway wheels. No.1 entered service in 1919 and proved successful, working over the isolated Casino to Lismore section. No.1 was withdrawn from revenue service in 1925, but continued in service as an Inspection Car for the Signals Branch until 1929 after which it was dismantled.
The next experimental vehicle, Rail Motor No.2, was converted from an FA end platform suburban passenger carriage and featured a 6-cylinder reversible petrol engine designed and built by Eveleigh Workshops. No.2 was not successful in early working on the undulating Barraba Branch, but proved a little better on the more easily graded Pokataroo Branch.
The experience gained with operating these two experimental vehicles enabled NSWGR to design and construct the first of the 42-Foot production vehicles to enter service in 1923. (Railmotors will be the subject of a future article.)
Then in 1937, the NSW Department of Railways introduced six new ‘rail buses’ (smaller in size than the Railmotors) to its fleet as a more economical form of passenger transport on small branch lines. Rail buses took the ‘rail motor’ concept one step further powered by a Ford V8 petrol motor and adapted road vehicle styling, coachbuilding and technology for rail use (See photograph #1 from NSW State Government Archives).
The vehicles were originally built by the Sydney engineering firm of Waddingtons, at Granville, later to become Commonwealth Engineering, However, within a year of their introduction, they were withdrawn from passenger services for economic reasons having failed to attract sufficient passengers to make the services viable. There was an additional challenge as the vehicles could not be driven in reverse, requiring either a turntable or a ‘triangle’ to reverse direction of travel.
By June 1939, five of the six buses had been refitted as mobile pay cars while the remaining unit was retained as a passenger vehicle.
A pay bus robbery It was a direct consequence of the regular timetable for the pay buses that motivated some miscreants to stage a robbery on one such journey. On the morning of Monday 8th December 1941 pay bus #5 departed Clyde workshops at 8am bound for all railway workers towards Goulburn carrying cash (Pounds) 11,232/16/5 in a safe welded to the chassis of the vehicle. A crew of three men - driver, paymaster and an escort, each one armed with a revolver. Having paid railway workers at Picton, the paymaster and his escort counted out the cash required for the next ‘payments’ along the line totalling (pounds) 2,500 in notes and coins.
The two robbers had placed a large amount of gelignite into two lengths of water pipe under the rail between Yanderra and Yerrinbool. Investigators subsequently found wires laying in the surrounding grass towards an area of flattened grass approximately 30m from the track. When the pay bus was at the precise location of the explosive device, the robbers detonated their ‘bomb’.
The blast was so severe that the pay bus was blown along the track for about 30 metres prior to falling off the track and down an embankment. The driver was killed and the paymaster and his escort subsequently died as a result of the incident. The robbers scrambled around the site scavenging as much cash as possible. However the collection would have been less than pounds 2,000 since the balance of cash was safely stored in the safe. The robbers were never apprehended.
For further details and the rest of the story visit the Goulburn Rail Heritage Centre (GRHC) and inspect the pictorial display prepared by Ken Groves and Stephen Halgren (Published in BYWAYS OF STEAM #17).
In 1967, it became necessary to replace the aging fleet of the original pay buses. Six new pay buses were ordered from Commonwealth Engineering. They had inward opening doors on both sides and a driving position at each end. These cars were also fitted with air conditioning. The front was taken from Commonwealth Engineering's standard bus model.
The Queen visits
QUEEN's VISIT: In April 1970, FP7 was modified to carry Queen Elizabeth II and her party between Coffs Harbour Jetty and Coffs Harbour station. Photograph – Coffs Harbour Advocate.
Of special interest is FP7 which entered service on 9 April 1968.
In April 1970 FP7 was stripped internally and fitted with carpet on the walls and floor and movable chairs installed as well as being repainted externally. This was so it could carry Queen Elizabeth II and her party between Coffs Harbour Jetty and Coffs Harbour station (See photograph – Coffs Harbour Advocate).
After this use the FP7 was returned to its original condition, excepting that the carpet was kept on the floor. This pay bus (FP7) came to the GRHC in November 1988 and forms a part of the display at the GRHC. The pay bus has been repainted externally, and members of the Goulburn Loco Roundhouse Preservation Society Inc. (GLRPS) are working towards restoration of the interior….any more volunteers? New members welcomed! (See photograph of repainted pay bus on site at the GRHC below – photograph Terence Carpenter)
For nearly 50 years, along with their upgraded replacement vehicles, these vehicles were used to move cash around the railway network to pay station staff and permanent way workers stationed along the tracks. They were a familiar sight running to a regular timetable and affectionately known as ‘pay buses’. With the advent of electronic banking, the pay buses became redundant. In April 1986 the operation of pay buses ceased.
The GRHC is open to visitors Tuesday – Saturday 10.00am – 2.30pm, Sunday 9.30am – 2.00pm. Entrance - Adults $10, Concession $6.00, Children $5.00. Contact Terence Carpenter, Secretary GLRPS 4822 1210, 0427 152 100, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Material sourced from Stephen Halgren, Ken Groves (BYWAYS OF STEAM #17), The Daily Telegraph, Australian Railways Historical Society (NSW), Railmotor Society, NSW Government State Archives. The Coffs Harbour Advocate 13th April 1970,
THE FP7: This pay bus came to the GRHC in November 1988 and forms a part of the display at the GRHC. The FP7 on site at the GRHC – photograph Terence Carpenter.
This article first appeared on www.goulburnpost.com.au
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