Until the big push in the early 1990s to remove all single deck trains from the network, they were NEVER called Red Rattlers, it was a derisive term used by the opponents of these cars when trying to get rid of them and was imported from Melbourne.By the 1990s, all the timber bodied cars had long gone, and all remaining single deck cars had Beclawat windows and most had power operated doors.
The term "Red Rattler" only surfaced in the early '90s on the eve of their withdrawal. Otherwise they were universally known simply as "single deckers" by most. There were two other variants running around, "M" sets (original single deck motor cars with newer double deck trailers but still manual doors) and "W" sets (a 1950's variant of the "M" sets with power doors.) Towards the end there were about 6 trains of each in service against about 30 x 8 car single deck sets. They were only used on weekday peak hours.
Ironically, Sydney's Single deckers were handed a lifeline by the Tangara project. In the early '80s the Govt decided to embark on a bold new double deck train design radically different from the previous stainless steel double deck trains built before that time. This project delayed the rolling stock replacement programme by many years while the engineering challenges of the new design were slowly worked out. The first Tangara didn't hit the tracks until 1988. They then slowly rolled off the production line and didn't become a significant part of the fleet until well into the '90s.
This led to the forced introduction of the "Redfern Overhauls" programme whereby hundreds of single deck "red set" cars (mainly motors) underwent complete rebuilds so they could continue to operate in service while Sydney waited for the Tangaras. The bodies were completely stripped and reconstructed using modern materials. The traction equipment likewise was totally rebuilt with all motors rewound. New switchgear was supplied by Mitsubishi and Brown Boveri but wired using the original circuits so they remained compatible with others still in the fleet that had not yet been overhauled. A new set of motor bogies was ordered (Known as "F87" type). Many other cars were also forwarded to private companies and overhauled under contract. The program cost an absolute fortune. Almost as much as the Tangara project itself.
The result was a fleet of "virtually new" single deck cars which in every way looked, felt and operated just like their 60 year old cousins. So while most observers might think that Sydney's "reds" towards the end were 60 year old trains, the vast majority were actually less than 10 years old underneath when they finally met the end in January 1992.
Of the four cars in Set "F1" due to run in June, both C3426 and C7396 fall squarely into this category. C3218 is the only genuinely "original" motor car in the train however even this still has an F87 running underneath. All four cars have been lovingly maintained since 1992, however all four are very much "snap frozen" examples of the way the red cars looked ad worked in the early 1990's.
The F1 heritage set runs with three motors and one trailer. It's the NSW way of providing "insurance"... so if a car fails there's still enough grunt to quickly get the set out the way of causing trouble to an otherwise very congested suburban network. All heritage steam hauled services in the suburban area are required to operate with a diesel attached at the other end for the same reason.
The operation of F1 breaks a heritage train rule which has existed in NSW since late last century. F1's crew is being trained and supplied by Sydney Trains (the suburban network operator), NOT by a heritage operator.
The fact that the current Sydney Trains Chief Executive (Howard Collins) also sits on the board of THNSW (the peak heritage train body in NSW, formed out of the remains of the NSW Rail Transport Museum) is a significant factor which has led to the return of Set F1 to the rails. Howard (who previously headed up the London Underground network) is well known worldwide as a "heritage train nut". He was pivotal in the successful return of heritage steam to the London Underground network, a challenge which must haven made returning Set F1 to operation seem positively simple by comparison.
Although nobody has done definitive research, it is likely Set F1 will break worldwide records on 11th June as being the oldest operating electric train in the world (although as read above, underneath the carriage floors this claim is somewhat of an oxymoron).
The stalemate over crewing certification is what has prevented Set F1 from operating for the last 14 years. The set last operated on a private charter on 16th March 2002 (more commonly known as the "wedding tour") which ironically, is the same day your author was married.
I will be very glad to give away the stigma of this train having been last run in my name, and can proudly boast that I was amongst the first to buy tickets on the trips in June.