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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rollingstock History of the Privateers Part IV

Being a worldly group of Privateers, we are not only confined to the NSW regions... Former NSWGR stainless sleeping car FAM2386 is under restoration by one of our colleagues up in sunny Bris-vegas.

FAM2386 is a former "Brisbane Limited" car that also operated on the "Gold Coast Motorail" service. These trains were overnight trains between Sydney and Brisbane and Northern NSW prior to the introduction of the XPT services in the early 80's.

Rather than re-tell the story, below is the "411" from the owner which tells the story of the "FAM Project" more accurately than I can.....


Well I hear you all say, “What is the FAM project”. No it is not my hip way of saying the family project, although it is becoming a family project as such.

The FAM is actually FAM 2386 a stainless steel air conditioned sleeper carriage from NSW which has been recently obtained to restore.

For two years now I have been on the lookout for a stainless steel sleeper carriage to restore as my own private carriage. A couple of opportunities came up but nothing eventuated. In September 2007 I was made aware that FAM2386 was coming up for tender by Railcorp.

In April 2008 the tender document was released and much to my surprise the Office of Rail Heritage (ORH) in NSW was asking for tenders for the carriage but at no cost. The Office of Rail Heritage was asking for submissions to give the carriage away, amongst 83 other separate items, and it would be awarded to the person or group who could give it the best heritage outcome.

Not thinking I would have a chance in hell, I thought what the heck I will give it a go. Considering I was going to be tendering against the preservation groups, I really didn’t think I was going to get a look in sideways especially a Queenslander getting a look in. None the less I set about writing a submission answering the 12 key selection criteria and backed it up with letters of support and other documentation required and submitted it by the 5ht June deadline. The document turned out to be half an inch thick.

Months went by and no one really knew when ORH was going to make their decision. On 6th November 2008 I got a phone call from the ORH and was asked “Did you tender for FAM2386?” ... slowly I said, “Yes.” I then prepared myself for the “Unfortunately you were not successful in your application.” The reply was simple, “It’s yours.” I was absolutely stunned and went deadly silent whilst I was standing in the waiting room of the relaxation centre. The officer from ORH then said twice, “Are you still there?” Still in shock I replied. My remark was that I was told one week before hand unofficially that I would not be successful. The ORH advised that he didn’t know who told me that misinformation but the carriage was truly mine.

A tremendous feel came over me and the mind started 100 to the dozen as now I had 8 weeks to get the beast out of Sydney and back to Brisbane. With Christmas just around the corner it was going to be a huge task.

FAM2386 was built in 1970 by the Granville Workshops on licence from Budd Cars in Philadelphia. It spent most of its life on the Gold Coast Motor Rail but also occasionally when to Melbourne. In 1988 it was retired from service and was to be converted in 1991 to the Broadmeadow Breakdown Van. This project commenced with 3 rooms being removed and a kitchen started at one end. A stainless steel range hood and kitchen bench were installed but the project ceased soon after. The carriage was then moved to Eveleigh Carriage Workshops to be stored under cover with many other items of Rollingstock owned by ORH. It stayed here until Wednesday the 3rd December when it was shifted to Chullora ready to be transported.

(Laminate interior in the bedroom)

(Partially constructed kitchen area by SRA)

(Gutted bedroom area for crew)

(Another shot of the "kitchen")

(The FAM in storage in Carriage Works, Eveleigh)

In the meantime, I had to organise cranes, our good 'Oldmate' Mario from Australian Train Movers, an additional semi trailer, transfer documents, various permits, dogs and chains to secure the load, wide load signs and everything else you could think of.

In addition to this we had to store the car in 'borrowed space' from QPSR and lay a new road for the carriage to be stored on. In 5 Days and between 6 people we laid 97m of track with 75 pound rail - an impressive effort from the team! Even more impressive that the rail had to be dug in to ground level.

The morning of the 3rd of December soon arrived and hopefully with everything in place our journey begun. First thing was to pick up the truck that I was to drive to Sydney. I hire a Volvo FH12 and 40’ steel flat deck trailer from Rentco but with all the finest plans in place something was bound to go wrong. None of the trailer lights worked so that delayed us by an hour. It was then back to home to load up the rest of the gear and get underway. The first part of our journey was to the old Melaleuca Station at Chinderah just south of Tweed Heads where we had to back load two carriages for Mario. What was to take 1-2 hours actually took 4 hours. The crane was 1 hour late and when we had loaded the two carriages we had to reposition them and then the challenge was to chain them down.

We eventually got away at 4pm and made a mad dash south to get as far as we could before I ran out of driving hours and energy. We actually made it to Kempsey that evening at about 8pm. Parking the truck in the motel was an interesting.

The next morning was an early rise but once again we were held up as some talented individual parked the truck in and we didn’t know who it belonged to. After some nervous manoeuvring we were then underway.

It was a great run down to Sydney until we hit that famous Sydney traffic. Trusting a GPS in a 40’ truck is nerve racking when you don’t have any clue about the area you are driving in little loan knowing where you are heading. All we had was some scratchy notes from Mario and a desire to get off the road. We arrived at Mario’s at about 1pm to be greeted by his lovely wife (and the true organiser) Nora. Following lunch we viewed Mario’s collection and unchained the carriages on my truck before retiring to a local motel to wait for my good friend and engineer to arrive. Naturally a few ales and a good meal were had to wash away the road dust.

It was an early start on Friday 5th December to unload the two carriages from my truck, load the jinker to move the carriage and a section car. Our journey this morning was to take us to Chullora to load the carriage at 1pm.

Upon arrival at Chullora we discovered that FAM2386 had been put into a siding that we could not get the cranes anywhere near and the clock was ticking with our crane on site. A quick phone call to the ORH was then made. The ORH organised a loco to come and shift the carriage to where it was supposed to be. Much to our surprise the loco was dispatched and was on site within 15 minutes. Meanwhile we secured the items in the carriage to prevent movement during transport. At this point in time a sudden sense of surrealism set it along with some disbelief that this was now actually my carriage and everything I had dreamt of.

(Just about on the road)

(Bogies on the move)

(Crane action)

(More crane action)

(FAM sitting at Chullora)

The crane we ordered was a 50T slewing crane but they actually sent an 110T crane. What an awesome sight. It was built in 2007 at a cost of $1.7M and had its own support truck.

It took about an hour to set up the crane and prepare the carriage for the lift. We had to get under and knock out the cotter pins for the bogie pins, disconnect the brake lines and ensure there were no loose items. Trust me, crawling under axels and getting into a place where you had never been before was a challenge. We lifted one end at a time. Lifting the lighter end first we slewed the carriage across onto the prime mover turntable. Several adjustments were made until Mario was completely satisfied. His fussiness shows what a professional he is. Now the first bogie could be lifted onto my truck.

The other end was then lifted onto Mario’s jinker and then secured into place. Mario had this process down pat. The only thing we had to cut off was one toilet outlet and not one hole had to be blown in the frame to tie the carriage down. The whole tie down and then placing the wide load signs on both trucks took the best part of 1.5 hours and the whole process took 4.5 hours. Not as quick as I had planned.

Feeling quite drained from a very hot day and working flat out it was time for a quick shower and then dinner with another one of the Privateers. An early night was certainly on the cards for me.

We were up at 1.30am to be picked up and taken to the rail yards again for a 2.30am departure. We had 3 escort vehicles. Two for the carriage itself and 1 for my truck as we were all wide loads and in Sydney CBD you can only move wide loads between midnight and 5am.

We had a quick sprint up to Wyong truck stop for breakfast and to wait for day break. It was here that we could get rid of two escorts. The rest of the day was casually driving up the coast with several compulsory stops.

It was quite amusing to watch people’s faces as we drove up the coast. You could just about read their lips. Being in the second truck you got to see their reactions. Even more amusing were the comments across the radio like, “Now that’s a real road train”, and “That’s the only way NSW can keep their trains on time.”

We arrived at Tweed Heads at 5.30pm when we were curfewed. Finding accommodation at the Gold would normally seem easy but rest assured we couldn’t find anything with shouting distance of where we had to park the trucks. With two sleepers in the truck and a sleeper carriage, accommodation was right where we needed it. We had a quick bite to eat and an early night.

A 4.30am start on Sunday saw us continue to our journey to QPSR’s depot at Box Flat and we had to be off the road by 7.30am. Upon arrival at the site the very heavy rain the night before made the road very slippery and unloading the following day looked unlikely. Not exactly what we had planned on. Plan A was in place and we had to quickly come up with Plan B, C, D and E. A meeting with the crane company and we reverted back to Plan A with the additional need for swamp pads to stop the crane sinking in the soft ground.

The rest of the day was spent planning for the unloading of FAM2386 and the modification of 2 QR bogies to sit the carriage on. Thanks to our oldmates the 2 bogies were quickly modified.
(What a standard gauge car on NG looks like - Perhaps a tribute the old CR days of the Narrow Gauge Ghan...)

Monday 8th December saw us unload FAM2386 on the head shunt at QPSR. With some quick ground preparation with a bob cat, we positioned the two trucks to first unload the bogies with a 25T Franna and then a 65T all terrain slewing crane. Some juggling was required to manoeuvre the items but after 4.5 hours FAM2386 was unloaded and safely on QR bogies. It then took the best part of an hour to shunt FAM2386 into the compound.

Several weeks later another shunt took place to shift the carriage into the newly constructed road to its final restoration place.

It is planned that the restoration project will take approximately 2-3 years so stay tuned for further chapters in the restoration of FAM2386.

(This is what a clean end looks like - shiny things)

(This is what it started like...)

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