|Historical notes: ||(Ian Brady):
In the late 1950s, funding for the NSW railways was directed mainly towards handling rapidly developing freight traffic and long-distance passenger services. In 1959, the Railway Commissioners ordered seven new, two-car diesel trains for the Newcastle suburban services, built to a similar design as the 600-class units of 1950. These were introduced from October, 1961 and were known as the 620-class, Nos 621/721-627/727.
Up to this time, the NSW Railways had provided steam hauled services on the privately owned South Maitland Railways Ltd. line from Maitland and Cessnock. From October, 1961, this company elected to operate its own passenger services and bought new railcars for the service. The NSW Railways then saw an opportunity to re-organise its own services and placed another order with the Chullora Workshops for four more 2-car diesel units to complete the equipment of the Newcastle area, numbered 628/728 to 631/731.
Further stages in the ‘dieselisation’ of passenger services in NSW on other lines were achieved by building units similar to the Newcastle two-car units from 1964 to 1968 for services on lines such as Goulburn, Werris Creek and Kempsey. Later, these were used in the Sydney and Illawarra suburban areas and were numbered up to 638/738.
The eleven 620-class units have provided Newcastle’s suburban rail services since 1961, supplemented from time to time by some built for the other lines, as well as some of the original 1950 units suitably converted.
When built, they were painted in overall Indian Red with a narrow buff line below the windows. In the 1980s, they were painted in three pastel shades with changes in management of the system and establishment of Cityrail. More recently, about 2000, they were painted in the present scheme which is only to be seen on these units.
The next stage in the development of two-car diesel trains for local services was the introduction of fifteen two-car air-conditioned ‘Endeavour’ units for Cityrail. Some of these units were delivered to Newcastle in 1994 and remain there. Others are found on services between Sydney and Nowra, Moss Vale and Goulburn. A similar vehicle named the ‘Explorer’ is used by Countrylink.
The 620-class units were scheduled for replacement by new railcars to be known as the ‘Hunter’ type a few years ago. This programme has suffered delays, which resulted in the older units being kept in use. Of the six 620-class units now at Newcastle, only two are now trafficable with four being stopped and stored for various maintenance reasons. No scheduled workshop attention has been given to them for some years, so, consequently, all are in a poor condition. Maintenance has been restricted to whatever is necessary for them to be safely used in traffic and thus, they do not present a good image to passengers, especially in their interiors.