Rail Motor CPH No. 14 | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Rail Motor CPH No. 14

Item details

Name of item: Rail Motor CPH No. 14
Other name/s: 42-Foot Rail Motor, CPH Class Rail Motor, 'Tin Hare'
Type of item: Movable / Collection
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Locomotives & Rolling Stock
Primary address: , Paterson, NSW 2421
Local govt. area: Dungog
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
 PatersonDungog  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

This vehicle is significant in that it is the oldest surviving NSW Government Railways Rail Motor. This class of rail motor was the first production vehicle to break the monopoly of the steam traction on NSW railways. The numerous nature of the class also made them a common site on rail lines in outback NSW during 1920's to the early 1970's.

They provided the first regular passenger train services to many NSW country towns as branch lines were opened. Their service life of over 60 years and the many technical changes applied to them during their operational lives, while still retaining their basic configuration and purpose, gives credit to the solidity of the original design.

Many survive in preservation groups and those in operational condition are set to "soldier on" well into the 21st century.
Date significance updated: 07 Dec 00
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: NSW Government Railways Design Office
Builder/Maker: NSW Government Railways Carriage Workshops Eveleigh (Redfern)
Physical description: The 42-Foot Rail Motor is a self-propelled railway passenger vehicle. The construction used the standard carriage building practices of the period with a separate wooden body attached to a steel underframe.

The vehicle is of lightweight construction, with cedar, colonial pine and Queensland yellow wood being the principal timbers used. The underframe is of similar lightweight steel construction using two modified Warren Trusses as the main longitudinal members. Extensive use of electric arc welding was made in the fabrication of the underframe, the first time this method was used in NSW passenger railway rolling stock.

The vehicle features an underfloor 6-cylinder GM Detroit Diesel 165hp engine and a Twin Disc hydraulic torque converter transmission.

Seating is provided for 45 passengers in two compartments. Driver’s cabs are fitted at each end of the vehicle.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Rail Motor No.14 is currently stored pending restoration. Condition is average to poor.
Date condition updated:07 Dec 00
Modifications and dates: In common with all railway vehicles, a process of continuous improvement was employed with this class. The key changes are as follows:
c.1930 – Leyland 95 hp engine fitted and radiators moved to the roof. This produced the characteristic appearance of these vehicles.
c.1950 – GM 165 hp diesel engine and torque converter transmission fitted. No visible impact to the appearance.
Further information: These vehicles can never be restored to their original condition due to the many and varied changes that they have been subjected to during their operational life. The Society’s intention is to restore these vehicles to a state that is consistent with the last significant portion of the vehicle’s life. In this instance it is the period 1945-1984. The current level of safety and other regulatory and operational requirements also dictate the level of restoration that can be applied to any heritage rail vehicle for main line operations.

The Rail Motor Society is an “active” museum and preservation group. Our aim is to restore these vehicles so that they can be safely operated under modern main line railway conditions, while still providing travelling patrons with opportunity to experience the ambience of the branch line rail motor.

To this end, some modifications have been undertaken to enhance the safety features such as impact resistant windows. While this a significant change to the original vehicle, considerable attention has been given by the Society to minimise the intrusion and visible impact of these changes.
Current use: Rail Motor
Former use: Rail Motor


Historical notes: The provision of branch line passenger services in country NSW with steam traction was expensive and the alternative of a steam hauled mixed (passenger & goods) train with its slow schedules did not meet the expectations of the travelling public. The solution was a light vehicle capable of maintaining passenger train schedules that was economical to operate. Following World War I, when the internal (petrol) combustion engine had reached a stage where it was reliable and had sufficient power where it could be economically employed in a railway vehicle, the concept of the Rail Motor was developed. At this time, the diesel engine had not reached this level of reliability or performance.

The 42-Foot Rail Motor was designed and built by the NSW Government Railways as the result of trials with two earlier experimental vehicles (1919-1922). The first vehicle (No.3) entered service on 17 December 1923. Another 36 class members followed No.3 over the next 7 years. The first batch of vehicles was assigned to branch lines in the south west of the state and proved an instant success with the travelling public. Their success in attracting patronage to the railways often required the substitution of steam hauled services during holiday periods. As extra vehicles entered service they were assigned to the various branch lines across NSW.

As with most railway vehicles of the period, some minor teething troubles were experienced and a process of continual improvement in the design was employed. These improvements involved the provision of newer and more powerful engines, alternate transmissions and updated bogie types. The characteristic roof mounted radiators also appeared during this period. By the mid-1930’s a standard package had been developed and this proved extremely reliable. To overcome fuel shortages during World War II, a number of units to be fitted with gas producer plants.

Following World War II a diesel engine and hydraulic torque converter transmission were trialed and this proved to be a successful combination. All of the surviving class members were converted in the period up to 1955. Multiple unit operation was also implemented at this time that enabled up to five cars to be operated by one driver.

The fuel crisis of the early 1970’s saw the branch line rail services replaced with road coaches. The 42-Foot Rail Motors were withdrawn from the country and pooled to provide outer suburban services in the Sydney metropolitan areas (Sutherland to Waterfall and Blacktown to Richmond) and suburban services based on Wollongong.

With the completion of major electrification projects, the remaining 42-Foot Rail Motors were withdrawn in 1983-1984 after 60 years of faithful and reliable service.

References: R A Holloway 1928; D E Cooke 1984

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Transport-Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The item is historically significant because the 42-Foot Rail Motors were the first production petrol powered vehicles to replace the steam trains in NSW. They were also the pioneer rolling stock on many branch line passenger services in country NSW.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The item is aesthetically significant because of its characteristic vertical roof mounted radiators. This is the only instance of the use of this form in NSW rail vehicles.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The item is socially significant because the opening up of branch line railway services made fast and economical travel possible to many country people. This available source of transport was a significant factor in preventing population drift to the larger cities and population centres. (R A Holloway, 1928)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The item is technically significant because it was the first rail car to provide double-ended operation with a mechanical gearbox transmission. This method of operation was previously considered to be the sole province of the petrol-electric rail car. (R A Holloway, 1928)
SHR Criteria f)
While 23 of the 37 class members have survived in preservation groups, a number of these are currently in poor to very poor states of repair. The majority of the class are concentrated in four major collections (3 in NSW and 1 in ACT).
SHR Criteria g)
This vehicle represents the standard form of the class for the period 1945-1975.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Order Under Section 57(2) of the Heritage Act, 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to section 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:
1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government
Gazette on 7 March 2003, 18 June 2004 and 8 July 2005; and
2. grant standard exemptions from section 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule below.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 25 March 2006

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Mar 25 2006

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register - Element 0148810 Jun 04   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenDavid E Cooke1984Rail Motors and XPTs
WrittenRupert A Holloway1928Paper presented to the Institution of Engineers Sydney

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5051496
File number: H00/00415

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