Rail Motor HPC No. 402 | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Rail Motor HPC No. 402

Item details

Name of item: Rail Motor HPC No. 402
Other name/s: 400 Class Rail Motor
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:

The vehicle is significant in that it is the oldest operating NSW Government Railways Rail Motor of steel construction. No.402 is unique in that it was the only member of the class fitted with 2 passenger compartments.

Rail Motor 402 is the only NSW rail car to operate over every railway line in the State during its service as a Radio Test Car.
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 400 Class Rail Motor is a self-propelled railway passenger vehicle. The vehicle has a steel underframe and body. The roof is of timber construction finished with canvas and navy dressing. The roof ends are formed from aluminium. Under car skirts are also of aluminium.

The vehicle features twin underfloor 6-cylinder GM Detroit Diesel 165hp engines and coupled to Twin Disc hydraulic torque converter transmissions.

Seating is provided for 8 First Class passengers in a compartment at the No.1 end, and for 19 Second (Economy) Class in the No.2 end. A large centre Guard’s compartment is provided for parcels and goods traffic. Driver’s cabs are fitted at each end of the vehicle.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Rail Motor No.402 is currently in an operational condition.
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.1950 – Radiators moved from under floor to the roof.
1956 – Diesel engines fitted.
1967 – Toilet moved from front to passenger compartment.
1970 – 1st Class passenger compartment and toilet added to No.1 end.
1970 – Modified SEM braking system fitted.
1987 – Roof mounted panels for radio antenna and test equipment added at both ends.
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 1970-1984. 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 size and power of available petrol engines limited the dimensions of the 42-Foot Rail Motor. As more powerful engines and hydraulic transmissions became available, the NSW Railways built a larger 55-Foot model (No.38) using twin engines and torque converter transmission in 1934. No.38 was built in a similar fashion to the 42-Foot type with a wooden body on a steel underframe. This unit proved the twin engine configuration was a success and in order to provide additional branch line services the NSWGR constructed four similar vehicles in 1938.

The resulting 400 Class Rail Motors differed from their prototype by using steel construction with an integrated underframe and body. They featured the same twin engine and hydraulic torque converter transmission of No.38. In similar fashion to the modification carried out to No.38 in 1937, the 400 Class had a small passenger compartment at the No.2 end and the remainder of the vehicle was available for 8 tons of goods and parcels traffic. Additional passenger accommodation was provided by eight separate trailer cars of the 500 Class. Each motor being able to haul 2 trailers. The 400 Class were assigned to branchline working and like their predecessors proved a great success. No.404 was damaged by fire in 1948 and written off in 1949.

When built the engine cooling radiators were located below floor level and these proved troublesome. They were relocated onto the roof by 1950. The remaining three units (Nos.401, 402 and 403) were fitted with GM diesel engines and Twin Disc torque converter transmissions between 1955 and 1959.

Various body modifications involved removing the toilet from the front of the vehicle adjacent to the driver to position in the passenger compartment in 1967. This provided the driver with better vision at level crossings. No.402 entered the workshops in 1970 and was fitted with a small passenger compartment and toilet at the No.1 end. No.402 was the only member of the class to have this modification.

Following the introduction of a new timetable in November 1983, the remaining 400 and 500 Class vehicles were withdrawn and sold. 402 made its way to the Rail Motor Society for preservation. It was leased back to the State Rail Authority of NSW in 1987 as a Radio Test Car. In this guise, 402 traversed every railway line in NSW. No.402 was also used to carry out a survey to map the NSW railway network using the satellite position fixing system (GPS). Rail Motor 402’s radio test role ended in June 2000 and is now part of the exhibition at the Rail Motor Society, Paterson.

Nos.401 and 403 are in the Dorrigo Steam Railway and Museum.

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 demonstrates the ongoing development by the NSW Railways of rolling stock to provide economical rail services to country NSW.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The item is socially significant because it continued the trend of the opening up of country NSW railway services by providing faster schedules and more comfort to the more important branch lines. It was built during the period of considerable innovation in railway technology and were built to fight off the increasing popularity of road and later air travel. (D E Cooke, 1984)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The item is technically significant because it was the first rail car of steel construction in NSW. It also demonstrates the ongoing development by the NSW Railways of the basic 42-Foot Rail Motor concept introduced in 1923. These vehicles also introduced faster and more comfortable travel to patrons. (D E Cooke, 1984)
SHR Criteria f)
While 3 of the 4 class members have survived in preservation groups, No.402 is the only unit in operational condition and the only one of its type to feature 2 passenger compartments.
SHR Criteria g)
This vehicle represents the standard form of the class for the period 1970-1983.
Integrity/Intactness: The degree of significance of this vehicle is that it is restored and is accredited for unrestricted main line operations on the NSW railway network.
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

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: 5051500
File number: H00/00415

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