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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 7

I The First 100 Years 1788-1888

II Railways
i Location of the Railway
ii Track
iii Bridging and Tunnelling
iv Dams for Engine Water
v Locomotives and Rolling Stock
vi Signalling and Telecommunications
vii 1900/1988-The New Century
viii The Garratt Locomotive
ix Steam Locomotive Practice
x Motor Railcars
xi Signalling
xii Electric Tramways
xiii Electric Railways - Direct Current
xiv Electric Railways - 25 kV ac
xv Diesel Traction
xvi Alignment and Track
xvii Operations

III Motorised Vehicles

IV Aviation

V Modern Shipping

VI Innovative Small Craft

VII Conclusion

VIII Acknowledgements

IX Contributors



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Electric Railways - Direct Current (continued)

The Sydney trains incorporated rivetted all steel cars in all new models (imports from 1924, locally built from 1927). They were wider and heavier than Melbourne's and soon after the system settled down, were built around a 4-car 'unit' with two cab-equipped motor coaches and two trailer cars. The Sydney motor coaches had two large 270 kW motors wound for 1500 V dc and thus only 25 per cent of the trains' axles were motored. These large motors, combined with 1 in 33 grades on the city railway and 1 in 40 on three hilly suburban lines, were an invitation to noise, and rough car riding when worn. With electro-pneumatic resistance control, wheel slip and flashover problems were encountered in wet weather. In basic concept these steel cars were fifteen years ahead of their time by contemporary U.K. standards; some are still being given major overhauls some 62 years after they were built, with newly built motors to substantially the original design.

The control and lighting circuits were 32 V dc, fed from a motor generator with an ingenious in-cab rotary voltage regulator, and the air compressor was 1500 V dc, (its small commutator has proved a constant source of flashover and maintenance). However, in totality the system worked.

In the interests of safety the signal engineers in both Australian cities fitted substantial ac track circuiting in all keys areas (in Sydney, throughout the system), and to protect against signal over-run, installed trip-arm train stops at all signals. The electric trains had deadman handles, tripcocks on their automatic air brakes, and power knockout. While not novel technologies, the extent of their application, and the dividend in improved safety from this thoroughness, were notable in their time. There was, however, a very novel feature in the signalling on the Sydney City Railway: advance timed 'speed tripping' of approaches to platforms. This maximised line capacity and reduced the theoretical headway to 90 sec. In the years before the city circle was completed through Circular Quay it was possible to see in the same platform -only just -both the rear of the departing and the front of the next arriving train.

The following train was, however, still under full trip protection as the row of trip arms dropped progressively, always just in front of it. In a remarkable contrast to the record of many overseas cities (including London and New York) there has never been a rear end collision on the Sydney City Railway in almost 60 years' operation, solely because of this Australian devised fail-safe system and the integrity of its massive, antique vane type ac signal relays.

Beyond the introduction of mercury arc and later silicon rectifier substation systems (mid-1950s) there was little change of technological substance to the two suburban railways until 1960, and much old equipment remained in use through the following 15 years. In its post-war blue trains, Melbourne switched to classic low-voltage multiple unit train control equipment, and Sydney to motor cars with four motors, in both cases with standard 120 V dc controls of U.K. origin. In 1955 Sydney introduced a fleet of cars with power operated sliding doors.

The Sydney electric system also expanded into the 'interurban' electric area over the Blue Mountains to Lithgow, and the Melbourne system to the La Trobe Valley, still on 1500 V dc with 6-axle electric locomotives (regenerative braking on descents in N.S.W). The N.S.W. extensions involved a very heavy dc overhead, with triple headed trains drawing currents up to the full limit of 1500 V dc technology; this required sophisticated fault protection when discriminating between starting currents and faults.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - N.S.W. Railways

People in Bright Sparcs - Macfarlane, Ian B.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 475 - 476, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher