MORE THAN JUST A MACHINE
900 Class DEB Sets were the back bone of NSWGR Passenger Fleet, help us bring one back.
With the help of donors, contractors and the talented volunteers of Lachlan Valley Railway, we are bringing an icon of the New South Wales Government Railways back to operation for all to enjoy on tours, cruise events and fundraisers.
Benefits of the 900 Class DEB Set are;
115km/h line Speed
Rich in history, designed and built in New South Wales
Backing is strong and thank you to everyone who has donated to this worthwhile cause in returning this very heritage significant train back to the rails of NSW.
Thank you for having a look at this fantastic opportunity to assist in the return the DEB's to the Iron Ribbon, we appreciate the support.
This is no easy task, but we are driven by our team's dedication so far on the road of returning this 1950's NSW engineering marvel back into service.
Interestingly the story of the DEB Sets begins with Australia’s home front engineering throughout World War Two.
During this time the Australian Government selected the New South Wales Government Railways Chullora Workshops as the site for a wartime manufacturing plant. The Chullora Railway Workshops are located adjacent to Liverpool Road in Chullora (Western Sydney) and still exist today.
The Chullora site is known as Australia’s largest manufacturing plant of that time, which was used for the production of various types of military weapons. During this period over 2000 men and women worked on site on a daily basis to keep our war effort moving. Chullora was responsible for parts of the Beaufort Bomber, Beau Fighter and Lincoln aircraft. General Lee and ACI Tanks were also constructed at this site, whilst turrets for the British Matilda tanks were also manufactured on site.
After the end of the war, the NSWGR invested in the design of new generation rail motors to begin modernising passenger fleet, and the designers adopted the construction techniques employed in Chullora for the construction of aircraft in the previous years. Specialists used in Chullora for the construction of aircraft were absorbed back into the railway pool after aircraft construction was transferred out of Chullora to Fisherman’s Bend (Victoria). By 1946 the NSWGR hierarchy approved the construction of ten two car diesel trains to work on branch lines. These were called the 600 class rail motors.
The 600 class were the first rail motor predominantly constructed of aluminum similar to aircraft. This significantly reduced the weight whilst maintaining the integrity of the cars. They were constructed as a power car, the 600 class, and a trailer car, the 700 class. These could be operated from a cab at both ends of the set, consisting of a capacity to hold 70 passengers and eight tons of freight. Once constructed, the 600 class were deployed to country branch line rosters across NSW to a successful working career.
Parallel to the development of the 600 class was the 900 class coded as a DEB set. The DEB set was a main line, air conditioned daylight express service which had a unique setup including a Power Car – Trailer Car – Trailer Car – Power Car configuration (Power cars were 900 or 950, Trailer cars were 750, 800 or 850 and Parcel trailers were 350). This set was designed to work with two sets together to create a seven or eight car set. On the 2nd November 1951 the first DEB set entered service on the North Coast Daylight Express from Sydney to Grafton. This DEB set was plagued with mechanical issues and was withdrawn from service in 1952, less than six months after its introduction. After the withdrawal of the first DEB set, construction on the remaining DEB cars were suspended pending the findings of the repeated failures.
The solution came from trials in Canada and America from the ‘Budd’ cars of similar heritage. The Budd cars used a GM engine, which proved more reliable than the original Hercules engines employed on the DEB’s. Construction continued and after 1955 a further 9 DEB sets were introduced onto the Canberra Monaro Express (replacing the steam hauled Federal Express), Far West Express and Northern Tablelands Express.
After previous issues were identified and corrected, the DEB sets had a reliable career and were well regarded by crews and passengers for their comfort and reliability.
During 1973, the Canberra Monaro Express was reduced to a single four car set due to a fall in passenger numbers. In August that year, the spare DEB set was assigned to work the Riverina Express. This set was usually worked by new Tulloch railcars, which were proving troublesome and unreliable on the roster.
The DEB sets worked the Riverina Express until 1982 when the XPT was introduced. Slowly, the new XPT’s removed most of the DEB sets from their usual rosters. DEB sets were then used on the Junee to Griffith connecting services, and also in the Werris Creek to Moree services. The South Coast was also serviced by DEB cars during the 1980’s. Sadly, the once popular Canberra Monaro Express ceased operation in 1988, displacing a further DEB set. In April, 1989, all remaining DEB sets were reallocated to State Rail and placed on the South Coast, Moss Vale and Goulburn services. By 1995, all sets were retired due to the introduction of the Endeavour Rail Cars. DEB sets saw 50 years of service on the NSW Rail Network.
On the 5th January 1986 PF908 was totally lost due to a fire near Dombarton, as a result of the fire DEB’s were suspended from use on heavily graded the Moss Vale – Dombarton Line. PF902 was also the victim of an in service fire while in the Yerrinbool to Mittagong section during 1994 and consequently was condemned. Trailer TB802 also suffered a fire in July 1992 and was also condemned.
During the DEB’s Service life no passengers were ever involved in a fatality, but unfortunately a driver and a fitter lost their lives in PF906, as a result of a level crossing collision with a stock truck near Gunnedah Abattoirs on the 13th May 1975. PF906 was condemned as a result of the collision but was rebuilt and re-entered service as HPF959 9 years later due to a rolling stock demand at the time.
From 1995 to 1998 the remaining DEB cars remained in storage, pending a breakup of the fleet to several rail heritage societies.
The Codes for DEB sets
PF – Power Car (901-5 and 907-10, 906 was rebuilt as 959 following a level crossing accident)
HPF – Power Car with luggage facilities (951-959)
TB – First Class Sitting Car (801-803)
TFR - Second Class Sitting Car with Buffet (851-852, TFR 852 converted from TBR 852 Dec 1956)
TBR – First Class Sitting Car with Buffet (851-857)
TCR - Composite Sitting Car with Buffet (861-862)
TC - Composite Sitting Car (751-753)
TM - Second Class Sitting Car (853 & 857 were rebuilt from TBR 853 and 857 during 1990)
TP – Parcels Trailer (351-353)
Out of 36 DEB cars built during the 1950’s (18 Power Cars, 15 Trailer Cars and 3 parcel vans) 9 have been scrapped during service or after withdrawal (Power cars 902, 908, 951 & 956 and trailer cars 801, 802, 351, 352 & 353). 2 DEB Cars are in private ownership (PF904 was last seen on a property south of Sydney and TFR851 is on display at Walcha Road)
Of the 27 remaining DEB Cars;
- 4 are with the Dorrigo Steam Railway and Museum (905, 955, 752 & 854)
- 5 are with Transport Heritage NSW at Broadmeadow Locomotive Depot (910, 952, 954, 753& 856)
- 16 are with Lachlan Valley Railway (901, 903, 906, 907, 909, 953, 957, 958, 959, 803, 751, 851, 852, 853, 855, 857, 861 & 862)
Of the original DEB Fleet almost 70% remain in preservation in some form, but none are currently in service. Lachlan Valley Railways DEB Set Collection represents 44% of the entire DEB Fleet and 64% of the preserved DEB Fleet.
The Rothbury DEB Set was secured for restoration in April 2014, the cars include - PF903, TC751, TBR855, TB803, HPF957 & HPF958.
Power Car 903 ran the Final Far West Express in September 1975 and the final Cooma service in November 1988, quite fitting given that 903 was introduced onto the Canberra Monaro Express in May 1955.
HPF957 entered service on the Northern Tablelands Express in November 1960 and also spent time on the Canberra Monaro Express, Riverina Express and the Orange – Lithgow – Mudgee service in the mid 1980’s.
HPF958, like HPF957 entered service in November 1960 allocated to the Northern Tablelands Express. HPF 958 also spent time on the Canberra Monaro Express post 1974.
Trailer Car TBR855 entered service on the Northern Tablelands Express in June 1959.
TB803 entered service on the Canberra Monaro Express in April 1956.
TC751 entered service on the Far West Express (as it was built for) in September 1957.
The interiors of the cars are sound, this is attributed to clever planning by the previous owners to cover all the windows in the train that did not allow sun light to enter the cars. At the moment we are waiting to sign an agreement on a location to restore the DEB Set closer to home on the main south. Very shortly after this agreement is signed we will look to transfer the DEB Set to that location.
Our set is being inspected to be moved from its 20 year slumber at Rothbury. All things considered we expect the DEB set to be operational by 2018/9, servicing the Riverina and beyond on local services and tours.
We are continuing to fundraise and spread the message of the DEB Set restoration. We are also continuously looking for volunteers to assist, skilled or unskilled.
I would like to personally thank all the donators and volunteers for the confidence and effort they have given to this ambitious project. I personally have enjoyed the relationships created by this project, rail preservation has some fantastic knowledge within its ranks and also people willing to give you their time for little return.
We have a Facebook site on the restoration to keep members and contributors up to date on the progress of the restoration. This can be found athttps://www.facebook.com/groups/debsetrestoration/
Or search NSWGR 900/800/750 Class "DEB" Sets in Facebook.
Please support us!
900 Class Restoration Team