The Commissioners’ train almost disappeared for a number of years during the late 70’s early 80’s (under the “Vicrail” Board, Ian Hodges et al) until Mr John Hearsch became Chief General Manager of the new State Transport Authority and resurrected the train’s regular tours of inspection.
Y175’s use had long been dispensed by the end of the 70’s and a number of high numbered T classes were used on the Commissioners’ (this is testing my memory but I think, 398, 400, 401, 403, 406, 410 were definites, there may have been one or two others – most of which were sold to ANR to become the CK’s). These half a dozen or so units were fitted with a special 64 volt power outlet just about the fuel tank under the valence on the????? Driver’s side if I remember correctly to charge batteries on the executives’ sleeping car (usually SZ 287, SS 286 or SS 285 – all 3 cars were used interchangeably and were air conditioned twinnette sleepers). Inside the electrical cabinet the locomotive battery knife switch had a “reverse” position that engaged a second set of copper contacts that allowed the loco battery to feed this outlet. From memory the outlet was only 64 volts battery fed with the battery being recharged by the auxiliary generator (74v) if the loco was running – i.e. the aux gen did NOT DIRECTLY feed this outlet – which I remember as a two or three heavy copper pinned affair. After the train stabled we’d unravel a long purpose made extension lead and plug it into the sleeper (or was it into the Norman?? – It was so long ago now it’s difficult to remember) and then reverse the knife switch. There wasn’t enough current to directly run A/C in the coupled car – the cable merely charged the battery and powered low voltage circuits.
By the second half of the 1980’s an N class was often used for all or part of the tours so that the two air-conditioned cars could be coupled to the 415v Head End Power supply (the Goulburn was “through cabled” but had no A/C) and to speed up main line operations. In this case one of the T’s (usually 410 by this stage) was pre-positioned by freight train or taken along for the ride in order to be used for branch line running. Towards the later part of the decade the T was used less and less and “special permission” was granted to take the N to all parts of the galaxy no mater what the regular maximum permissible loco axleload. “Flexible” interpretation of operating procedures being a long tradition in operation of the Commissioners’ Train.
Of course Goulburn was used as crew car and had end windows cut in the lounge end for rarely used viewing by management when the train was running with Norman against the engine after John Hearsh arranged for the modification. It has a lounge/open/eating area, kitchen, 2 showers and I think (from memory) about 5 (maybe 6?) berths for Driver, Fireman, Guard, Waiter and Cook and I think we had one spare so it must have been 6. The berth end ran coupled to the Stainless Steel 10 berth twinette for the bosses.
The Norman of course made up the other end of the regular 3 car set and the Commissioners Train Conductor (Lenny Cotter for most of the 1980’s) slept in the Conductor’s berth in this car.
Okay guys – just for you – I’ve been rattling around in dusty cardboard box – only because I’m sober, wouldn’t be doing this if I was in normal driver state! I can confirm the three above twinnette numbers SZ 287, SS 286 or SS 285 are the designated car numbers from a variety of s circulars from the 1980’s. Of course on short tours (i.e. one day, only the Norman was used or sometimes the Norman and an ACZ. Other specials involving dignitaries sometimes had a power car (and electrician), club car, and other special vehicles. During my time on this train during the 1980’s I have absolutely NO recollection of either Nos 4 or 5 State Cars ever being used on “STA Board” (which only ran annually or less often and usually as a single day journey) or Train Operations Division “Tours of Inspection” (what was traditionally the Commissioner’s Train) which by this time had been shortened from the old long-serving 5 day format to usually a three day tour (even though there was the Commissioners’ train Crew on board the train often ran overnight with country crews to expedite it schedule and shorten the tour to just three working days.
Hope this helps.
V & A
(Sorry the text is a bit “all over the place” – it’s late and I’m tired