Spirit of Progress 1937

  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
An extract from The Argus of 17 November 1937 just before the SoP commenced service.

The Argus 17 November 1937


To-day marks an epoch in the history of the Victorian Railways - the greatest business undertaking in the State and the greatest single asset of its people. The "Spirit of Progress," the new Sydney express, is ready. Before the day has passed she will have completed her first official run, with honoured guests aboard.

Streamlining, air-conditioning, comfort, efficiency - all are combined in a train the like of which Australia has never seen before. In many features it leads the Empire, and the Empire is interested.

Everyone in the State has an idea of what the new train will look like as it steams into Spencer street station for its "launching" to-day, and then out again on the ceremonial run to Geelong. Its likeness has been on all the railway hoardings for weeks, the huge locomotive, Edward Henty, looming gigantic in the foreground, and the train of carriages stretching away like a ribbon of blue and gold against a green countryside. Its appearance is as far beyond that of the train of yesterday as yesterday's train is ahead of George Stevenson's "Rocket."

Gone is the familiar funnel. Gone are the steam dome and the quaint little tangle of pipes and tubes that stood before the top of the driver's cab to make the engine whistle. There is not even the traditional round front with handles in the middle, or the platform above the buffers, with its two mysterious little gadgets standing swathed in sooty canvas. Even the buffers have gone. in place of all these is a smooth, rounded front leaning backward a little from the vertical as though restraining itself from the temptation to use all the tremendous power that seems locked within it the great VR monogram flanked with wings spread for flight enhances the illusion so does the huge Cyclopean eye set in the forehead of the monster
No funnel but a great curving grid that follows the line to the top of the train breathes with a thin wisp of smoke to show that the monster lives seen from ground level close up it is almost appalling that a man should stand at the throttle in sole control of such great power as this thing represents why the very wheels of it tower over all but the tallest of men They are six feet high yet the body above seems to dwarf them.

[b]Non-stop, 190 miles .....[/b]

The tender for the monster near enough to 40 feet long is a box of hidden power. it is built to carry 13,000 gallons of water and 8 tons of coal, sufficient to carry the full train on a non- stop run across the State from Melbourne and over the border of New South Wales to Albury 190 miles. The weight of engine and tender ready for the road is 221 tons The boiler pressure is 200 lb to the square inch. Three cylinders each 20 in x 28 in transfer the power to the driving wheels. Yet there lurks a sparkle of humour in the men who designed such a ponderous giant its length is quoted officially as 85ft 9 5/16 in. There surely must have been a twinkle in the eye of the man who put in that extra 5/16 inch.

When the eye has wandered over the vastness of the locomotive and refused to take it all in, a miracle occurs. it sweeps down the long train of carriages unbroken at first sight by any gap or join. The great gold lines that gleamed on the sides of the locomotive wings sweep away across the blue into the distance and the whole thing immediately assumes a grace that is difficult to reconcile with such huge size. Carriage follows carriage to the end, where the rounded observation car and the domed roof mark the completed whole. There is no startled, "sawn off" look about the back of that train, but the rounding is not only for appearance. The article about streamlining on the next page explains the purpose of it.

The guard's van follows the engine, and each of the carriages that succeed it is 75ft. long and weighs 42 tons. The train is 9ft. 9 in. wide. Each unit is a solid hull of Corten steel - a new alloy remarkably lighter than steel, remarkably strong, and remarkably resistant to corrosion. The weight of the carriage is no greater than that of the ordinary wood and steel carriage without any of the heavy air-conditioning equipment and heat insulation which the new cars carry; it is considerably less than the weight of an all-steel carriage of the ordinary type.

[b]Where to see the new train[/b]

After the "launching" of the train by the Premier (Mr. Dunstan) at 9 am to-day at Spencer street station, and the official run to Geelong which will follow, the "Spirit of Progress" will be taken to several large provincial centres for public inspection before it goes into regular service on the express run to Albury next Tuesday. On Saturday it will be open to the public all day at Spencer street station, No. 7 platform.
Places and times for inspection, will be:
GEELONG.- To-morrow, 11 am to 9 pm
BALLARAT.- Friday, 12.10 pm to 9 pm
SPENCER STREET.- Saturday, 9 am to 9 pm
BENDIGO - Monday. 12.30 to 5.30 pm and 6.30 pm 8.40 pm

[b]In the cars - Cosy and Cool[/b]

The exterior, austere, unbroken in line, with only the row of windows flush with the walls and the double line of gold along it, gives no hint of what lies within. it may be that the designers planned the contrast deliberately, for it is most effective. Through a flush door in the wall of blue-painted steel the passenger steps into an atmosphere of comfort. The air itself is different, as indeed it should be, for the results of years of scientific and engineering experience and experiment are embodied in the air conditioning plant with which each carriage is fitted.

The floors are deep with carpeting thick piled Axminsters and Wiltons. Beneath tile carpet there is rubber linoleum. Beneath that again is a layer of sponge rubber; then wood fibre board; then a thick layer of cork to cover the grooved Corten steel. Then hair felt, and a sheet of aluminium. it seems as complicated a floor as ever was made; it is designed to exclude all noise, all jarring, and all vibration.

It is, in addition, an effective barrier to heat in both directions. in winter, the floor cannot become cold; in summer, it cannot become hotter than the cool conditioned air which will circulate through every part of the train. But all the passenger sees of it is the yielding carpet, edged with rubber skirtings which effectively protect the polished wood panel walls from scratches.

Walls and ceilings are insulated similarly. inside the shell of each carriage there is a layer of soundproof felting, cemented to the steel. Crinkled aluminium foil reduces the heat transference in the roof, and in the walls its place is taken by insulating sheets cemented to the felt The inside finish is of panels of Australian timber in beautiful shades and figuring. Every corner is rounded, and the joinery excites admiration for the workmen who did it.

Seats are upholstered in chrome leather to harmonise with the carpets, and there is a pleasing variety throughout the train in the first class non-smoking compartments the leather of the seats is dark blue, the carpet is dark brown Saxony Wilton, and the walls are of Queensland ribbon walnut The ladies' compartments have light grey chrome leather seats, pastel green carpet, and panels of Queensland royal walnut. The scheme for the smoking compartment includes Queensland flower walnut and West Australian jarrah, rich plum red leather and a carpet of dark blue.

Windows Large and Wide the materials and construction of the second class compartments are identical with those of the first class, except that the colourings are different. The only significant difference between the accommodation in the two classes is that four persons will sit on each side of the second class compartment, with folding arm-rests dividing the seats into two sections, while in the first class the same space will be occupied by only three passengers on each side, with a folding arm- rest on each side of each passenger.

Luggage racks have rubber-covered front bars to prevent luggage from slipping, and chromium-plated fillets against the wall protect the woodwork from scratching and enhance the appearance of the interior decoration
The windows are large and wide, framing the scene without. They are double to prevent the conduction of heat, and they are of unshatterable glass affording complete protection in any emergency. Each compartment has its card table stored under the seat in a little locker and the fronts of the seats come straight down to the floor, leaving no harbour for rubbish.

[b]Parlour car - Like a Room ![/b]

It is in the parlour car that comfort reaches its climax. Whoever thought, a year or two or even a month or two ago, of the scene shown on this page as a scene in a public railway carriage? !
From within, as from outside, the rounded end of the tail of the train is completely, pleasing to see. Most of the walls are, glass-double glass, with an insulating space between, so that the windows need not become hot, even on the hottest day. It is an observation car, built for observation, and as the train travels the State each window will frame an ever-changing view of countryside, fields, homesteads, mountains, and streams.
Should the glare of the sun be too trying, each window in the observation car has its Venetian blind which may be drawn down and adjusted to individual comfort. It is the furniture in the parlour car, however, and its disposition which give the most telling impression of comfort. The car is furnished like the sitting room in a private home, with lounge chairs, couches, and settees of varying types and in a harmonising variety of upholstery. fawn, blue, and pastel green pin-weave tapestries are used for the upholstery. The internal panelling is of Australian blackwood, and the carpet is a glorious piece of work in old gold. Indirect lighting reflected from a slightly green-toned celling is supplemented by two table lamps on the book cabinets. The compartment has accommodation for l8 passengers.

Behind the observation room is a smoking compartment furnished with full leather lounge chairs-the sort into which into one sinks and cannot tell when the sinking ceased, so kind are they to the sitter., The chairs are upholstered in dark green chrome leather, and they are arranged along the walls instead of being "athwartships," as the ordinary carriage seats are. The panelling in this section is of Australian cedar.

As unlike a conventional railway carriage as anything on wheels could be, this observation car on the "Spirit of Progress," has been designed and furnished for homely comfort. The rounded end, planned primarily to increase the streamline efficiency of the train, disposes further of the "railway carriage" feeling.

[b]Dining car[/b]

Still another plan of decoration has been adopted for the dining car, where the wall panels arc of Queensland brown beech, with inlaid headings of ebony, and the dining chairs are of the same timber, with pastel green chrome leather upholstered backs and seats. The carpet is an old gold Axminster of generous pile. Forty eight persons can dine here at one sitting.

The kitchen is a symphony in stain- less steel-stainless steel walls, range, cup- boards, and sinks, red ironite floor with carborundum cast in it to prevent slip- ping, and slow combustion coke burning ovens and stoves. A unique system of air circulation makes the kitchen comfort- able for those who will work in it, and prevents the escape of cooking odours into the dining saloon of the car.

That, then, is the new train as the passengers will see it. Behind the walls, beneath the floors, in hidden recesses at the ends of carriages, arc the devices which contribute, in a measure no less important than the shielded lights and padded seats and yielding carpets, to the comfort of travellers. Noise,.'vibration, dust, flies, discomfort of heat and cold, all have been reduced almost to the point of elimination.

[b]Novel system of interior lighting - British Authorities Ask for Details.[/b]

The Victorian Railways led the British Empire in air-conditioning. Now it seems that they will provide a lead in train lighting also. The co-operation of illumination experts from the State Electricity Commission was sought in designing the lights for the "Spirit of Progress." The train is not yet running, but the success achieved in the design of this feature is so marked that news of it has already travelled across the world, and the Victorian Railways Commissioners have received requests from railway authorities in Great Britain for details. In contrast to the great glaring eye on the front of the locomotive, which sends its beam for miles across the countryside through the night, not a light is visible in the interior of the train.
[b]Personal Reading Lamps[/b]

The centre of the roof in each compartment has a disc of opaque glass just below the ceiling, with an inverted metal dome in its centre. This is the lamp fitting. Between it and the curved ceiling a concealed lamp spreads its rays to illuminate the whole compartment with a uniformly soft white glow. For reading, writing, or sewing there is an additional lamp for each passenger, operated by individual switches. Should one passenger desire to read and the rest to sleep, he may light his own lamp to shine over his shoulder directly on to the book, and all the other lights may be extinguished.

Exceptional care has been taken to isolate the light from these individual lamps beneath the luggage racks. They are concealed light-proof housings and the light emerges through a baffle plate of sheet metal so that no stray ray may strike the passenger's eye. So carefully have these been designed that even the joints in the baffle have been soldered to make them light-tight.
In the three larger rooms - the dining saloon the observation parlour, and the smoking division of the parlour car-the lamps are concealed behind cornices between the walls and the ceiling. From these hidden troughs they suffuse their light over the taper-tinted ceilings to provide ample and uniform illumination throughout the carriages. Two small table lamps on the bookshelves in the observation car are protected with tinted shades.

[b]New Axle Bearings[/b

]For the first time the Victorian Railways Commissioners have adopted roller bearings as standard equipment for the wheels of the rolling stock of the new train. Instead of running on eight wheels each carriage will run virtually on 248 wheels, with an equivalent improvement in smoothness and ease, and in dependability also.

The axle-boxes were made in Victoria, and each contains 30 tapered rollers of highly tempered and exceedingly hard steel - so hard that in the final truing after the hardening process they must be ground with abrasives; they would turn the edge of the hardest steel tool.

The grinding process is so exact that the finished roller must not vary from the standard by more than a quarter of 1 thousandth of an inch-if it does, it is rejected. The rollers were made in Birmingham.

Each roller is 2in. long and rather more than an inch in diameter at the thick end. This represents a fair average between the tiny rollers of similar design used in the rocker arms of aeroplane engines and the huge units made for steel rolling mills, in which a single bearing may weigh four tons. Each axle-box on the passenger cars of the new train weighs 260 lb., and on the dining car, which is heavier, the axle-boxes weigh 300 lb. each.

[b]Smooth Starting[/b]

Those figures are important to the traveller. They mean that sturdy construction will provide safe and sure running, and that accuracy to one-fiftieth of a hair's breadth will ensure the smoothest ride that science can devise. They mean that high speeds are not only possible, but safe - a matter that concerns not only the passenger but the engineer. The engineer is interested also in the fact that the bearings operate in a sealed bath of lubricant. This, coupled with the substitution of a rolling motion for a sliding motion in the axle bearings, makes the development of a "hot-box" an impossibility. The tapering of the bearings is designed to take up the thrust when the train is rounding a curve.

Most of the power of a motor-car engine is exerted in starting the car from rest; that is why it is necessary to start in low gear. The same applies to a railway train, but much more forcibly because, of the great weight which must be set rolling after the brakes have been released. It is claimed that between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of this starting effort is avoided by the substitution of roller bearings for plain bearings. The train glides from rest with a new ease of motion. To the passenger this means the avoidance of jarring when the train is leaving the station; the same smoothness is noticeable when the brakes arc applied and the train comes to rest, for special brakes have been fitted to the new train

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  M636C Minister for Railways

Strange that it doesn't give much credit to the American Car & Foundry of St Charles Missouri, where Harold Clapp in 1934 picked up the detailed drawings from which the train was constructed. The train was copied in most detail from the trains, the "Royal Blue" and the "Abraham Lincoln" of the B&O Railroad. Clapp also obtained the drawings of the locomotive B&O No 1, a high pressure 4-4-4 which had a tender very similar to that built for the S class.

The photograph of the interior of the B&O observation car at the observation end was virtually identical to the Spirit of Progress Parlor Car, so much so such that someone must have taken it with them when selecting the chairs and tables.

The B&O coaches were open saloon layout, which Victoria had to wait nearly twenty more years to get, but a copy of the counter buffet cars on the US train actually beat the "Spirit" into service being copied in the rebuild of the buffet car "Taggerty".

Even the Spirit of Progress was clearly late entering service. The heaviest demand on the Sydney Melbourne service occurred at Melbourne Cup time and given the date, the VR must have wanted to get the train into service about two weeks earlier than it finally appeared.


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