Where/how are the Variotrams?

 
  TrainLover222 Junior Train Controller

Location: ...And then all stations to Central
Hello,

I consider the Variotrams quite significant to the history of trains in Sydney. Although they have only been around since 1997, they started and single-handedly operated the Sydney light rail network for some time. The variotrams operated through the extension to and opening of Lilyfield station, and continued to operate after the extension to Dulwich Hill, which included the introduction of 9 new stations.

I'll get to the point - where are they? I found out that in 2015 they were in storage at a heavy haulage yard somewhere in Penrith.  Could I have something more exact to their current location, such as a street address?

Also, what does their fate look like? I especially want to know if it is possible that any have been purchased. It would seem to me that an organisation such as the Sydney Electric Train Society or the Powerhouse museum would purchase one. After all, the former purchased a whole monorail set for preservation.

So, here are a rundown of my main questions:
  • Where are they?
  • What is their fate?
  • Who may have bought them?


Thanks

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  Ben_Daui Deputy Commissioner

SPER has secured one set, yes they probably still out in Penrith, use Google earth to see where they are, Sydney Train vlogs on YouTube has filmed footage outside where they were stored but I don't know if they are still there.
  TrainLover222 Junior Train Controller

Location: ...And then all stations to Central
SPER has secured one set, yes they probably still out in Penrith, use Google earth to see where they are, Sydney Train vlogs on YouTube has filmed footage outside where they were stored but I don't know if they are still there.
Ben_Daui
I see. I have looked on Google Earth before, I will try again. I will set it to 2015 to see if I can find it. How do you know SPER has purchased one?

UPDATE: Can't find them on Google Earth
  Heihachi_73 Chief Commissioner

Location: Terminating at Ringwood
They're definitely not running around Melbourne on route 75, we still have no low floor trams at Camberwell Depot despite most of the tram stops along both routes 70 (Wattle Park) and 75 (Vermont South) having low floor platform stops.

If the Variotrams end up scrapped with no buyers, it will be a bloody waste. Melbourne borrowed and then purchased five second hand low floor trams all the way from France but can't buy half a dozen from Sydney? To add insult to injury, Sydney's Variotrams were even made in Melbourne!

Surely trucking a few trams from Sydney to Melbourne for another ten or twenty years' service has to be better than giving away rustbucket W classes to the rest of the world for free or rebuilding them to "W8" standard for several million each only to have them running at snail's pace on the City Circle making exactly $0 per trip. Unfortunately, logic, Yarra Trams and the Victorian Government are three completely different things that never work together.
  Fred Scuttle Junior Train Controller

Location: Point Clare, NSW
SPER has secured one set, yes they are probably still out in Penrith.
How do you know SPER has purchased one?
TrainLover222
SPER is currently in the process of acquiring a Variotram for preservation at Loftus - see the thread "Sydney Variotram Retirement" (https://Railpage.com.au/f-t11381232-0-asc-s75.htm).

The principal challenges are the cost of transportation, and lack of space at the Sydney Tramway Museum's Loftus site.
  TrainLover222 Junior Train Controller

Location: ...And then all stations to Central
They're definitely not running around Melbourne on route 75, we still have no low floor trams at Camberwell Depot despite most of the tram stops along both routes 70 (Wattle Park) and 75 (Vermont South) having low floor platform stops.

If the Variotrams end up scrapped with no buyers, it will be a bloody waste. Melbourne borrowed and then purchased five second hand low floor trams all the way from France but can't buy half a dozen from Sydney? To add insult to injury, Sydney's Variotrams were even made in Melbourne!

Surely trucking a few trams from Sydney to Melbourne for another ten or twenty years' service has to be better than giving away rustbucket W classes to the rest of the world for free or rebuilding them to "W8" standard for several million each only to have them running at snail's pace on the City Circle making exactly $0 per trip. Unfortunately, logic, Yarra Trams and the Victorian Government are three completely different things that never work together
Heihachi_73

I completely agree. I mean, they served Sydney's light rail network pretty well, so what would stop them from operating successfully on Melbourne's tram network. After all, Melbourne uses a lot of older and less modern vehicles on its tramways!With the new dot-matrix displays that were installed on the Variotrams just before their retirement, they won't even have trouble inputting the right destinations! Plus, there a trained drivers and workers in Sydney who worked them who could help teach Melbourne's tram operators and integrate them into their network!


FYI, accidentally sent this as a PM just before
  TrainLover222 Junior Train Controller

Location: ...And then all stations to Central
SPER has secured one set, yes they are probably still out in Penrith.
How do you know SPER has purchased one?
SPER is currently in the process of acquiring a Variotram for preservation at Loftus - see the thread "Sydney Variotram Retirement" (https://Railpage.com.au/f-t11381232-0-asc-s75.htm).

The principal challenges are the cost of transportation, and lack of space at the Sydney Tramway Museum's Loftus site.
Fred Scuttle
I see. Maybe they could remove a middle/trailer car from the Variotrams to save space? I imagine they are modular.

Also, thanks for the thread. I was able to use it to locate the Variotrams at the following coordinates on Google Earth:
33°44'0.11"S, 150°41'45.51"E
Google Earth and Maps were last updated this year, a couple of months ago I think. Also visible on Street View, which was updated this year. The unfortunate disease that is graffiti is visible on one of the sets.
  mejhammers1 Chief Commissioner

They're definitely not running around Melbourne on route 75, we still have no low floor trams at Camberwell Depot despite most of the tram stops along both routes 70 (Wattle Park) and 75 (Vermont South) having low floor platform stops.

If the Variotrams end up scrapped with no buyers, it will be a bloody waste. Melbourne borrowed and then purchased five second hand low floor trams all the way from France but can't buy half a dozen from Sydney? To add insult to injury, Sydney's Variotrams were even made in Melbourne!

Surely trucking a few trams from Sydney to Melbourne for another ten or twenty years' service has to be better than giving away rustbucket W classes to the rest of the world for free or rebuilding them to "W8" standard for several million each only to have them running at snail's pace on the City Circle making exactly $0 per trip. Unfortunately, logic, Yarra Trams and the Victorian Government are three completely different things that never work together.
Heihachi_73
Hear, hear. The main thing that the Yarra Trams and the Government should be striving for is that the network is served by modern low floor trams, fully accessible to all. I find it absolutely galling that the Government are spend $2 Million dollars a pop on trams that are over 70 years old because some people write in the papers about how flaming iconic these W Class trams are and at the same time tram routes in the South East have to make do with Z Class Trams. I find it absolutely nauseating that the Tram system is treated like some kind of heritage network, when some of the routes have a yearly patronage greater than that of the entire V/Line Network.The Tram network is the most intensively used system out of any in Australia, we need more low floor trams and the Variotrams will provide for this and yet we are spending money on 70+ year old W Class trams that has to be modernised using the same standards as in the thirties because they are in National Trust. How flaming stupid!

Michael
  simstrain Chief Commissioner

Melbourne has a whole stack of new e class trams on order and being constructed. Why would you want Sydney's hand me downs?
  s3_gunzel Not a gunzel developer

Location: Western Sydney, AU
It would seem to me that an organisation such as the Sydney Electric Train Society or the Powerhouse museum would purchase one. After all, the former purchased a whole monorail set for preservation.
"TrainLover222"


The Monorail was a slightly... different arrangement. There are no Monorail museums in the world. SETS believed that as it is electric traction - and would just be torn down - one set and some track should be preserved.

As there are tram museums, Loftus, etc - it would make more sense to send a vario down there, as is being done.
  mejhammers1 Chief Commissioner

@simstrain the point is that 5 trams were brought from overseas. Anyway the use of those variotrams is arguably of more use then refurbishing 70+ year old trams to trundle around a zero fare route at 30 kph!!!

Michael
  Matthew Chief Train Controller

Maybe they could remove a middle/trailer car from the Variotrams to save space? I imagine they are modular.
TrainLover222


You would no longer have a functional tram. They are not a set/motor/trailer or anything, each of the 5 segments has a particular function and place in the consist. In particular, on Sydney Vario tram the centre section carries the pantograph, auxiliary converter and the batteries.Chop it down to a 3 section car and you have no current collector or auxiliary low voltage power.

You could conceivably have built a 3 section one, like Melbourne's Citadis 202s, but converting a 5 section to a 3 section vehicle is not really viable.
It would also ruin the historical value of the car - it would no longer be representative of what actually ran.
  TrainLover222 Junior Train Controller

Location: ...And then all stations to Central
They're definitely not running around Melbourne on route 75, we still have no low floor trams at Camberwell Depot despite most of the tram stops along both routes 70 (Wattle Park) and 75 (Vermont South) having low floor platform stops.

If the Variotrams end up scrapped with no buyers, it will be a bloody waste. Melbourne borrowed and then purchased five second hand low floor trams all the way from France but can't buy half a dozen from Sydney? To add insult to injury, Sydney's Variotrams were even made in Melbourne!

Surely trucking a few trams from Sydney to Melbourne for another ten or twenty years' service has to be better than giving away rustbucket W classes to the rest of the world for free or rebuilding them to "W8" standard for several million each only to have them running at snail's pace on the City Circle making exactly $0 per trip. Unfortunately, logic, Yarra Trams and the Victorian Government are three completely different things that never work together.
Hear, hear. The main thing that the Yarra Trams and the Government should be striving for is that the network is served by modern low floor trams, fully accessible to all. I find it absolutely galling that the Government are spend $2 Million dollars a pop on trams that are over 70 years old because some people write in the papers about how flaming iconic these W Class trams are and at the same time tram routes in the South East have to make do with Z Class Trams. I find it absolutely nauseating that the Tram system is treated like some kind of heritage network, when some of the routes have a yearly patronage greater than that of the entire V/Line Network.The Tram network is the most intensively used system out of any in Australia, we need more low floor trams and the Variotrams will provide for this and yet we are spending money on 70+ year old W Class trams that has to be modernised using the same standards as in the thirties because they are in National Trust. How flaming stupid!

Michael
mejhammers1
I have been to Melbourne and was quite intrigued out how old most of the trams are. It to me seems strange that Sydney's light rail would retire units after just fifteen years, yet Melbourne's tram system runs a lot of trams older than Sydney's S set trains, which too are being phased out of service!

I would love to see a Vario in Melbourne. I recall once that a W-class tram appeared to stop around 100 meters from a tram stop, as if it had broken down! However, don't the W-class trams only run on the City Circle route, which is from what I can gather a tourist route?
  TrainLover222 Junior Train Controller

Location: ...And then all stations to Central
Maybe they could remove a middle/trailer car from the Variotrams to save space? I imagine they are modular.


You would no longer have a functional tram. They are not a set/motor/trailer or anything, each of the 5 segments has a particular function and place in the consist. In particular, on Sydney Vario tram the centre section carries the pantograph, auxiliary converter and the batteries.Chop it down to a 3 section car and you have no current collector or auxiliary low voltage power.

You could conceivably have built a 3 section one, like Melbourne's Citadis 202s, but converting a 5 section to a 3 section vehicle is not really viable.
It would also ruin the historical value of the car - it would no longer be representative of what actually ran.
Matthew
So five sections is the least that can be done? Also, a Vario is only 29m long, so it seems strange to me that it would lack space! If they do, however, I imagine they could simply build more track
  kitchgp Chief Commissioner

……Melbourne borrowed and then purchased five second hand low floor trams all the way from France but can't buy half a dozen from Sydney? ……
Heihachi_73

The 5-section C2-class trams were almost brand new, having been surplus to requirements for the new system in Mulhouse, France. They also have commonality with the 3-section C-class tram. The Variotrams were, at the time, 15 years old and would have added a third type to the C and D/D2-classes of that vintage. Had privatisation not existed, or had it been better modeled, ie only one tram company, then either the C-class or the D/D2-class would not have been purchased, just more of the other type, with consequential savings in maintenance inventories, etc.


I have been to Melbourne and was quite intrigued out how old most of the trams are …………....yet Melbourne's tram system runs a lot of trams older than Sydney's S set trains..................
TrainLover222

As Sydney’s first light rail was only completed in 1997 it stands to reason that the rolling stock will be less than 20 years old.
Z-class tram construction 1975 – 1983   S set train construction 1972 - 1980

None of the above posts answers the question “If Variotrams are so good why didn’t Sydney keep them?”.
  simstrain Chief Commissioner

@simstrain the point is that 5 trams were brought from overseas. Anyway the use of those variotrams is arguably of more use then refurbishing 70+ year old trams to trundle around a zero fare route at 30 kph!!!

Michael
mejhammers1

When those bumblebee trams were bought the vario's were not available for purchase were they? Don't assume either that the Vario's are even compatible with the Melbourne network and lastly those Varios had leaking AC, doors not shutting properly and that was why the NSW government bought 12 brand new Urbos 3 trams instead. Loftus getting 1 or 2 for heritage purposes is a good idea but they will be a static display.
  Matthew Chief Train Controller


None of the above posts answers the question “If Variotrams are so good why didn’t Sydney keep them?”.
kitchgp


The Variotrams were due for their 'mid life' overhaul. Some of the electronic parts were becoming a little difficult to get - so it was time for a strip and rebuild.
Remember they had already scrapped 06 for parts.

CAF who had the maintenance contract for the fleet offered the government new trams for such an 'attractive' price that it didn't look like a good deal spending 3/4 or more the price of a new tram on an old tram when they could get new ones for a 'little bit more'. It also made the fleet homogeneous which hopefully resulted in a lower cost for maintence services.

The exact details would be buried in the commercial contracts between CAF and TfNSW.

The basic problem with the Variotrams was the small fleet size, unlike the Melbourne Z3 and later, which while having electronic controls too, have large enough fleets that the special spares are not so much of an issue (Parts held for a much larger number vehicles, so the cost is spread out further)
  kitchgp Chief Commissioner

Thanks for the information.
  Heihachi_73 Chief Commissioner

Location: Terminating at Ringwood
Melbourne has a whole stack of new e class trams on order and being constructed. Why would you want Sydney's hand me downs?
"simstrain"

Because these new trams are all being wasted on exactly two routes of the entire network. By 2020 you could probably set up a line of E class trams bumper to bumper from one end of route 96 to the other while everyone else (except route 86) misses out.

The Citadis (C1) and Combino trams are literally falling apart, being cheap and nasty off-the-shelf makes designed for flawless European light rail track, not for running on sixty year old jointed (or badly welded) rails which haven't had so much as some concrete poured next to them in the passing decades.

The air conditioning is terrible on Citadis trams, as is the ride quality (if any tram deserves to have a speed restriction of 30 km/h, it is the C1), and both the Citadis and Combino trams have the worst excuse for seating comfort ever since the wooden seats of the W2s. The seat padding is like taking a cardboard box and covering it with a piece of fabric. Speaking of W2s, Melbourne doesn't even have any outside of being stuffed and mounted in the museum, despite them being the original shape of the W class tram. The only W class trams left in service are all post-war models. The last W2 in service was Restaurant Tram 01 (W2 442), which I believe was decommissioned since it didn't have a pantograph, track brakes or any other safety features added since the start of this millennium. Said tram is now rotting away alongside the rest of the retired W class fleet.
  TrainLover222 Junior Train Controller

Location: ...And then all stations to Central
Melbourne has a whole stack of new e class trams on order and being constructed. Why would you want Sydney's hand me downs?

Because these new trams are all being wasted on exactly two routes of the entire network. By 2020 you could probably set up a line of E class trams bumper to bumper from one end of route 96 to the other while everyone else (except route 86) misses out.

The Citadis (C1) and Combino trams are literally falling apart, being cheap and nasty off-the-shelf makes designed for flawless European light rail track, not for running on sixty year old jointed (or badly welded) rails which haven't had so much as some concrete poured next to them in the passing decades.

The air conditioning is terrible on Citadis trams, as is the ride quality (if any tram deserves to have a speed restriction of 30 km/h, it is the C1), and both the Citadis and Combino trams have the worst excuse for seating comfort ever since the wooden seats of the W2s. The seat padding is like taking a cardboard box and covering it with a piece of fabric. Speaking of W2s, Melbourne doesn't even have any outside of being stuffed and mounted in the museum, despite them being the original shape of the W class tram. The only W class trams left in service are all post-war models. The last W2 in service was Restaurant Tram 01 (W2 442), which I believe was decommissioned since it didn't have a pantograph, track brakes or any other safety features added since the start of this millennium. Said tram is now rotting away alongside the rest of the retired W class fleet.
Heihachi_73
Isn't the W2 class was used on the city circle? Upon travelling to Melbourne, it is quite notable the age of most of the fleet. Not sure if this is true, but I presumed that the tram system ran quite well
  simstrain Chief Commissioner

Melbourne has a whole stack of new e class trams on order and being constructed. Why would you want Sydney's hand me downs?

Because these new trams are all being wasted on exactly two routes of the entire network. By 2020 you could probably set up a line of E class trams bumper to bumper from one end of route 96 to the other while everyone else (except route 86) misses out.

The Citadis (C1) and Combino trams are literally falling apart, being cheap and nasty off-the-shelf makes designed for flawless European light rail track, not for running on sixty year old jointed (or badly welded) rails which haven't had so much as some concrete poured next to them in the passing decades.

The air conditioning is terrible on Citadis trams, as is the ride quality (if any tram deserves to have a speed restriction of 30 km/h, it is the C1), and both the Citadis and Combino trams have the worst excuse for seating comfort ever since the wooden seats of the W2s. The seat padding is like taking a cardboard box and covering it with a piece of fabric. Speaking of W2s, Melbourne doesn't even have any outside of being stuffed and mounted in the museum, despite them being the original shape of the W class tram. The only W class trams left in service are all post-war models. The last W2 in service was Restaurant Tram 01 (W2 442), which I believe was decommissioned since it didn't have a pantograph, track brakes or any other safety features added since the start of this millennium. Said tram is now rotting away alongside the rest of the retired W class fleet.
Heihachi_73

So basically the c1 and combino's are in the same state as the variotrams are. The vario's were end of life and don't be fooled into thinking that they would help Melbourne's system out. Melbourne needs to modernise the overhead to 750v along it's entire length and then maybe the E's can go elsewhere.
  kitchgp Chief Commissioner

600V. Been used for the Australian Open and other special events.
  Heihachi_73 Chief Commissioner

Location: Terminating at Ringwood
Isn't the W2 class was used on the city circle? Upon travelling to Melbourne, it is quite notable the age of most of the fleet. Not sure if this is true, but I presumed that the tram system ran quite well
"TrainLover222"

W2s haven't been used in service since the 80s or early 90s I believe, long before the City Circle was born. The typical "City Circle" tram is the last shape of W class tram, the W6/SW6 or W7 (formerly SW5, but they have all since been retired). The W8 class is merely a refurbishment rather than a new tram type.

W2s were the original shape of Melbourne's trams, and had canvas blinds instead of doors (the first design of these trams was simply called W, being later upgraded to W1, and then W2). The SW2 upgrade added sliding doors to the trams, but most W2s were left as-is and were the most numerous of the W class fleet.

This link shows the differences between the various W classes:
http://www.tramway.org.au/collections_mmtb.html

In a way, Yarra Trams running only W6/W7/W8 trams on the City Circle is sort of like having a Holden museum where they only have VF Commodores on display. Smile

So basically the c1 and combino's are in the same state as the variotrams are. The vario's were end of life and don't be fooled into thinking that they would help Melbourne's system out. Melbourne needs to modernise the overhead to 750v along it's entire length and then maybe the E's can go elsewhere.
"simstrain"

600V is still within tolerance, all of the low floor trams in Melbourne are designed for 750V but still operate on 600V. I believe this is also the case with Adelaide's network too, and many other places around the world.

If we upgraded from 600V to 750V however, it may cause the older W/Z/A/B class trams to be overvolted by the 25% increase in power. Going down from 750V to 600V is only a 20% decrease in voltage, it just means the trams operate slightly slower than they should or take a few more amps or whatever. It's better to have a little less voltage than overvolting something. I wouldn't want to set my mains voltage to 300V AC, but 190-200V would most likely be fine for a 230-240V device. A simple device such as a vacuum cleaner might not care, but I just wouldn't trust 300V going to my PC's or TV's power supply.

The E class restriction is just red tape and depot pecking order. Route 96 has long been the poster child for Melbourne, even back in the 1970s it was the route which had the first modern tram in Melbourne, PCC 1041 (the prototype of the Z class). Going back even further to the 1950s, the Bourke Street route was also the one to get the brand new W7s when they came out, which had softer suspension compared to the older trams.
  TrainLover222 Junior Train Controller

Location: ...And then all stations to Central
Isn't the W2 class was used on the city circle? Upon travelling to Melbourne, it is quite notable the age of most of the fleet. Not sure if this is true, but I presumed that the tram system ran quite well

W2s haven't been used in service since the 80s or early 90s I believe, long before the City Circle was born. The typical "City Circle" tram is the last shape of W class tram, the W6/SW6 or W7 (formerly SW5, but they have all since been retired). The W8 class is merely a refurbishment rather than a new tram type.

W2s were the original shape of Melbourne's trams, and had canvas blinds instead of doors (the first design of these trams was simply called W, being later upgraded to W1, and then W2). The SW2 upgrade added sliding doors to the trams, but most W2s were left as-is and were the most numerous of the W class fleet.

This link shows the differences between the various W classes:
http://www.tramway.org.au/collections_mmtb.html

In a way, Yarra Trams running only W6/W7/W8 trams on the City Circle is sort of like having a Holden museum where they only have VF Commodores on display. Smile

So basically the c1 and combino's are in the same state as the variotrams are. The vario's were end of life and don't be fooled into thinking that they would help Melbourne's system out. Melbourne needs to modernise the overhead to 750v along it's entire length and then maybe the E's can go elsewhere.

600V is still within tolerance, all of the low floor trams in Melbourne are designed for 750V but still operate on 600V. I believe this is also the case with Adelaide's network too, and many other places around the world.

If we upgraded from 600V to 750V however, it may cause the older W/Z/A/B class trams to be overvolted by the 25% increase in power. Going down from 750V to 600V is only a 20% decrease in voltage, it just means the trams operate slightly slower than they should or take a few more amps or whatever. It's better to have a little less voltage than overvolting something. I wouldn't want to set my mains voltage to 300V AC, but 190-200V would most likely be fine for a 230-240V device. A simple device such as a vacuum cleaner might not care, but I just wouldn't trust 300V going to my PC's or TV's power supply.

The E class restriction is just red tape and depot pecking order. Route 96 has long been the poster child for Melbourne, even back in the 1970s it was the route which had the first modern tram in Melbourne, PCC 1041 (the prototype of the Z class). Going back even further to the 1950s, the Bourke Street route was also the one to get the brand new W7s when they came out, which had softer suspension compared to the older trams.
Heihachi_73
I believe that the voltage can be decreased once the electricity is transferred down the pantograph. Would I be correct?
  GeoffreyHansen Minister for Railways

Location: In a FAM sleeper
I don't know how feasible this is but I would love to see a Variotram do a run on the National Park line.

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