Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The brown (and green) vinyl mission – Part II

A year had passed since the last successful hunt for original brown seat hides and again we found the trail leading us to 2 cars worth of booty at the Valley Heights heritage precinct.


Originally designated as the RTM’s 620/720 set to be preserved, 636/736 had once been the subject of cleaning and initial restoration efforts by the dedicated Valley Heights volunteers. With the allocation of Newcastle sets to the core heritage collection it was decided that 636/736 had no place in the heritage collection and was stored at Valley Heights pending a decision on its future. After several years of neglect and the inevitable graffiti and vandal attacks, it was offered unsuccessfully to interested heritage parties, and then eventually was advertised for sale by tender by RailCorp and bought by a scrap merchant.

pre strip seats

While suffering from extensive floor rot and body corrosion and having been already stripped of many fittings, 636/736 contained a full set of original brown and green stamped seats in very good condition which were ideal to complete a refit of a heritage 620/720 set - just like 629/729! A call to the successful scrap merchant resulted in a sale of the internal fittings for a price much less than the new upholstery costs being contemplated and so the vinyl recovery mission (part II) commenced.

pre strip partition

Not only did the set contain the much sought after seats but it also retained the wooden trailer car partition which segregated the first and “variable” class sitting areas in the cab half of the car.


Over several days the usual suspects set to work unbolting the seats and other reusable non metal fittings and soon had the cars looking much more spacious.


636/736 were constructed as “Country cars” originally allocated to Dubbo working and despite their original configuration variations were constructed using components standard to all the cars. The bathroom vanities and basins would be hard to replicate so having spares in stock is a big bonus.


As is the norm for these kind of activities several “artefacts” were discovered during the stripping works and the collection below provides a culture snapshot from the last days of the sets Illawarra service. The half fare single ticket to Dapto was dated for travel in July 1995 and the Orchy bottle dated to expire in September 1996. It appears that all items were utilised well before the required limits but perhaps not within the guidelines of their intended use.


Ultimately fitted to all cars, the trailer car saloon partition was introduced to country cars to provide a segregated section of dedicated first class seats in the cab end of the trailer car. The adjoining area which was also partitioned by the wash room compartment walls, was used as a variable class area fitted with 12 seats. While normally allocated as second class, a wall mounted hinged sign was able to be reversed to denote “First” and in periods of high demand extra first class passengers could be accommodated.


In later day working Newcastle based sets had the partition removed but in the Illawarra they were left in place and cars like 736 were withdrawn with them intact.

After dismantling the framework and removing the securing screws the partition was broken down into components and will eventually be reinstated in 729.

partition down

Another hard to reproduce item is the hinged “class” sign which was fortunately still in place and will also be reinstated.


After a long day removing seats Jamie pauses with the “spanners” in the stripped cab of 736 and indulges in thoughts of the many drivers that had sat there before him.


Another day and more work to finish the job is underway.

With the seats dismantled the components are walked through the cars to load into the truck for transport to storage.


Outside the seat squabs have their centre arm rests removed to facilitate more compact storage.


In later days many cars had their armrests removed but the ones “down the coast” survived.

scwab armrest

Two nuts on the underside hold them in position….


arm rest off

…and once undone the components can be stacked flat.


All the vinyl components are stamped originals and comprise of a combination of NSWGR, NSWTD, PTCNSW & SRANSW markings.


Stacked up in the truck ready to go 2 cars worth of seats more than filled the truck.

seat backs

With the seats all out 636/736 is ready for its last empty car movement.

seats removed

Farewell 736/636.

736 tartar

Off down the mountain and across the flat to the storage yard more activity saw the truck contents transferred and sorted into a container.


A 20 footer may look big but it sure fills up fast!


The seat frames and end arm rests were separated to facilitate better storage and minimise damage

seat ends

…and a test polish performed to anticipate how good they’ll look.

stacked up

Another hunt for brown and green vinyl may be over but the seat fun still has a way to run.