We start this Friday Flashback by turning the clock right back to 1968. On the 23rd of May 1968, experimental Tulloch double deck driving power car C3804 was rolled out of Tulloch Engineering’s factory at Rhodes. Whilst the Tulloch double deck trailer cars had been in operation since February 1964, C3804 represented the very first step towards a full train of double deck stock in not only Australia, but the world. Along with power cars C3801-3 and trailer cars T4839, 4840, 4843 and 4844, this set became the first all double decker set to be given the S code, which became the norm from here on out. Although not without problems, S10 showed the future direction for Sydney’s suburban rail fleet to head in.
Following on from this in March 1972, the very first car of the production order for double deck suburban stock was rolled out. Constructed by Comeng and numbered C3805, this car was the first of what was to be a grand total of 509 cars over many contracts built by both Comeng and Goninans (359 built by Comeng and 150 built by Goninans) to make up the Double Decker Surburban fleet. Over the years they operated under numerous codes including T, L, R and even PK for the locomotive hauled Port Kembla sets used before electrification extended down the South Coast, but they are best remembered for running in 4 car sets under the S target, primarily as 8-car blocks.
After many, many years of successful running, the death blow was sounded for the S-sets with the expression of interest for, and subsequent ordering of, the first contract of Waratah/A-sets. These brand new, state of the art trains were ordered with one of their main goals being the replacement of the unairconditioned S-sets. The first line to have the S-sets officially withdrawn was the Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra Line in March 2013 in a reshuffling of sets around the network, removing the sets to other lines for services. With the delivery into service of A80 in June 2014, the first batch of withdrawals and some scrapping came about. However, a reprise was given to the sets, with not enough A sets having come into service to cover all of the S-sets with an increase in patronage over the network as well as opening of the South-West Rail Link.
The final blow to the S sets came with the announcement and subsequent placing into service of the 24 Waratah Series 2/B-sets in 2018 and 2019. These sets replaced the last 48 4-car S sets (running as 24 8-car sets), finally bringing us to today and the close of 51 years of S-set service on Sydney’s tracks. From transporting the Queen in 1980, all the way down to serving Sydney non-stop for 47 years, there isn’t much the old S sets didn’t do and not many places in Sydney they have failed to pass through over the years.
Bon voyage and farewell to the gamechangers of Sydney rail services.