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Swing Door (train)

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Swing Door (train)

Swing Door
A Restored Swing Door at the Steamrail Open days in 2014
Manufacturer Victorian Railways
Built at Newport Workshops
Replaced Steam hauled carriages
Constructed 1887-1907 (built), converted 19
Entered service 1919 (as EMU cars)
Scrapped last in 1984
Number built 144 motor cars,
32 driving trailers,
112 trailers
Fleet numbers 1-164M (motor cars, with gaps),
1-32D (driving trailers),
1-111T, 126T (trailers)
Articulated sections None
Maximum speed 83 km/h (52 mph)
Traction system 4 x 105 kW GE239
Electric system(s) 1500V DC overhead
Restored Swing Door Carriage at Newport

Swing Door trains, commonly known as "Dogboxes" or "Doggies", were wooden-bodied electric multiple unit (EMU) trains that operated on the suburban railway network of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Swing Door cars had outward-opening doors. They were reasonably narrow, to ensure that two passing trains could not foul each other if doors were accidentally left open. At certain locations clearances were tight and there are stories of Swing Door cars losing doors that were not closed.[1] The fleet could be seen running in any arrangement, from one car (using a double-ended M car), up to eight cars.


  • History 1
  • Fleet 2
  • In service 3
  • Pre-electrification 4
  • Conversions for electrification 5
    • Driving motors - AM, ACM, ABM, ABCM, BM, BCM, M 5.1
      • ABCM 5.1.1
      • 156M, Jolimont Workshops yard pilot 5.1.2
      • Parcel motors CM 5.1.3
    • Driving trailers – ACD, BCD, D 5.2
    • Trailers – AT, BT, T 5.3
    • Set configuration 5.4
  • Equipment 6
  • Conversions and alterations 7
  • Retirement 8
  • Preservation 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


The Swing Door trains were originally 13.7-metre long (44 ft 11 in) steam-hauled bogie passenger cars, the majority of which had been built between 1887 and 1893. When converted to electric traction between 1917 and 1924, the cars were extended by two compartments to a total length of 17.4 metres (57 ft 1 in), and then fitted onto new under-frames and bogies.[2] The conversion process was suddenly halted in 1924, with partially converted cars being patched up and returned to service with their original codes and numbers.[1]

Converted Swing Door cars originally entered service with class codes such as 'ACM', 'BCM', and 'ABCD', indicating both class and type. In 1921 this was largely simplified to 'M' (Motor car), 'T' (Trailer car) and 'D' (Driving trailer),[1] with the majority of trailers being made first class and motor cars second class.[2] Some exceptions were the six AM motors (1, 8, 15, 46, 65 & 78), first-class carriages allowed to work at higher rates of acceleration. These six motors were used in E-Trains, where two electric motors would run with up to six regular passenger cars/vans; at Lilydale or Frankston the motor cars would cut off and be replaced with steam engines for running to Warburton/Healesville and Mornington/Stony Point respectively.


The maximum size of the Swing Door train fleet was:[2]

  • 144 'M' motor cars (1-164M excluding 5, 7, 22, 24, 27, 31, 33, 36, 38, 42, 45, 47, 52-3, 55-6, 58-61)
    • 1, 8, 15, 46, 65, 78 coded ACM then AM until 1958; allowed 850 Amperes for acceleration rather than 650.
    • 155-159, 162-164 double-ended and known as ABCM/ABM for a while; 157-159, 162-164 became CM vans in 10-15 range; 155 to Workmans Sleeper, 156 to Jolimont yards as shunter
    • 18M, 44M damaged in 1936, frames retained, bodies replaced with Tait style, renumbered 442M and 443M
  • 6 'CM' parcel motor vans
  • 32 'D' driving trailers
  • 112 'T' or 'BT' trailers ('BT' indicated second class)

In service


Conversions for electrification

Driving motors - AM, ACM, ABM, ABCM, BM, BCM, M


Motor cars 155 to 164 were originally intended to be built as single carriages for use on short or low-patronised lines, where it would not be worth rostering a steam locomotive and crew and providing overhead wiring would work out cheaper. Example routes were Hawthorn-Kew, Camberwell-Ashubrton (later Alamein) and Eltham-Hurstbridge.

These ten vehicles were to be constructed to appear similar to the rest of the Swingdoor motor fleet, with a large guard/driver compartment at one end. However, at the opposite end a very small driver-only compartment was added, with a rounded end to fit within the loading gauge. These carriages had eight compartments with room for ten passengers each. From the van end, the layout was for two compartments of 1st-smoking, two 1st, two for 2nd and two for 2nd-smoking, then the smaller drivers’ compartment.

When the first two cars, 2 and 3, entered service in 1917 they were class ABCM, though by 1923 the rest of the fleet was available for service with all cars coded simply M, with the number group 155-159, 162-164. ABCM 2 and 3 became 156M and 157M.

Like the rest of the suburban electric passenger fleet, the cars were painted all-over crimson with a black underframe and moonstone grey along the windows. This later changed to moonstone grey only on the window frames, and eventually the grey was removed altogether.

160M received its rear cab but it does not appear to have been used in single-carriage service; it is possible that the cab compartment was fitted but with no driver equipment installed. 161M never had the extra driving compartment added at the rear end.

Rostering confusion led most of the double-ended M cars to be recoded as ABM in the period 1929-1932, new number group 155, 157-159 and 162-164.

155ABM was converted to a workmens sleeper carriage, no. 70WW in 1959, and withdrawn from service in 1975. This was the only swing-door motor carriage to later become a workmens' sleeper of any type.

160M was withdrawn in 1974; 161M in 1969.

156M, Jolimont Workshops yard pilot

156M seems to have been left out of the ABM recoding because even at that early stage in its career it had been informally elected to the position of Jolimont yard pilot.[3] This would be formalised in 1963 when that car, along with single-ended 113M, would be withdrawn from passenger service, painted blue with a wide yellow band, and permanently allocated to the Jolimont yard pilot roster. To indicate this, small lettering was placed above the middle-side [5].

Near the end of its career, 156M was painted in all-over green in place of its previous blue scheme, though retaining the yellow stripe along the sides. The ends were painted white with a yellow outline, and the standard The Met yellow/green stripes along the lower edge of each end. [6] [7] [8]

Parcel motors CM

After World War II the population of Melbourne skyrocketed, and with it the need for suburban parcel traffic capacity. To answer the call, in 1955 157M was withdrawn from passenger service and converted to a parcel van as 10CM. In 1961 3CM was damaged, so 10CM had a raised cupola added in the middle for viewing of the overhead wiring.[3] The design was tweaked in 1962. Otherwise, the sides were completely stripped and replaced with a similar style to that of the Tait parcel van fleet, though the car maintained its thinner body of 8’6”. Outward-swinging doors were kept, in three pairs at spacing to divide the car into four roughly equal sections though the outer two were partial driver compartments. The guard facility at the raised-roof/pantograph end was retained. When complete, 10CM was painted in blue with a thick yellow stripe along the sides, curving to a point in the middle of the ends. The number and code was stencilled in white adjacent to the outer sets of doors, and either side of the middle door was advertising for the Victorian Railways’ parcel services, identical to the Tait design.

162M, 163M and 164M were converted in a similar fashion to 155M, with new identities 11CM, 12CM and 13CM respectively, and entering service in 1957 (11CM) and 1959 (12CM and 13CM).

That left 158M and 159M as the only passenger-service double-ended swing door electric cars. These were withdrawn from passenger service and recoded to 15CM (1964) and 14CM (1963), but only as a stopgap measure while 3CM and 10CM were busy with various electrification works, and so the conversions were minimised; seats were removed and a walkway down the centre was cut between all the compartment partitions, but the cars did not have the sides replaced, and they stayed red.

The temporary CM’s 14 and 15 were the first to be withdrawn in 1970, with 10CM following in 1972. 11CM lasted another eleven years, finally being withdrawn in 1983, and 12CM and 13CM were taken out of service in 1986 when the last of the railway parcels service dried up.

10CM is stored awaiting restoration at Newport Workshops, while 12CM and 13CM are in a similar position, stored at Moorooduc behind the Mornington railway workshops.

Driving trailers – ACD, BCD, D

As part of the swing-door conversion project, a fleet of driving-trailer carriages were constructed.

A total of 32 carriages were eventually built to this type of design. All weighed 26t 10cwt, with capacity for 30 smoking passengers and either 40 or 50 non-smoking passengers. Externally, all carriages were 8’6” wide, and length-wise numbers 1-19 and 24-27D were 59’9” over body, 61’8” over buffers, while 20-23 and 28-32D were 9¾” shorter in both dimensions. The first group of longer cars had their bogies spaced at 45’6½” and the second long group at 43’3½”. All the shorter cars had bogies spaced at 40’0”.

These had seven or eight compartments built like any standard trailer car, with a van on the end as a guard’s compartment as well as a small area reserved for the driver. The drivers’ compartment took the first 2’10½” and about half the width of the carriage, with the guard’s elevated seat directly opposite. The van measured 5’3¾” in the vast majority of D cars, exceptions being 14-16 (6’3¼”), 20-21 and 23 (5’6 15/16”) and 31-32 (5’9½”).

Passenger compartments varied in length and number. Each was rated for ten passengers, five on each bench, but the width of any given compartment could be anywhere from 5’9¼” to 7’3⅞”, with up to three sizes in any given vehicle.

As of 1915 there were 32 carriages destined to later become D type driving trailers. These were AC cars 5, 8, 10, 12, 17, 28, 29, 32, 34, 39, 52, 63, 70 and 139-143; ABC cars 17-20 and BC cars 6-7, 12, 29-30, 32, 36 and 39-41.

Between 1919-1921, all the AC first-class vans cars listed became ACD, first-class driving trailers, except no’s 63 and 70; all bar 12BC became BCD, and none of the ABC cars went to a classed electric carriage. By 1924, all thirty-two carriages had become first-class D cars.

All the ex-AC types had seven compartments except 63 and 70; those and the ex-ABC and BC cars were constructed with eight compartments. In all cases, three compartments were reserved for smoking passengers and the rest reserved for non-smoking.

The first swing-door D car withdrawn was 21D in 1951. 26D and 9D followed in 1956 and 1957 respectively, and withdrawals of the Swingdoor fleet accelerated from there. 18D and 22D were removed from service in 1962, and the next year took 4, 8, 10, 13, 20, 23 and 30. 3 and 5 in 1964, 7 and 11 in 1965, 14D in 1966 and 28D in 1967, then a short reprieve.

The final withdrawals were 1-2, 6, 15-17, 19, 25, 27 and 31-32 in 1973 and 12 and 29D in 1974.

24D stayed in service until 1979, when it was formally withdrawn for preservation. In 1981 the car was involved in a runaway and sustained damage, but this has since been repaired. This car is currently stored at Newport Workshops.

32D had been stored at Newport for years, but was scrapped in 2008.[4] The car was built with wooden headstocks which would have made operational restoration difficult; additionally it had been used as a parts donor for 24D and 12BT.

Trailers – AT, BT, T

This group encompasses one hundred and fifteen carriages, at different stages.

As of 1910, the bogie passenger fleet included a wide range of A, AB and B type carriages of around 45 ft length. These were respectively of the first, composite and second class, with capacities around the 70 mark each. Most of the carriages dated from the late 1880s, though 51B and 54B entered service in 1900, 5A and 77B were built in 1902, and 63B and 66B were built in 1904 and 1905 respectively. Within a year of the 1910 passenger rollingstock recoding, the bogie passenger fleet had underframes and bodies extended to increase the capacity of any given train (by wasting less space with couplers and buffers). Typically, two compartments were added to one end of each carriage, with a final over-body length of 57'4½". The original compartments in nearly all the carriages were 7x 6'3 1/8", with the two added compartments being shorter at only 6'0 11/16".

The three exceptions were carriages 49B, 51B and 79AB (108B from 1911). These cars had the same external dimensions, but 49B and 51B were originally built with six compartments of 6'1 5/16" and a seventh added at 6'11½"; and 79AB/108B's original seven compartments were three first class in the centre at 6'11" each, flanked by two 5'9¼" compartments either side for second class; later two standard 6'0 11/16" compartments were added at one end.

By the time carriages were being withdrawn from steam-hauled service for conversion to electric train trailers, the eventually-converted fleet comprised 25x 1st-class cars in the range 1A to 149A (very few consecutive, but the majority numbered 100 or higher), and a further 89 2nd class carriages, most in the number range 1-222 plus 129B and 134B. Those carriages were withdrawn and refitted with electric lighting and control cables for motor communication.

The conversions did not happen immediately, but by 1921 1st class trailers 1AT-12AT and 14AT-18AT, and conversion work was progressing for the fleet of second class trailers 1BT through (roughly) 100BT. In 1921 it was decided that having class segregation among each class of the suburban fleet was too difficult to manage appropriately, and so the trailers all became first class and the motors all second class. The AT carriages became 1-12T and 14-18T respectively, joined by 13T and 19-26T which had not been converted in time for the AT classification. BT cars became 27T through 111T plus 126T. 110T, 111T and 126T had been the odd vehicles 49B, 51B and 108B before conversion to electric stock.

As Tait-type rollingstock in the 1925-onwards batches entered service, some swing-door T cars were returned to steam passenger service, with modifications for electric running reversed and gas lighting reinstated, but extra compartments retained. The first three were 87BT, 94BT and 96BT. It is likely that if they had been converted to T trailer cars, they may have been numbered 113T, 120T and 122T, and it is possible that 126T had not been intended as the final class member. These three carriages were restored to their 1910 identities of 54, 63 and 66B respectively on 29 January 1924. All three cars had the same alternate compartment arrangement as 110T and 111T. However, in practice the numbers 112T-125T and 127T-199T were never filled with swingdoor rollingstock.

In 1929 further carriages were deemed unnecessary in the electric fleet, perhaps because the approaching Great Depression was discouraging suburban travel. In that year, carriages 6, 19-21, 24, 26, 43, 39, 100 and 101T were converted back to B type country carriages, but instead of claiming their old numbers they were identified as 162-171B, being tacked on to the end of the existing B class of carriages with 161B having the highest number at the time.

A further reduction of the T car series was made in 1940, when a shortage of second class carriages on the suburban system became evident. It is possible that during the war years, people may have been trying to save money and so were willing to buy second class tickets in lieu of first class. Fourteen of the swingdoor trailer fleet was recoded to BT, but keeping their T fleet numbers. This indicated the seats had been swapped out for second-class benches, and lettering on the carriage doors was altered to reflect this. The carriages affected were 4, 8 and 12 in 1940, followed by 29, 36, 38, 41, 42, 45, 64, 77, 79, 85 and 87T in 1941.

In 1954 some of the cars converted away from electric stock in 1929 returned to the swingdoor electric fleet. 162B and 163B returned to their previous identities of 6T and 19T respectively, but 165B, 168B, 171B and 169B became T cars 20, 21, 24 and 26, ignoring their previous identities of 21, 43, 101 and 39T.

In 1957 class designation on the Melbourne suburban system was abolished altogether, meaning that the fourteen BT trailers were no longer any different from the rest of the fleet (after seating was altered to the new standard). However, those cars kept their BT code, and they were joined by seventeen other vehicles to make the new total 31 BT trailers. It is not clear why this recoding occurred.

The first two withdrawals of T swingdoor cars were in 1953 and 1956, with 46T and 86T respectively. 26 (ex 39), 65, 70 and 166T were withdrawn in 1957, and twelve cars knocked out in 1958. Mass withdrawals started at the end of 1961 with 91T, and an average of ten cars per year were withdrawn from then through to the end of 1974. Some cars were converted to workmens sleepers, but the majority had valuable fittings removed, then were railed out to Allendale on the former North Creswick - Daylesford line, and burned. Withdrawals in this period averaged eight cars per year; fewer in the period 1967-1972 as the Hitachi fleet was designed and introduced into service, but many more either side of that period. The last two in service, withdrawn during the first half of 1974, were 76BT and 80T.

The carriages converted from steam to electric then back to steam but which did not return to electric later on - 54B, 64B, 66B, 164B, 166B, 167B and 170B - were withdrawn largely in line with their cousins.

Set configuration

When the conversion project was halted, the swingdoor fleet equalled 32 Driving Trailers, 112 regular Trailers, eight double-ended motors, six high-powered motors and one hundred and thirty regular motors. The core of the Tait fleet had also been delivered by 1927.

At that time, it is reasonable to assume that the break-up of the electric fleet was:

  • 5x Tait Parcels Vans
  • 8x Single-motor Cars (including 156M)
  • 3x M-M pairs for E-Trains; Lilydale for Healesville and Warburton, and Frankston for Mornington and Stony Point.
  • 42x M-D Pairs
  • 97x M-T-G Units
  • 116x M-T-T-M Blocks

For the majority of the day, the Blocks would have run most services, with the single motor cars running short distances like Ashburton and Hurstbridge, and the Pairs are known to have been reserved for flatter lines like Newport-Altona, if not worked in pairs (M-D-M-D) in place of a regular Block. In peak hours on quieter lines, the standard Block was supplemented with a Pair; on the busiest routes, a Unit would be attached. As noted in the Tait article, during the Easter and Christmas seasons, the G cars (T-type trailers with gas lighting available as well as electric) would be withdrawn from suburban service and utilised as extra capacity on country trains.

Double-block sets of M-T-T-M-M-T-T-M are not thought to have run until near the end of the swingdoor era, if not later. This is supported by platforms only being long enough for seven carriages, and electric substations were in the process of being upgraded and/or replaced around the same time as certain platforms were extended for eight-carriage trains.


General Electric traction equipment was fitted to the trains, of the same type as that in the Tait trains and enabling the trains to be operated in mixed sets using multiple-unit train control.[2]

Conversions and alterations

Six Swing Door M cars were converted to parcels vans (numbered 10CM to 15CM),[5] and two M cars, 156M and 113M, were modified for use as shunters in the Jolimont Workshops.[1]


From the late 1950s to 1970 the swing door trains were replaced by the Harris EMU trains. The last Swing Door trains in service were the parcel vans and the workshop shunters, that remained until the 1990s.[1]

Bogies from a number of scrapped Swing Door trains were reused under the Y class diesel locomotives built in the 1960s.


Only a handful of cars survived into preservation.

A further four carriages, 107M,[6] 12AT, 24D and 137M,[6] are owned by VicTrack and stored at Newport Workshops West Block under the care of Elecrail. The two motor cars were operational and the trailer car was "a few weeks away from restoration" until 1AM on 4 March 2015, when a fire caused massive damage to that part of the complex.[7][8][9][10][11][12] The remains of 12AT and 24D were cut up; the frame, undergear and bogies from 137M have been retained pending assessment, and 107M's cab is the only section of the body to have survived.[13]

  • 32D: Was preserved as a source of spare parts at Newport until 2008, when the leftovers of the vehicle were scrapped.


  1. ^ a b c d e Peter J. Vincent: M - Swing Door Suburban Motor Car
  2. ^ a b c d S.E. Dornan and R.G. Henderson: (1979) The Electric Railways of Victoria'
  3. ^ a b September 1989 Newsrail, pg271
  4. ^
  5. ^ Peter J. Vincent: M - CM - Suburban Parcels Coach
  6. ^ a b c Newsrail August 1991, pg254
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Newsrail July 2015, Vol.43, Issue 7, pg201

External links

  • Peter J. Vincent: Swing Door Electric Stock
  • Swing Door Trains
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