SLEEPING CARS: AZ 434, 435, 436, 439
During 1928/29 ten new sleeping cars and one ministerial car of the same design were constructed at the WAGR Midland Junction Workshops. These coaches were built to improve the standard of accommodation on the WAGR’s portion of the Transcontinental journey from Perth to Kalgoorlie. The coaches were of a new design type and originally provided sleeping accommodation for twenty persons in ten 2-berth compartments. The corridors were staggered, running half the length of the coach on one side, the change being made at the centre vestibule in which also contained entrance doors. Equal distribution of weight, smooth running and greater accessibility were endured by the adoption of this layout.
The cars remained first class throughout their working lives and were only displaced as the WAGR’s most prestigious sleeping car when 6 AH steel sleeping cars were introduced in the late 1940’s.
The ministerial car AM 444 was built to the same design, but fitted out as living quarters for administrative staff. However a shortage of first class compartment sleeping cars after the Second World War saw it refitted as a standard AZ and renumbered 433. The fitting of a shower and guard’s compartment to the AZ type in 1947 was achieved by converting one end compartment in each car. This reduced the sleeping accommodation to 18 persons.
With the end of the narrow gauge sleeping trains to Kalgoorlie in 1971, the AZ’s were rostered on overnight services to Geraldton and Albany. The last overnight narrow gauge passenger train to run in WA was the “Albany Progress” which ceased operation in November 1978. This made the AZ coaches surplus and the Hotham Valley Railway purchased three of these cars, numbers 434, 436 and 439 and has the use of another, 435, which is owned by a member.
These coaches are stored up at Dwellingup in the carriage shed and are regularly used on extended tour trains and accommodation at regional country events. These coaches remain in their original condition and bring back the memories of the narrow gauge sleeping trains that once were an integral part of transportation throughout Western Australia.
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