Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Water Wagons

When we look at photos/videos and observe water wagons on trains, we think their role is to supply water for steam locomotives. Today and for the last 50 plus years it has been the “NORM” to see water wagons on heritage trains. When in fact steam locomotives in their hay days did not require them all that often.

During the steam era watering station were placed to meet the requirements of a locomotives without using water wagons. Adding water wagons to trains reduced the pay load on a train. Steam locomotives could travel approximately 40 miles before needing to refill the tender with water. Locomotives with larger tenders on passenger trains often skipped some watering stations for a faster run. At each watering station 10 minutes was allocated for loco. The driver would inspect the locomotive using a hammer to check tightness of wedges, nuts etc, and oil the value gear and axle’s boxes if required.  The fireman would clean the fire and the cab. Towards the end of the trip he may shovel coal forward in the tender. The guard would come up and take water. All three men worked as a team them days. At some locations when working passenger trains the engine would come off the train at the platform and run forward to the pit to do loco. There was always time to swing the billy in the firebox for a cuppa. The driver provided the billy, billy boiler (a length of steel with a hoop to hold the billy) and the tea leaves. Most crews carried a personal issue water bag for drinking water. All locos did have a drinking water tank mounter in the tender, but there was always a question about there internal cleanness and were did the water come from. Most watering locations had a small hose to clean the cab or wet the coal.  

 Water for steam locomotives came from various scores, thus some were better than others for steaming. Some depots added chemicals to the water to improve steaming.   In the steam era there was various classes of water wagons, the underframes were from other wagons, mostly a timber frame and a steel tank was added. Most tanks were rectangular, a few round tanks were used. The size of the tank was around the carrying capacity of the wagon when filled with water. Both four and eight wheeled wagons were used. Four wheeled wagon classes, TW, FW, FFW, FJW, and the majority were FGW class wagons with a capacity of 2125 gallons. Eight wheeled wagon classes, HW, SW, SJW, UW. There were often differences within the class with different frame structure, tank sizes and shape. Steel WW and GWW were built in 1954 and were available to be used on passenger trains.

TW Wagons

FW Wagon

  FGW Wagon

SGW Wagon

37 at St Lawrence 1967. FFW Water Wagon.
The 1960 Commissioners Report show the following wagons is service. Water Trucks – Miscellaneous Classes TW, SW, FW, & (includes one each SW, SJW, and UW for molasses). (27 – 8 Wheel, 36 - 4 wheel). The year before (1959) where was 68 wagons in service. Water trucks FG Class – Grovers bogie (includes 2 temporarily converted to flat-top) and lettered FGWP, total in service 180. In 1959 where was 195. WW water wagons (3,750 gallons) Available for passenger trains – 15 in service. GWW water wagons (3,750 gallons) for Garratt Locos, Available for passenger trains – 10 in service. As a side note, the report shows 3 – OWX eight wheel oil tank wagons converted water tanks. Later they became WE wagons # 29397, 29398, 29399 used for bitumen on loan to Boral. At first they were WX wagons (Capacity 5,000 gals, gross weight 40 tons) intended for use on the Midlander.
SJW Wagons


SW Wagons

HW Wagons
  HW, WW, GWW Wagons.

UW Water Wagons

 GWW as built.
WW Wagons after 1969. Light Grey paint.  
WW wagons after 1985. Red Circle wagons.
Roller bearing bogies. (off Sunshine Cars ??)
After the steam era a number of loco tenders were coupled in pairs and used as water wagons LTW, similarly they was used in molasses traffic classed LTM. 
  LTW Wagons BB18¼ Tenders

LTW Wagons C 17 Tenders

Some were painted orange and added to weed spray trains.


In the 1960’s water wagons were called water gins, the term was changed following a reported misunderstand with a Guard talking to Train Control.  Detaching a wagon from a train was often referred to as “knocking it off”.  A female aboriginal was also called a gin. I will let you work it out how an miss understand could occur if you have aboriginal station mistress and a guard talking to Control about detaching a water wagon.

 As above, steam locomotives did not use water wagons all that much. I recall see water wagons on the double header C17’s hauled “Westlander”.  A watering station was out of order. The PB15 hauled “Westlander” between Charleville and Cunnamulla had a WW water wagon as standard, the crews indicated it was up hill both ways. It was flat country and trains steamed for the full trips, there was no shut offs or coasting. The water wagon reduced the number of water stops required. Trains doing ballasting and maintenance work returning before reaching the next watering station would take a water wagon.

When in Mackay for the sugar season the North Eaton (Victoria) trains took a water wagon. The train consisted of a C17 locomotive, water wagon, 14 sugar/molasses wagons and a van. The train travelled the Netherdale Branch to Newberry Junction and branched off for Eaton. At Eaton the wagon were pushed into the mill, engine and water wagon were turned for the rear trip, once the first seven wagons were loaded (a full load) you would leave for Newberry. At Newberry the wagons were placed in a siding, the engine, water wagon and van would return to Eaton for the next seven wagons. Once the last seven wagons were loaded the train would come back Newberry, the first seven were picked up and the train continued back to Mackay, the job often took 11/12 hours and their was no watering station. All up a total of 55 miles was travelled, three hours was allocated in the time table for the trip from Mackay to Eaton, a distance of 20 miles.

Mackay elevation was 17 feet above sea level, Newberry Junction 115 feet, Vinco just 3 miles past Newberry was 155 feet and Eaton just 110 feet. My first trip to Eaton was the daylight train, on reaching Vince looking out the front there was nothing in front of the engine, the track dropped away just like a big dipper. On returning the three miles from Eaton to Vince was some trip, you took off like a charging bull to reach the bottom of the hill as fast as you could, by the time you reached the bottom of the hill, the tender was pig rooting, it was a full time job just keeping the tucker box on the tender. Half way up the hill you could walk faster. Engines often carried a large drum of sand on the footplate beside the sand done. 

Water wagons all looked the same when in fact there was two very different types/ roles the wagons were used for. All wagons had a side delivery pipe on each side with a canvas hose attached.  Some had end delivery pipes as well, these were the ones used with steam locomotives. Other did not have end delivery pipes, these were used to supply drinking water to isolated locations or work sites. These wagons were stencilled “drinking water only”, some had a red band painted around the tank. Some were stencilled with stations in which they operated. On the forward journey they were marshalled behind the hauling locomotive. Trackside tanks requiring water would display a white flag/disc to indicate water was required. The fireman and guard would do the work. A timber plank would ride in the frame under the tank, this was used to carry the canvas hose from the wagon to the tank.

 The back pages of the “Working Time Table” shows trains and days allocated to carry out this work. On some trains the wagon was taken off the train at a set stations to reduce the turnaround time returning wagons back to its depot. Water wagons returning to their depot station were marshalled to operational requirements, in other words they could be anywhere on the train.  

The 1973 North Coast Line Working Time Table shows the following for Gympie to Brisbane.

Supply of Drinking Water North Coast
Petrie to Landsborough;   439 Mondays (Detach Nambour for 468 Up).

Train 439 is shown in the Working Timetable as the Bundaberg Goods:- Will clear all short north loading, including Kingaroy Branch, Monto Branch, Mary Valley Branch, and if room available clear Bundaberg and Gladstone loading.  Monday will also convey loading for stations Dakabin to Beerwah. When required, convey consignments of fruit from Palmwoods, Nambour, Cooroy or Pomona for stations Gympie and beyond and suitable accommodation (my guess a box wagon) must be supplied on the train from Mayne. Fruit for stations north of Maryborough will be trainshipped at Gympie to be cleared by 275. 439 may attach loading at stations Cooroy or north thereof for the Maryborough District.     


Mayne Yard dep. 4:50 am

Nambour 8:12 – 45 Meal and cross 312,200.

Yandina 8:56 – 9:01

Gympie 11:50 – 2:00 PM

Bundaberg arr. 9:26 PM.
Landsborough to Yandina; 483 Wednesday (Return 462 to Mayne).

483 is the Landsborough to Yandina shunt from Mayne.

 Yandina to Pomona; 493 Sunday 7S Mondays (Return 10S Nambour, 468 Mayne).

493 Sunday shunts Elimbah to Yandina, later in the morning forms train 7S to Pomona  returning to Nambour as 10S.  
Train 439 near Tandur

Gympie to Woondum;   462 Mondays and Thursdays (Detach Cooran for return 491 to Gympie). Tandur to Cooran; 462 Wednesdays (Detach Cooran for return 491 to Gympie).
Train 462 Up will convey sand from Gympie and will shunt and do roadside work as required at stations Monkland to Yandina (inclusive), but will not shunt between Yandina and Zillmere except at Woombye and Palmwoods on Mondays to Thursday to attach a wagon of Roma Street fruit or at stations to detach livestock from Yandina and beyond. Roadside loading for Brunswick Street must be forwarded, as far as possible by this train. 462 will convey Interstate fruit for transhipping at Clapham, Sydney and Melbourne fruit must as far as possible be loaded in separate wagons. Trains must be marshalled as follows, Engine, Melbourne fruit only, wagons containing both Melbourne and Sydney fruit, Sydney fruit. Monday to Friday 462 departs Gympie at 2:25 PM, Cooran 3:57 – 4:12, Yandina 7:48 – 8:23, change crews with 101 (Maryborough Pass), Woombye 8:42 – 9:12, Palmwoods 9:12 – 9:47, Caboolture 10:56 – 11:40, detach pineapple at Northgate, via Central to Roma Street arr, 1:13 am. The change crews with 101, I have seen his occur at Landsborough. Gympie crews would not go past Landsborough on this job. Regardless where the change took place, the arrival time back in Gympie would be the same on train 101.

 Any instances of Short Supply or Extra requirements will be referred to “Trains” Roma Street, for attention.

 You may say this is a lot of water for locations so near to Brisbane, most stations north of Caboolture at this time did not have council water connected. Towns near Nambour and Cooroy had town water. Water was also supplied to work sites between stations, I.e. concrete gangs working on bridges, culverts etc.

 Some water wagons were allocated to travelling gangs in camp wagons. Others were specially built for the rail grinder when it entered service.

CWM, CW, CJ and FGW. Gang camped at Glenroy Siding near Charleville

RGW water for the Rail Grinder (WHA Underframe).

 Some were allocated to supply chromated water to smaller diesel depots. A first this was a single loco tender with draw hooks and buffers at both ends. Later a WW was allocated to this traffic, a blue band around the centre of the tank identified it special use of this the WW. 

Water wagons between jobs were stored mainly in the station yard in an allocated road. Shunt crews would fill the water wagons from town water supply and add them to the train.   

Prior to 1969, water wagons were painted black/dark grey, after 1969 the colour changed to the standard freight grey. Likewise the side delivery hose also changed. 

After 1980 timber framed four wheeled wagon were being removed from traffic. This saw a number of tanks transferred to steel framed bogie wagons, mainly cut down CMIS refrigerated wagons.Plan P – 389A shows PCW 43648, 43757 in service 1984, 43647 in 1983,

Plan P – 389 shows PCWT 43650, 43653, 43755 in service 1984, 43762 in 1987, 43763 in 1988.  Capacity 9 660 Litres.  The new wagons were classed PCW and if fitted with auto/transition couplings PCWT.


Plan P – 408 WSE 45352 – 45361 in service 1986, Stainless steel tanks supplied by Rheem with a capacity of 24 000 litres. The underframe were a cut down BLCT louvred wagons. Earlier 10 were built using WHE bulk wheat wagon underframes. (#31313, 31331, 31352, 31403, 31404, 31411, 31483, 31508, 31533, 31575). In later years WSE wagons were used in molasses traffic. Most were out of service by 2007, about 6 were allocated to the heritage fleer, and a couple are in maintenance traffic.   

WSE on BLC Underframe

WSE on WHE underframe.

In 1987 instructions were issued not to supply wooden wagons for orders, eight wheeled timber framed wagon were on the way out. 

W/N 3/79 18 Jan 1979.
Ten (10) “WO” wagons being progressively introduced into traffic. (# 40185 – 40194). This was increased by another 10 (# 40751 – 40760) Commonwealth Engineering built all wagons. Capacity 45 500 litres of water. Stainless steel tanks.  In 1993, 13 were converted to “OWO” for molasses traffic, a length of chain was added to the filler to provide a guide as to the level required to avoid overloading. The other seven went to maintenance traffic, Track Laying Machine etc. 2008 most were written off due to fatigue. A least one is allocated to the heritage fleet. Several WO wagons were used to transport water from Mount Isa to Cloncurry in November and December 2008 due to drought conditions. Three WO and nine WSE wagons delivered a total of 75,000 litres of water per day.

 Approaching Biloela. 8 water wagons on the train
Angellala (Between Morven and Charleville)

On Westgate.
As a boy growing up in western Queensland, a water wagon on the layout was a must. My first water was made by my grade 7 school teacher. Thank you Graham, very much appreciated even today.  My train set had a red caboose (this vehicle was out of place on my railway), thus was converted a water wagon, the top was removed and a tank made from balsa was added. The top section became my first lineside structure.
 When I stared modelling QGR in H0n3½ in 1974, you guess it, one of the first wagons to be build was an FGW water wagon. A styrene water tank on a frame was mounted on Tri-ang TT underframe. The wagon is now part of the Westgate Museum to remind me of where I started and the standard we had them days.


The next water wagon was a Fox Kit WW water wagon, a must for me considering I would observe the Westlander leave Charleville with one attached to the PB 15 locomotive as above. This wagon over the years has had a number of different bogie. Still at work on the layout, not available today. PGC Scale Models recently has released it as a kit.     

The FGW on the layout today was scratch build from styrene and mounted on a Chiver’s fine scale underframe. The final UW wagon is scratch build and runs on Caintode Flats bogies.

Most likely these will not be the last water wagons for Westgate, more will follow down the track.




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