Redhen Railcars bring back many great memories of train travel around Adelaide from the 1950s when they first started to appear until they were finally dropped from our city’s transport system in the early 1990s. They weren’t the most comfortable trains, without any airconditioning and with vynil seats that stuck to your skin on a hot summer’s day, and yet when we posted an article and a photo on the Redhen last year on the Facebook page, many people commented that they had wonderful memories of travelling on the train.
Redhens were really the backbone of the rail system for over 40 years. Built at the Islington Railways Workshops, back in the day when we built things ourselves, they operated on all the STA routes and replaced the steam engines that were still rattling around Adelaide until the early 50s.
Poster Darren Wintulich recalled that “Tickets were 40 cents for peak & 20 cents off peak. You could take your bike & have the doors open with the wind in your hair on a hot day!! You could also always have a chat with the friendly driver . The ticket man would punch your paper ticket with a ticket punch & if you didn’t have a ticket he would always sell you one with no fuss! Carole Roberts had fond memories too! “As kids we used to ride this train in the baggage car with our bikes. We would board at Mitcham, get off at Belair, then ride downhill, screaming down Belair Road back home. It was so much fun! No helmets or gears on the bike in those days! I remember it cost 15c for the fare and 10c for the bike.
Jason Tan contributed; “I used to love riding with those doors wide open in the “baggage” car with my pushie. And in those days the rush hour trains were 7 cars long – you could actually get a seat!! And the platforms at Adelaide were about 50 miles long (or so it seemed!) and I think there were 10 or 12 of them. And the “Ask the man in blue in the timetable box thing (its a coffee stand now). Aaaah, the good’ol days”!
Like Darren I remember the trains were very hot in summer and of course cold in winter. I’m not a train buff so my memory of the train is more to do with appearance, comfort and memories but here’s a few notes from Wikipedia;
“The Redhens comprised two designs:-
- 300 class had a driving cab at one end of each railcar. These needed to run in 2-car formations.
- 400 class had driving cabs at both ends, and could be used as a single car when needed, or in multiple with other railcars to make up longer trains.
The Redhens were built in three batches. The overall design of the railcars was very similar, the exterior was always painted red, with variations in the colour of roofs and bogies over the years. The interior design and layout remained largely unchanged throughout their life. Some 300 class units were modified to provide guard’s accommodation or space for bikes when the 860 class trailers were withdrawn in 1987.
Following the introduction of the State Transport Authirity’s new 2000 class rail cars in 1980, two 300 class Redhens and an 860 class trailer were chosen for an experimental rebuild nicknamed Super Chooks (a chook is a chicken inAustralian vernacular). The exercise was not successful and no more Redhens were modified. The Super Chooks saw only limited passenger service before they were withdrawn in 1992.
Whilst in service the Redhens were mechanically robust and reasonably reliable; they were attractive options for use on heritage and tourist railways after retirement. However, their age, and the increasing service time since overhaul, has affected their reliability in preservation. Some continue to operate on lines in south-eastern Australia. Many have been broken up, but the first and last units and a few others still exist”.
What memories do you have of the Redhen trains?