By Coffee Pot to Carlo - “Don’t Worry, she won’t blow up”    April 20, 1958 By David Burke
                                    Sydney’s last steam suburban train is on the way out... The “Carlo Express” will never seem the same again.
Carlingford Steam Railway
James Ruse High School boys waiting for the last steam train to take them home from School ........  and here comes that last steam train. 
Last steam train arriving at Eveleigh from Carlingford on Saturday 8th August 1959.
(But the eagle eyed will notice this is a different engine to the one in the photo above it.)
Boys' Sad Farewell
To Their Train
Sad-eyed schoolboys paid their final respects to the steam era in the metropolitan district as they listened to a bugle play "The Last Post" at Clyde station yesterday.

The boys -pupils of the Macquarie Boys' High School at Rydalmere and the Carlingford Agricultural High School farewelled the last steam train in which they travel to and from Clyde.

They decorated the three carriages with streamers bunting and "laid" a wreath on the front of the loco motive.
For tonight, the last passenger steam train service in the metropolitan area will be replaced by electric trains.

The line is the branch line from Clyde to Carlingford and has six stations on it.

The main station is Telopea, which serves about 4,000 people living in the Dundas Valley housing settlement.

Last Steam Train August 1959
With thousands of people lining the tracks to wave fare­well, the old "Mandarin express" yesterday made her last dash.

The "Mandarin" express, Sydney's last surviving suburban steam train, ran from Clyde to Carlingford.

It earned its name because the four and a half mile track was built 63 years ago to carry the produce of orchardists in the now densely populated Dundas Valley to the city.

From today, electric trains will take over the run, which has been equipped with overhead wires at a cost of £250,-000.

Nearly 400 members of the Railway Historical Society yesterday packed aboard a special excursion train - the last steam-driven train to run from Sydney to Carlingford.
They left Sydney in 1890 vintage carriages, pulled by an 1890 vintage "20 class" steam locomotive.
Enthusiasts included wives children, and visitors from other States.
The entire crew of the puffing locomotive, assistant chief mechanical engineer C. Cardew, loco, inspector Jack Sparks, driver Chris O'Sullivan and firemen Fred Stell are also members of the society.

Track lined
Thousands of people lined the track from Clyde to Carlingford, taking pictures and waving to the special train.

The secretary of the society, Mr Noel Thorpe, said:- “The electric train will save five minutes' running time and cost about £11,000 less to run, but we're sorry to see the "Mandarin" express go.”

We're going to get an electric train at last,” said the pigtailed schoolgirl, sliding her bag across the coal-dust on the ancient leather seat. “We've been getting an electric train for the last two years!” said her mate - the girl with the bandaged knee. “Yes. Well, we're going to get it now. Dad said so this morning ...

This week the Railways Department announced that the single track branch that runs up the hill from Clyde to Carlingford is to be converted to electric traction.

Housing development in the Dundas Valley and industrial growth along the Parramatta River have out­paced the train that was built to carry oranges, and the railways have “decided the service isn't good enough with steam”.

They'll spend £250,000 putting up the wires, making platforms and bridges and by December next, fast - but, oh! how impersonal - electric trains will snake their way   along  the track.

“The Carlo” (as the locals call it), with its tiny engines, biscuit box carriages and toy platforms, has long since be­longed to another age.

Little girls in blue
A few days ago I paid 2/ to sample her charms and got full value for my money. I helped mothers lift their prams up into the carriages, opened the doors for elderly women, yarned with the guard and the enginemen in their cramped cab.

Schoolchildren - hundreds of them - make up most of the payload in the mid-afternoon - little girls in blue tunics and straw hats who announce themselves from “Rosehill High” and boys in green blazers from Carlingford Junior Agricultural Collage.As long as they're aboard, the “Carlo” doesn't lack nicknames. In off-peak periods she is a railmotor they call the Tin Hare. In peaks she is a regular train pulled by a tall-funneled 20-class engine - that's the Coffee Pot. I chose the Coffee Pot.

Engine 2024, black, grimy and built in 1891, three equally ancient carriages were waiting when I took the 18-minute ride.

We puffed out of Clyde station, clattered across the Parramatta Highway in the face of a queue of frowning motorists, pish-tished through deserted Rosehill racecourse platform, boom-boomed over the lattice bridge that spans Parramatta River the   whistle blowing loud and long for the open level crossings that are a nightmare feature of the line.

These carriages ran on the, Newcastle Flyer in the old days,” the guard tells me. “Then they did up to 70 miles an hour. They never go more than 30 here, and that's downhill.”

The stations, stubby wooden and drab brown, are few and easy to memorize - Rosehill, Camellia, Rydalmere, Dundas, Telopea and Carlingford.

It's about time they did something about that Telopea platform,” a man says heatedly across the aisle. “it's made of old sleepers, I reckon, and so small you can't fit on to it when there's a crowd. The progress association's been moaning about it for years.

Beyond Rydalmere industry is forgotten and “the Carlo” begins its long, steep climb, winding among suburban backyards where men mow their lawns and washing flaps on lines.

The whistle hoots again. Childish voices yell up from beside the track. “Darn kids.” says the guard, leaning out. "I've got to watch 'em. Some of the boys jump off when we're going slaw on the hills to show how smart they are." How slow does she go? “Oh, about 15 miles an hour.”

Suddenly, before you realise it, the journey is over and it's Carlingford passengers are unloading . . . and up ahead, where the builders once planned a route leading on to Dural, the rusting rails die against a barrier of fences.

How many people who laugh at the quaint “Carlo” know that it has a claim to fame as the only private pas­passenger railway ever built in New South Wales?

It actually started as two railways - Mr Bennett's line, which ran from Clyde to Rosehill (and then down-river to a wharf at Sandown), and Mr Simpson's, which began at Rosehill and carried on to Carlingford. Simpson built his railway to carry the oranges - and their growers - from the orchards that once dotted these hills to Sydney. The Government made him put up a £3,000 deposit before he could lay a sleeper, though the money was to be refunded when £10,000 had been spent on construction.

He ran his first train on April 20, 1896 exactly 62 years ago today. Railway historians say “The Carlo's” early days are "shrouded in mystery and confusion." Certainly the line was trouble from the moment opened. It passed into the hands of the Bank of New Zealand, and finally was sold to the Government for mere £22,000 in 1900.

Steam spurts from valves
Nothing much has happened to it since then, except that a forest of houses have sprung up along the right-of-way where paddocks used to be, and station names have been changed. “Subiaco” was Camellia’s original name and Carlingford was called called "Pennant Hills" station.

We are rattling back towards Clyde, with engine 2021 and the three  carriages, and  Driver V. Sharpe and Fireman J. Sundgrew at the control. The footplate rocks alarmingly (surely we're doing 60!) and steam spurts from loose valves. “Don't worry,” says Driver Sharpe, “she won't blow up.”

The fireman leans on the whistle cord as we slow for Rydalmere station level crossing. The platform beyond it is packed with home-going workers from the factories and soon the carriages are creaking at the joints.

The line's got so crowded that all the goods shunting has to be done after mid­night, between the last train and the first in the morning,” Driver Sharpe shouts in my ear.

Did they say how she slips?
What happens to the steam crews when the electrics take over?   I ask him. “We go to Enfield, probably to drive diesels or electrics,” he says. (Alas, no room for “Their Carlo's” on the railways of today.)

What did they tell yer?” chorus the school boys when we get back. "Did they say how she slips in the winter mornings when the rails are wet?" asks one. "Yeah, or how she can't get up enough steam to climb a hill and has to run back again?" asks another. "Well, what ARE you, gonna say about her?" demands a freckled face. "That she's wonderful," I reply. "Gaaarn! She's a real rattler!" *

Carlingford Railway Station in 1900.
Loading fruit at Carlingford station (from farm carts to train carriages)
for transportation to the Sydney Markets in 1923.
History of the line From Wikipedia and others.
The line was opened in two sections: Clyde to Camellia was opened on 17 November 1888, and Camellia to Carlingford (then known as Pennant Hills) was opened on 20 April 1896.] Telopea station was added in 1925. Originally the line was privately owned by two companies: the line from Clyde to Rosehill was owned by John Bennett and the line from Rosehill to Carlingford was owned by the Rosehill Railway Company. The lines were taken over by their bank in 1896, with the Government purchasing the line in 1898 and recommencing services on 1 August 1900.

The line from Clyde to Rosehill was electrified on 12 December 1936. The electrification was extended to Carlingford on Sunday 9 August 1959.

In 1996, the original iron lattice bridge over the Parramatta River was replaced. The new bridge only has one track, although it was built to allow a second track to be laid in the future. It sits on the refurbished piers of the original bridge.
In early 2007 the pedestrian crossings at Telopea and Dundas stations were rebuilt. The new automatic crossings provide audible and visual warnings of an approaching train and a short time later close the metal gates.

Over the week of 20 to 26 October 2007, the section of track from Telopea to Carlingford was completely replaced, utilizing concrete sleepers instead of timber ones. The section from Telopea to Rosehill was similarly upgraded over the fortnight of 22 June to 3 July 2009. The railway remains on timber sleepers from Rosehill to Clyde.

Until January 2010, the line carried oil trains to and from the Clyde Refinery on the Sandown line. During October 2016, the Sandown line traffic was officially suspended. 


* Around the electrified suburban system were little backwaters which retained steam power for years after their main lime connection had been repowered. Such was the Clyde to Carlingford branch whose single track climbed into the Hills between between Parramatta and Epping on a grade of 1 in 37.
Both 20 and 30 class tanks enjoyed the running, three end platform car being the consist.
Such a train with 2010 at the head , storms out of Camelia on a Saturday afternoon in 1954.
* Four years later, the use of 30 class was more common as the larger engines were displaced from other runs by electrification. 3138 lays a good fire as it fights the grade out of Rydalmere with an afternoon service. 
* The last paragraph in David Burke's story (above) was taken from his on train conversation with James Ruse pupils (or rather Carlingford Junior Agricultural High School pupils - as they were known in 1958).  The phrase "Yeah, or how she can't get up enough steam to climb a hill and has to run back again?" - I can remember was my contribution. This newspaper cutting has stayed in my possession for the last 60 years. Kevin Swann.
Photos and captions marked *come from the book "N.S.W.G.R. In Steam." By R.G. Preston.
Youtube links.

Carlingford steam reenactment  Sunday October 27th 1996 (showing 3112)

Carlingford steam reenactment  Sunday  February 17th 2013 (showing 3116)

The above two steam engines had to also pull a diesel engine up to Carlingford (attached to the back of the carriages). This extra engine was necessary for the return journey because the track at Carlingford (originally used to shunt the steam engine to the other end of the train for its tender first trip back down the hill) was removed after 1959. The water tank truck is necessary now because the steam engine watering tanks have all been removed from the landscape.

Carlingford Branch Line 1956 - 59

This link is to a compilation of historic film clips featuring steam trains going to and from Carlingford in the 1950's.

Although the clip at the end of the sequence appears (at first glance) to be of a number of James Ruse boys ready to leave the train at either Carlingford or Clyde stations - the surrounding countryside does not fit either of those two stations. Further - there are no other stations where James Ruse boys would depart the train. Some of the other clips in this compilation do not appear fit the Carlingford line. All of this makes this compilation a bit of a mystery.

Any suggestions and answers  - email me at

For some reason
the people of Bourke were  kept informed.

8 May 1959.
"A new improved service will be available to residents on the Clyde-Carlingford line by the end of this year when the line will be fully electrified."

18 December 1959.
"Work associated with the electrification of the Clyde-Carlingford line was commenced during the year and by the end of June had been almost completed.
Western Herald (Bourke)

The Clyde-Carlingford Line. The Traffic. -The Attack on the Orchards. Saturday 10 August 1901
Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate (Parramatta, NSW)

Owing in some degree, no doubt, to the novelty of the thing, the passenger traffic so far on this new railway has been very satis-factory. On August 1st, 94 tickets were issued at the Carlingford station, chiefly re-turns, the local population going in exten-tensively for the trip to Clyde and back. On the second 22 tickets were issued at Carling-ford, on Saturday 46 and on Sunday 64.

The remarkable feature of Sunday was, however, the great influx of visitors by railway to Car-lingford. The arrivals at the terminus from "down below" numbered over 300.

These pleasure-seekers seemed to entertain pleasant, free-and-easy, promiscuous views on the sub-ject of orange growing, and especially on the rights of cultivators of the soil. Many of them cheerfully entered the nearest orchards and attacked the trees with the air of persons who were conferring a favor by so doing, while the general impression seemed to prevail that for an expenditure of about a sort of right of free pasture could be obtained in any of the surrounding estates, which enabled the purchaser to help himself where, and as often as he pleased.  Carlingford will, it is believed, become a favourite picnicking ground, but its visitors will have to readjust their ideas on fruit culture.

There will probably be a considerable amount of traffic at the Carlingford station in goods, but this cannot be commenced until the siding, now in course of construction, is completed. About five trucks of blue metal have already been sent away from the Dundas station, their destination being Burwood.

At present no permanent officials have been appointed for the stations along the line, Mr. Bridekirk of the relieving staff, who was some time ago located at Liverpool, having been stationed at Carlingford, and the other stations being worked under his superintendence.

The Carlingford line. 1901
Sydney Morning Herald , Saturday 7 September 1901,

The new line from Clyde to Carlingford continues to increase in popultinty, but the class of engines used seems to be inadequate for drawing heavy loads, and in consequence it is not an unusual thing to see two small engines attached to the train.

The residents of Carlingfrod are now agitating for the construction of a siding for the loading of fruit, &c. At present fruit can only be conveyed in a brake van which is attached to some of the trams, and is only capable of carrying about 60 cases. Given proper facilities, a large quantity of fruit would be despatched from this station.

Mr Frank Farnell, M.L.A., has been urging upon the Railway Commissioners the necessity that exists for a siding, and has been informed that plans are being prepared, and the matter will be expedited.

Looking left...... Looking Right
About the Carlo Express

For many of the boys attending school at Carlingford, the old steam train was a major part of their High School Experience.

Unlike most of the other government schools (where pupils attended their local suburban high school) the boys at James Ruse traveled by public transport from all over Sydney.

Many of these boys traveled on the "Carlo Express" (as they called it) twice a day and, because of the design of the old corridor & compartment carriages, informal and fluid groups tended to form in the compartments (in effect, the train became a moving extension of the school grounds).

  • One morning more than half the boys were missing from morning assembly. The old train had arrived but there was no sign of the missing boys. I was standing in a line where I could see between school building and the electrical sub-station building. It seems one of older of the missing boys stopped all the others from  venturing further. This meant they could not be seen by those pupils (and teachers) already on the morning parade ground. When all the late/missing boys had all gathered in front of the sub station, one of the older boys (who had brought a bugle with him) sounded the US Cavalry Charge and the all the late/missing boys ran screaming into view, then into the school grounds to join the morning assembly.
  • I also recall we used to have competitions to see how many pupils we could cram in a toilet (cramming people on mini minors was the craze in those days).
  • On a couple of occasions a group of us walked down the track from Carlingford to Clyde. The most dangerous parts were crossing the bridge over the main road and the Parramatta River bridge. (Not only could one slip between the sleepers to near certain death, there was nowhere to go if a train came along.)
  • I remember it was great to coordinate a toilet flush over Kissing Point Rd. (the water went straight out onto tacks and then onto the traffic below).
  • It was almost an unwritten rule that pupils were not detained after school by teachers because pupils had transport connections (particularly the Carlo Express) to get home.
  • As the next train was at least an hour away, on the rare occasions that a class was "kept it" by new teacher, the class organized among themselves that - whenever the teacher was writing on the blackboard, the (Carlo Express) pupils nearest the windows would jumped out and run to the station while other pupils would silently move over to take their place.

Looking right

Both of  the photos below were taken by Kevin Swann
from the same position on Friday afternoon, 7th August 1959.
Although this last story sounds like a tall story - it really did happen.
Often, the teacher (on realizing what was happening) would leave the room.
This would spark a flurry of departing pupils not dissimilar to mice scattering when a sheet of corrugated iron is lifted by a farmer during a mouse plague.