Share This Article
These days in most Australian states, there are a lot fewer railway lines than you would’ve seen in the 1950s, even say the 1980s when state governments started to close those that weren’t making money. But in the good old days, if there weren’t enough passengers for it to be worth running a locomotive service you could run a railmotor instead—or in the case of New South Wales, a bus, the FP paybus.
The name paybus came about as the buses were initially introduced to run payroll for railway employees to various parts of remote New South Wales. One of the buses, FP5 was destroyed in a payroll robbery attempt at Yanderra in 1941.
There were 13 paybuses built in New South Wales, and they were all built by Waddingtons/Commonwealth Engineering. The buses, as expected, all had four wheels, but, of course, sat on bogies rather than traditional rubber wheels.
The first paybus, FP1, had a Ford Mercury V8 in the engine department that ran on petrol, and had a four-speed gearbox. There was a door in the centre for passengers and the driver to use, and there were 17 seats inside the bus. FP1 has been at the New South Wales Railway Museum in Thirlmere since it was withdrawn from service in 1969.
The most significant event involving a pay bus was the infamous Yanderra pay bus incident of 8 December 1941. At approx. 11.40 a.m. Pay Bus FP5 was heading in the down direction south of Yanderra Station on the Main Southern line, when explosives placed under the line by intending thieves were detonated, de-railing and severely damaging the bus. The crew of three were all killed.
The culprits, believed to be two men, escaped with some (Pounds)2000 in loose notes and change, but most of the money carried remained in the safe, which was fixed to the bus chassis. The bus was so badly damaged that it was written off (in November 1942). A replacement, again built by Waddingtons, entered service in September 1945 as No. 5 (2nd). This new bus was single-ended, being patterned on No.6.–Wikipedia
FP7 saw a new design introduced, one that was more rectangular and similar to what you’re used to seeing in a commuter bus. These buses had air conditioning, which must’ve been a relief for those making the journey through rural New South Wales. FP7 also ferried Queen Elizabeth II between Coffs Harbour Jetty and Coffs Harbour station and was altered for the occasion.
The buses ran the rails of New South Wales from 1937 right up until the last service by FP11 in 1986 which ran between Lithgow and Clyde. FP1, and FP7 to FP13 are all in preservation at various museums around New South Wales.