In 1937 the NSW Department of Railways introduced six rail buses to its fleet as an economical form of passenger transport on small branch lines. The concept derived from passenger rail motors, introduced in 1919, which used a traditional timber railway carriage mounted on a converted road truck chassis and drive train. Rail buses took the concept one step further and adapted road vehicle styling, coach-building and technology for rail use. Within a year of their introduction they were withdrawn having failed to attract sufficient passenger numbers to make the services viable.
By June 1939, five of the rail buses had been relaunched as mobile pay cars, while the sixth remained a rail bus until some time later.
For almost fifty years, the vehicles were used to move cash on NSW rail lines to pay employees at stations and maintenance gangs working on the tracks. The vehicles were a familiar sight on the network as they made the fortnightly pay runs and were affectionately known as 'Pay Buses'.
Today, they are no longer in operation, having been replaced by electronic banking. The sole survivor of the first fleet of Pay Buses, FP1, is today recognised as a significant item of rail heritage. It has recently been restored by a dedicated group of apprentices as part of RailCorp's Apprentice Training Program in collaboration with RailCorp's Office of Rail Heritage and Rollingstock Division.
FP1 will return to the Rail Heritage Centre at Thirlmere where it is certain to be a popular attraction. In the meantime, FP1 has a fascinating story to tell.