ThrowbackThursday: Eltham Railway Station, 17 July 1983

#ThrowbackThursday – Over the years there have been a number of various electric train models that have traveled the Hurstbridge line to Eltham. Today we time travel back 36 years to 17 July 1983 and Eltham Railway Station where we have the unique experience to witness four generations of electric train all lined up together.

Four generations of electric trains at Eltham Railway Station, 17 July 1983
L-R: Tait (Red Rattler) wooden bodied train (1919-1952); Comeng stainless steel bodied train (1981 to curr.); Hitachi stainless steel bodied train (1972-2014); Harris (Blue) steel bodied train (1956-1988)
(Photo: George Coop, from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

The railway line to Eltham first opened in 1902. In those days the trains were all hauled by steam locomotives but in April 1923 the line was electrified and the first electric trains commenced service to Eltham. Those initial electric trains were a Tait wooden body design first introduced in 1910 to be hauled by steam locomotives and converted to electric from 1919. The Tait trains were manufactured from 1909 to 1952. There were a number of different versions; swing doors and sliding doors and all had beautifully appointed interiors. Of course most people referred to them as ‘Red Rattlers’.

Interior of a Red Rattler Tait train, 22 August 1983
(Photo: George Coop, from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

The Harris (Blue) steel bodied train was introduced 1956 and operated until 1988 when the final trains were withdrawn from service. They had an ignominious ending as these trains were full of asbestos. They were wrapped up in plastic and buried in landfill near Clayton.

In 1981 Comeng stainless steel bodied trains were first introduced to replace the last of the Tait trains and these underwent refurbishment between 2000-2003. Some examples currently still remain in service.

Hitachi stainless steel bodied trains were operated on the Melbourne network between 1972-2014.

In 2003 orders were placed for a mixture of Siemens Nexas  and Alstom X’Trapolis 100 units. Braking issues plagued the Siemens model with subsequent orders being directed towards the X’Trapolis model.

This week in the news we saw that French train manufacturer Alstom who produces the X’Trapolis model electric train in Ballarat has a new X’Trapolis 2.0 model ready to be introduced to replace the ageing Comeng electric trains by 2026.


2 thoughts on “ThrowbackThursday: Eltham Railway Station, 17 July 1983”

  1. Hello all,

    Thank you for all you are doing to preserve the history of our local community

    I live in Wattle Glen and taught PE etc at Eltham High from 1984 to 2011.
    My partner has just retired after 47 years working on the rail as a signal technician, for many of those years he maintained the section from Eaglemont to Hurstbridge.

    I just found your wonderful post on “ELTHAM RAILWAY STATION, 17 JULY 1983” featuring a wonderful image of the four generations of electric trains all lined up together. Danny fondly remembers the being on track from 1973 and seeing the Tait, Harris, Hitachi and Comeng and now the X’Trapolis trains.

    I am a family historian and very passionate about the provenience of my sources etc

    Sadly, your image of the four generation of trains has your embedded logo, slap bang in the middle of the image, totally compromising its integrity.

    Please would it be possible (as you have done for most of your other images managed by for this unique image have its embedded logo moved to a corner, so that all the trains can be easily seen. If this can be achieved I and lots of train enthusiasts would be most grateful

    I understand that you might be too busy to tend to this inquiry at this time, but I would be very grateful if you could just let me know that you have received this message.

    Look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

    Thank you for your time

    Julie Allen
    Wattle Glen Vic 3096
    Mobile – XXXXX
    Email – XXXXX

    [Personal details removed by EDHS Admin]


    1. Hi Julie,

      Thank you for your comments; we are glad you appreciate the work we do in sharing the stories of our local history especially as we are all volunteers at EDHS.

      We have removed your personal contact details from your comment to protect your privacy

      Image sharing on other public groups without appropriate source accreditation is a significant ongoing concern. Many people think if something is online then it is a free-for-all but never stop to think about how that image was made available in the first place. EDHS is happy to share our local history and images provided we are properly credited and are able to engage in the discussion.

      I have emailed you privately in more detail to explain why we now place watermarks in the centre of images when posted online. You may also be interested in reading our editorial of 18 February 2018 – Identity Theft: Are you a witness to it?


      Peter (Admin)


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