End of the line for Melbourne’s Comeng trains

They’ve been a familiar sight across the Melbourne rail network for 40 years, but the fleet of Comeng trains are now reaching the end of the line – the first trains having been sent to the scrapyard.

Alstom Comeng 338M and 1092T sitting in the scrapyard at Dandenong South

The backstory

Comeng trains were introduced in 1981 by VicRail to replace the last of the 60-year-old timber bodied Tait trains. The order was then increased from 50 to 95 six-car sets, to allow the retirement of the 1950s-era Harris trains by 1988. In total 570 carriages – 380 motor cars and 190 trailer cars – were built.


Weston Langford photo

Throughout the 1990s Comeng trains formed the core of the Melbourne train network, alongside the non-air conditioned Hitachi sets.

Hitachi 37M trails an up train out of Newport

Following privatisation of the network in the 2000s the Hitachi trains were retired, replaced by Siemens and X’Trapolis trains, and the Comeng fleet were split between M>Train and Connex, and received mid-life refurbishments by EDI Rail and Alstom respectively.


Weston Langford photo

And now today – the new High Capacity Metro Trains are entering service on the Pakenham and Cranbourne lines, and on to Sunbury once the Metro Tunnel opens.

HCMT set 21 passes EDI Comeng 406M outside South Yarra

Which leaves the Comeng trains the oldest in the fleet – and next in line to be withdrawn.

comeng-train-assumed-retirement-schedule
Metro Trains Melbourne MR4 Franchise Agreement ‘Train Rolling Stock Module’

And it starts

On the evening of 18 August 2021 retired Comeng sets 320M-1107T-321M and 363M-1032T-364M were transferred behind a pair of diesel locomotives from Newport Workshops to Tottenham Yard, where they were parked up for the night.

Since it was the middle of yet another Melbourne lockdown, curfew got in the way of railfans seeing it happen, so I didn’t get to see it until the next morning.

EDI Comeng 321M at the west end of the stabled consist at Tottenham Yard

But word travels fast, even with a lockdown – the unattended train was covered in graffiti within a few hours.

Comeng 363M and 320M heavily gratified at Tottenham Yard while awaiting the next leg of the transfer to North Shore

Until finally on Saturday 21 August the train was off again – headed to North Shore in Geelong for long term storage, travelling via Sunshine and Melbourne Yard.

T386 leads the push-pull Comeng transfer out of Tottenham Yard along the goods lines towards Sunshine

The next week a second train followed – class leaders 301M-1001T-302M and 303M-1002T-304M heading to Geelong on 28 August 2021.

P16 and P18 with Comeng 302M leading the transfer on the up at Footscray

A third train followed on 4 September 2021 – 491M-1096T-492M and 339M-1020T-340M.

P18 leads P16 on the down transfer through Altona Junction

And finally a fourth – 325M-1013T-326M and 479M-1090T-480M on 11 September 2021.

P18 leads P16 on the down leg of the transfer at Newport

The four sets were lined up in the sidings opposite North Shore station, and were soon completely covered in graffiti, and thoroughly trashed by vandals.

Comeng trains 321M, 304M, 491M and 480M still stored at North Shore

Doors and windows kicked in.

EDI Comeng 302M heavily vandalised while stored at North Shore

Including class leader Comeng 301M.

EDI Comeng 303M and 301M heavily vandalised while stored at North Shore

But carriage 492M came out worst – burnt out by fire on 19 October 2021.

Burnt out Alstom Comeng carriage 492M at North Shore

So in a case of too little, too late – a security guard was hired to look over the trashed trains.

Security guard watching over the stored Comeng trains at North Shore

And the retirements ramp up

After a bit of a break, another Comeng train was transferred for storage – 408M-1054T-407M and 475M-1088T-476M being transferred on 25 September 2021 to Tottenham Yard.

After changing ends at the Arrivals Yard, T395 leads Comeng 476M on the down at Middle Footscray

The retired train being pushed into a siding specially prepared for long term storage, and the train crew headed off.

Removing the transition coupler from Comeng 476M at Tottenham Yard

And in came the graffiti vandals – repainting the train within hours.

Stored EDI Comeng 408M now covered in graffiti at Tottenham Yard

Two weeks later on 9 October 2021, another two sets arrived – 307M-1004T-308M and 309M-1005T-310M.

EDI Comeng 307M in place in the storage roads at Tottenham Yard, as T386 shunts away

Fresh meat for the vandals.

Comeng sets 475M-1088T-476M and 309M-1005T-310M stored at Tottenham Yard

Sets 311M-1006T-312M and 318M-1009T-317M arrived on 23 October 2021.

T395 trailing the transfer move through Tottenham Yard

Starting to notice a pattern?

EDI Comeng 311M stabled on top of an already trashed 307M at Tottenham Yard

With the trains left unattended at night, the vandalism should be no surprise.

Stored Comeng trains under the floodlights at Tottenham Yard

Gates surround the yard getting kicked in.

Smashed gates leading into the rail corridor at Tottenham

And holes cut in the fences.

Patched up fence leading into Tottenham Yard

Until a security guard was finally hired to stand guard over the stored trains – with the only vandalism since being a few quick tags scrawled on the side of the latest arrivals.

Now to mix things up

The initial Comeng transfers from Newport Workshops to Tottenham Yard took a convoluted route via North Melbourne, Sunshine and two changes of directions because ARTC – manager of the direct Newport-Sunshine railway – had never approved the operation of Comeng trains across their network.

P16 leads P18 on the up transfer to Tottenham Yard at Brooklyn

Eventually the paperwork made the way through the bureaucracy, and they were approved – but subject to a 25 km/h speed restriction. The first movement via Brooklyn occurred on 6 November 2021 with sets 336M-1069T-437M and 414M-1057T-413M.

Metro has also made their own change – covering the ‘Metro’ logo on the side of each train with blue stickers. Because nobody will guess who they really belong to. 🙄

EDI Comeng 437M and Alstom Comeng 414M in the middle of the transfer at Brooklyn

30 November 2021 saw another retired train transferred to Tottenham Yard, with three sidings now full of stored Comeng trains.

Alstom Comeng 359M joined EDI Comeng 336M and 408M stored at Tottenham Yard

A mystery

At the end of November 2021 a different move happened – a single retired train was transferred to Tottenham Yard, then stabled for the night with locomotives still attached.

T385 and P17 stabled at Tottenham Yard with Alstom Comeng set 537M-1119T-538M

Then departed the next day for the Bendigo Rail Workshops.

T385 and P17 lead Alstom Comeng 537M-1119T-538M through Albion bound for Bendigo

It’s fate is unknown, but if the 2018 transfer of a Hitachi trains to Bendigo is anything to go but – it won’t be coming back.

Hitachi 295M and 1994T stripped and sitting up on blocks after being inspected for asbestos

And the end of the line

On January 14 stripped Comeng set 338M-1092T-484M was removed from the rails at Newport Workshops, and placed onto a hastily prepared gravel hard stand.

Crane lifts Alstom Comeng 484M off the tracks at Newport, 1092T and 338M already on the ground

Excavator ready to rip into the remaining stainless steel body shell.

Crane lifts Alstom Comeng 484M off the tracks at Newport

Each carriage was cut up into a number of chunks, then transported to road to a scrap yard at Dandenong South.

Alstom Comeng 338M and 1092T sitting in the scrap yard at Dandenong South

Ready to be shredded up into scrap metal for recycling.

Alstom Comeng 484M and 1092T sitting in the scrap yard at Dandenong South

And on it goes

On 28 January 2022 a pair of diesel locomotives headed down to North Shore to pick up stored Comeng sets 325M-1013T-326M and 479M-1090T-480M.

T385 drags the stored Comeng train out of the siding, the first movement in months

Surprisingly the trashed carriages were still in a state to move by rail.

T385 shunts the stored Comeng set out of the siding at North Shore

Being allowed to proceed at the usual line speed of 80 km/h en route to Newport Workshops.

T386 leads Comeng sets 325M-1013T-326M and 479M-1090T-480M and T385 through Lara on the up bound for Newport Workshops

Where it was pushed into the siding where the previous Comeng train had been scrapped.

Alstom Comeng 325M-1013T-326M stabled in the Steamrail yard at Newport

So it won’t be long until this set is also cat food tins.

Further reading

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26 Responses to “End of the line for Melbourne’s Comeng trains”

  1. Andrew says:

    Ain’t that a happy post 🙁

  2. Steve says:

    A sad end to these trains. What’s a three-car set worth in scrap metal?

  3. Paul O'Connor says:

    Marcus, I can’t help noticing that match wagons weren’t used in the transfers of the Comeng sets. Is there some kind of special coupling device?

    • Marcus Wong says:

      They use a transition coupler to adapt the scharfenburg coupler on the Comeng train to the knuckle coupler on the diesel locomotive.

      Transition coupler fitted between locomotive T386 and EDI Comeng 311M

      Moving one is a three person job.

      Moving the transition coupler is a three person job

      Each Comeng M car also carries an emergency transition coupler, which is much lighter, but is only suitable for pushing a failed train out of the way.

      Emergency transition coupler beneath a Comeng M car cab

  4. Andrew says:

    For people my age who’ve travelled on Tait, Harris and Hitachi trains, our first air conditioned trains have a special place in my heart.

  5. Bobman says:

    Surely they’ll preserve a set, but then we know common sense does not really apply in so many situations.

  6. indigohex3 says:

    For those of you who are interested, there is a video on YouTube of when there was a Comeng train servicing parts of the Gippsland Line (when the electrified section went as far as Traralgon). It is sad to see a bit of history go, and I hope that some are retained for prosperity (unlike the infamous 4D trains)

  7. Jake says:

    Although Melbourne is bidding farewell to the Comeng trains, hence since being replaced with the newer HCMTs and X’trapolis 2.0 sets, they will still leave a legacy in the history of suburban rail travel. Once the Metro Tunnel opens in a few years time, these high-capacity sets will see these and possibly the Siemens Nexas disappear from the Sunbury line once the new tunnel connects to the Pakenham line.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      It’ll be interesting to see what fleet shuffling is carried out when the HCMTs appear on the Sunbury line. The maintenance workshops at Westall are already being wound down, as they currently cater to Comeng sets, and the HCMT fleet is the responsibility of the new Downer facility at Pakenham East.

  8. GURVINDER SINGH GANDU says:

    This is good news. The Comeng were horrible trains!

    • Marcus Wong says:

      They were nice compared to the trains they replaced, but the air conditioning as originally installed couldn’t handle a 36+ degree day, the buzz from the motor-alternators beneath the disc braked sets would drive you batty, and the use of camshaft traction control was rather backwards given what was possible in the 1980s.

    • Bobman says:

      Unsure how long you’ve lived in Melbourne, but the Comeng trains are generally well regarded and comfortable. The newer trains are of less quality and the Chinese HCMT trains are definitely deserve the ‘horrible’ moniker.

  9. Liam says:

    What was the high pitched whine on the comengs? It wasn’t on all of them, and only on the Motor cars. https://www.railpage.com.au/f-p366187.htm somewhat describes it, but will add that the sound was about 1.5kHz with overtones, and varies in pitch, lower when taking off and higher just after the power is cut (loud “pop”) and the train is coasting.

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