Milk Tank Car
Although milk was transported from the early years of the 20th century by rail, the first purpose-built, bulk milk tank wagon was BMT1, built with two 2500 gallon ‘glass-lined’ tanks imported by the Dairy Farmers Co-operative Milk Co. They were mounted on former NSWGR E wagon No.21036, fitted with 2AE bogies and sold to the Diary Farmers in October 1934.
‘Glass-lined’ tanks were in fact sprayed internally with vitreous enamel, a coating combining ground glass in a carrier, as used on cast iron baths and other bathroom items, which was fired after spraying to form a very hard and impermeable coating, making cleaning and disinfection an easier prospect than otherwise.
BMT1 must have been relatively successful, because the Dairy Farmers company invested in a fleet of sixteen further glass-lined, bulk milk tanks over the period 1935-1951. These were 3000 gallon, single tank vehicles, with purpose-built underframes mounted on reconditioned 2SE bogies sold by the NSWGR. BMT2-3 were built on NSWGR-constructed underframes in 1935, as was BMT 4 in 1936. In 1937 Clyde Engineering built two underframes for BMT 5 and 6, then four more in 1938, for BMT8-11. World War II intervened, and it was not until 1949 that the next milk tanks were constructed. This time the frames came from Tulloch Ltd, BMT12 and 13 entering service in 1949, and BMT14-17 followed in 1950-51. The 6’6” wheelbase bogies were carried on 37” spoked wheels, and screw-link couplings and Turton buffers were fitted, as these tanks were passenger rated.
As built, BMT 2-11 lacked diagonal bracing to prevent the tank moving, but this was fitted from 1942 and was on BMT12-17 from new. From the mid-1950s, disc wheels replaced the spoked ones. From 1963, some were fitted with new welded underframes by Anderson Engineering, mounted on roller bearing bogies, fitted with auto-couplers and Cammell buffers. Nos 4 and 10, at least, gained new, welded 4000 gallon tanks.
There is a reliable report that BMT2-9 were initially painted in a light green colour, with sign-written ‘Dairy Farmers Milk’ lettering in black-shaded red. From photographic evidence BMT10, and probably BMT11, were in unpainted stainless steel, with the same lettering. Post-war, the colour seems to have been overall black, with side boards in cream with black, signwritten ‘Dairy Farmers’. By 1958, some tanks had been repainted white, with signs having black writing on white boards, while others were later seen without any owner identification.
The milk tanks operated mainly on the Illawarra and South to Moss Vale, although they were also seen at times on the north, en route to Dairy Farmers’ plant at Dungog. They were permitted to be attached behind the brake van on passenger trains, partly so that they could be shunted off expeditiously in Sydney yard.