Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 52, September 2008
(by J. A. T. Terry).
Quoting from the Waihi Telegraph this item appeared in the Ohinemuri Gazette on November 21, 1906:
"No. 317 is not the number of a prisoner but the number of a railway car in which passengers from Paeroa to Waihi are conveyed. The car was apparently one of the first to run on the New Zealand Railways and judging by its appearance now was probably purchased second hand.
"At any rate 317 has, we are sure, earned its original cost over and over again and should be given a well-earned rest from the Waihi section at least. The car is untidy and a disgrace to its owners.
"Half the windows are unmovable, the sides of the car are "wobbly" and there are quite a number of crevices through which smoke pours when passing through the tunnel. The upholstery on the seats is all torn and generally speaking it is a most dilapidated concern.
"The comfort of the travelling public to Waihi is by no means studied by the Department, otherwise the "cast-off' would not be found on the line. It is to be hoped that the matter will be taken up for considerable complaint is being made by the ladies who frequent the line at being obliged to travel in such a dirty car as 317".
Passenger car A137 was constructed in the Petone Railway workshops in 1887 through the conversion of car C13 and one half of another C car. The C cars were 31ft in length with six wheels, a set at each end and a third set in the centre. There were eight windows in four sets of two.
317 was a composite car with first and second class accommodation with seating for 32 in longitudinal seats, those in the first class section being padded. It was 44ft long with 21 windows in three sets of seven. Lighting was by oil lamp and like the C class cars there were no toilet facilities. For smoother running the car had a set of bogie wheels at each end.
It was transferred from Wellington section to the Auckland section on October 11, 1902. Later the oil lamps were replaced with Pintsch gas lamps. On December 22, 1906, gates and gangways were fitted. By June 1912 the car had been written off, the body portion being used in building a hut in Huntly.
Like the Phoenix, 317 was to rise again. On June 22, 1912, a new car for the main line left the Newmarket workshops. It was a far cry from the original 317. It was 50ft long, second class with toilet facilities, steam heating and gas lighting, later converted to electricity. The car was converted to a works car on January 30, 1965 and written off on October, 1980.
My thanks to Auckland railway historian John Agnew for the historical details and a photo of a similar car.