The NBHs were designed in 1918 for excursion traffic on the Upper Ferntree Gully to Gembrook line. Consequently six cars were built on the frames of NQRs 31, 33, 36, 38, 39, and 46. In 1919 nine additional NBHs were built on new frames. These six were built without hand brakes, although they were built with air brakes. The Puffing Billy Preservation Society subsequently added hand brakes to them. The NB indicated second class accommodation, the H was for "Holiday" traffic. The NBHs were not used on other lines except for a few trips in the period 1952 - 1962 on the Colac - Beech - Forest Line.
As can be seen the accommodation was rather primitive. The sides (except for the two doors) were open and the back to back wooden seats had no padding. Yet they became very popular with passengers. Many took advantage of the open sides to sit on the side with their legs outside the car. The Puffing Billy Railway fitted one NBH with glass side windows. This car is not generally popular with passengers, even in wet weather. It seems they like the open style.
The initial construction of these cars was of planks, but as with many wooden bodied carriages the lack of rigidity allowed movement between the components. This lead to increased wear. To reduce maintenance the vehicle sides and ends were replaced with grooved plywood by the Puffing Billy railway. This lead to a much longer life between major averhauls. Two more NBHs were built in 1981, (Numbers 16 & 17)..
Between 1979 and 1988 the Puffing Billy railway built six more NBHs, numbered 18-23. These had steel frames, padded seats, and a wide "window sill". At first glance they look the same as the previous NBHs. There are other minor construction differences due to the use of steel framing. 18NBH entered traffic on 19/4/1997; 19NBH on 5/12/1997; 20NBH on 19/12/1997, the others were added in 1998.
Above left is a photo of the original wooden NBH seats. Above right is the padded version in the new NBHs. The public approval of these seats lead the Puffing Billy Railway to apply a padded covering to the original wooden seats. One car, 8NBH has been kept in original style.
Currently these six steel framed NBHs (numbers 18-23) are being modified to provide double doors and space for wheel chairs at one end. The photo on the right shows the exterior of one such NBH. These have a seating capacity of 24 passengers.
Note: The current capacity of NBHs is rated at 28 adult passengers. When originally built the NBHs rated capacity was 32 passengers. The modern reduction is due to the need to allow more space per passenger.
The Victorian Railways started scrapping NBHs in the mid 1930s. In the 1960s when the Puffing Billy Preservation Society was guaranteeing the line against loss (and fighting to retain the line) there was an acute shortage of passenger rolling stock. The VR would not allow any new vehicles to be built, so over time the PBPS "repaired" all of the scrapped NBHs. No Victorian Railways official asked from where the pieces came to allow the repair of the scrapped vehicles. The restored vehicles were accepted as part of the fleet.
NBHii covers the extended NBHs.
|Body Length||25 feet 2 inches ( 7671 mm)|
|Coupled Length||27 feet 4 inches (8330 mm)|
|Width||6 feet 3 inches (1905 mm)|
|Height||9 feet 2 inches (2794 mm)|
|Weight (loaded)||7 tons|