VY 4999 was built to transport gold from the Eastern Goldfields to the Perth Mint. It was a bullion van for 40 years. Built by the WA Government Railways at their Midland workshops in April 1908, it was fitted out to include a large central walk-in safe of size 13ft in (4.11m) long and 3ft (91cm) wide.
The vehicle had to be ‘self-contained’ as the accompanying bank officers were locked in the van at Kalgoorlie until the end of the journey in Perth. This was important for security but was most unpopular. In 1926, following the murder of gold stealing detection squad members Pitman & Walsh, their remains were transported in the bullion van to Perth after being retrieved from a mine shaft.
On other trips the ‘locked in’ officers just had to contend with hearing passengers heading for cold refreshments at the stops! One bank official recalled that it was a rough ride and sleeping on the floor was best.
At the end of 1948 it was converted to a workman’s van. In 1991 it was no longer required by the railways. After being given to RHWA it was used in 1997 for the Barron Films production of ‘The Gift’.
Classified by National Trust of Australia (WA).
Of the three bullion vans used to transport gold in WA, VY 4999 is the only one left. It represents an era when rail was the main means of transport between Perth and the Goldfields. It is one of the earliest vehicles built at the former WAGR Workshops in Midland that is still intact.
It is of historic significance for its links with the gold mining industry in WA and its links to the aftermath of the Pitman and Walsh murders.