Comeng: A History of Commonwealth Engineering
By John Dunn
This is the final volume of a monumental work documenting the history of the Australian company Commonwealth Engineering ("Comeng"). The book takes up the account of Comeng's history from 1985 and carries the story through to 1990 - and then on into the post-Comeng era at Dandenong of ASEA Brown Boveri (ABB), Adtranz, and Bombardier. In 1985, under the most difficult of circumstances, the Dandenong plant in Victoria won a contract for new light rail vehicles for Hong Kong - their first export order. Though this potentially opened the door for further export work for Comeng in Southeast Asia, the directors were unprepared to follow up such opportunities. By 1986, railway rolling stock contracts were drying up in Australia and the Comeng management was looking for other opportunities overseas. Bids were made on a score of fronts, though without any success. There was a ray of hope when an inquiry came from the US for Comeng to tender on new commuter trains for the Long Island Rail Road in New York. It was seen as potentially opening the door to a huge US market in New York, New Haven, Boston, Chicago, and elsewhere. The project was pursued with vigor, and Comeng became the preferred bidder against worldwide competition. The contract was virtually 'in the bag' when, at the eleventh hour, the plug was unexpectedly pulled and the project collapsed. This symbolically signaled the end of Comeng. The book also examines the financial difficulties of the Australian National Industries Limited (ANI), which led to the winding down and the sale of all plants except Dandenong. This was sold to Asea Brown Boveri and now operates under the name of Bombardier. What Comeng once was has been very substantially diminished and gradually absorbed into the international scene. Corporately, Comeng exists today only as a memory. Despite this, its influence has persisted and there are still many examples of 'Comeng know-how' in the rolling stock in service both in Australia and on the world's railways. Its legacy is a tribute to both the company and its staff, the likes of which are never expected to be repeated.
Publication Date: 11/3/2013