Australian railway telegraphic codes

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Australian railway telegraphic codes were originally devised to reduce the size of telegraphic messages, though some have survived into the telephone era. They were basically used in telegrams between locations in a railway network of offices, stations and other parts of the railway system.

The distinction between telegraphic code, and telegraphic code addresses is an important one to make.[1] Many businesses identified on their stationery their telegraphic address, as well as their telephone number.

In some states, railway operations would have offices with abbreviated addresses


The codes were devised with many features common to all states, with states devising additional codes for their own use if required. The codes were listed either on a large poster or in a telegraph code book.


Each code might consist of four letters, in two syllables, with a two letter difference to any other code. Some codes expected additional numbersand/or words as parameters. Codes are grouped by category and the first letter(s) of the codes in each group are the same.

New South Wales[edit]

The New South Wales telegraphic code library consisted of 404 code words. These 404 telegraph code words eliminated the need to type 3703 normal words as sentences on a telegraph, therefore saving time and reducing the likelihood of errors in the sending of messages.

An example of how one code word replaced many normal words in a sentence, and the longest code message in the library was Ryzy the translation as follows;

Vehicle No ..... may be worked forward to ..... behind the brakevan of a suitable goods train during daylight provided locomotive branch certifies fit to travel. If the damaged vehicle is fitted with automatic coupling it must only be worked forward behind a brakevan also fitted with automatic coupling by connecting the automatic couplers on each vehicle but, if fitted with ordinary drawgear, it must be screw coupled. Westinghouse brake to be in use throughout train and on damaged vehicle. Guard to be given written instructions to carefully watch vehicle en route.

In the preceding example one code word replaces 90 words.


Each state had variant codes, which would be updated over time [2][3]

  • (Victoria (Australia) codes)[4]
  • AMEX 1234 6789 = Trains 1234 and 6789 will not run (are cancelled)
  • GENL = for general information
  • PAJO = Arrange for joint enquiry to be held at ....... into .......
  • WOLO = speed restrictions due to high temperatures affecting overhead wiring and/or rails.
  • WAZY = give matter special attention
  • ZEBU = arrange and advise all concerned

Western Australia[edit]

In Western Australia a code book (Uniform and Supplementary Telegraph Code) was issued as late as 1967 by the Western Australian Government Railways, with a preface that included the wording:

This Telegraph Code has been agreed to by the Railway Commissioners of Government Railways of the Commonwealth of Australia, and applied to the Western Australian Railways

As well as the indication of

The code words printed in capitals are applicable throughout the Railways of the Commonwealth; those printed small type apply to the Western Australian Railways only[5]

The phrase codes related to the categories:

  • Train Working
  • Motive Power (all local usage)
  • Train Arrangements
    • 1. Passengers
    • 2. Goods
    • 3. Rolling Stock
  • Traffic Arrangements – goods, parcels and luggage
  • Correspondence

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Telegraphic Code Addresses.". The West Australian. Perth: National Library of Australia. 5 August 1948. p. 10. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  2. ^ Victorian Railways (1916), The Morse electric telegraph : a handbook for telegraphists, Victorian Railways, retrieved 14 April 2013 
  3. ^ Victorian Railways (1937), Telegraph code book, Victorian Railways, retrieved 14 April 2013 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Western Australian Government Railways Commission (1967), Uniform and supplementary telegraph code from 1st July, 1967, The Railways, retrieved 14 April 2013