Victorian Railways fixed wheel passenger carriages

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Victorian Railways fixed wheel passenger carriages
Manufacturer Victorian Railways
Built at Newport Workshops, others
Family name Fixed-wheel stock
Constructed From 1855
Entered service From 1858
Number built Around 2,000 total
Number in service 0
Number scrapped Most
Operator(s) Victorian Railways
Depot(s) All
Line(s) served All
Doors Swing
Track gauge 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)

All railways have to start somewhere.

The first passenger carriages of the Victorian Railways were fixed-wheel, with a mixture of first- and second-class bodies on either four- or six-wheeled underframes.

Initial designs had some common themes; the A and B type carriages were for first- and second-class travellers, with C reserved for third-class, though later re-allocated for coffin vehicles. D class was used for guards' vans, E for mail vans and F for horse-boxes. The first vehicles were placed on four-wheeled underframes, later designs having a middle axle added. Some cars were built by the Victorian Railways while others imported. Between 1860 and 1880 the Victorian Railways absorbed a number of private railway operators, and their rollingstock was absorbed into the fleet, renumbered to suit. This explains why records show some cars built in 1855, even though the Victorian Railways only started operating in 1858.

At first, numbers were generally kept consecutive with no regard for differing capacities or axle loads. When a carriage was scrapped, either a new one would be built with the same number, or a classmate would be renumbered to fill the gap.

Later recodings saw some cars reclassed with multiple letters, such as AB, AD, BD and ABD. Another category was used for older cars in restricted service, with a subscript H added to the class to indicate Holiday traffic - BH, for example. The H superscript was initially just a note next to the code, although it later became an official part of the code. Only second-class carriages were marked as such.

From the 1880s new first-class bogie carriages were added to the fleet. Initially these took spare numbers in the A series, the first example being 70A. In 1886 the cars were reclassed as AA, and it is thought that this occurred due to mix-ups with carriage capacities. Ten second-class bogie carriages were also built between 1879 and 1881, with an eleventh converted from a different class in 1888; these cars were reclassed to BB at the same time. The bogie carriages started to displace their fixed-wheel predecessors, with these being shifted into other duties. In particular, with the influx of bogie first-class carriages the majority of first-class fixed wheel vehicles were reclassed to Second and renumbered as B Class.


This group ranged from numbers 1 through 274, although over 100 numbers were recycled at least once. The cars were all similar to each other; typically four compartments with doors either side and long benches allowing for a total of forty passengers per car; with a curved roof and a four- or six-wheeled underframe.

The cars were built from the 1850s through the 1880s, with a handful built after that and a large number obtained from other railways. 17A and 18A came from the Geelong Railway; 117A-156A were ex English cash 22-65, though a handful had already been scrapped; and 105A and the majority of 163A-255A were ex South Suburban and Hobsons Bay stock.

In the 1910 en-masse relettering of fixed-wheel stock found the letters A, B and D replaced with X, Y and Z respectively. So the A cars mostly became X class; two, numbers 43 and 44 (ex 54A and 61A) were converted to XH on account of their condition, and restricted to occasional traffic only. The resulting post-1910 fleet numbered 1-42X and 45-82X. Cars 1 through 41 had been built as A Class but renumbered to B class previously. In 1913, when the Deniliquin & Moama Railway was taken over, one of their first class cars was renumbered to 43A to recycle that number.

When the cars started to wear out and as new designs came into use (in particular the new bogie fleet), the cars were altered for other purposes. Many were downgraded to composite, pure second class or second class holiday cars, with codes AB, B or BH later XY, Y or YH respectively. Other cars were converted to workmens sleepers (W), with a handful of those lasting to 1980. There were no first class holiday traffic cars AH, but two cars, 54A and 61A, became XH43 and XH44.

  • Exhibition Car - 1A. Survives as body in paddock at Raywood, near the 25 km post north of Bendigo.
  • Vision Test Car - 4A. Number kept as an identity for tracking purposes only.
  • Cars 67 and 68 later became State/Ministerial cars, and 69 became the Dynagraph car.
  • XH 43 was previously 54A; became 146W in 1913, then scrapped 1931.
  • XH 44 was previously 61A; became 382YH in late 1910, then scrapped 1929.

Cars still in service in the 1940s were converted to workmen sleepers known as WS or W Class; three of these later were placed on bogie underframes and became WW class.

The first few bogie carriages took freed numbers in the A series, until they were separated out to avoid confusion with carriage capacities.

Ministerial Cars[edit]

Edinburgh later Mitta Mitta
Manufacturer Victorian Railways
Built at Williamstown Workshops
Constructed 1899
Refurbishment 1910
Number built 1
Number scrapped 1
Capacity 23
Operator(s) Victorian Railways
Car body construction Timber
Car length

28 ft 2 in (8.59 m) (Ministerial cars)

47 ft 7.5 in (14.52 m) over body, 55 ft 6 in (16.92 m) over coupling points (Edinburgh)
Width 8 ft 3.25 in (2.52 m)
Height 12 ft 10.5 in (3.92 m)
Weight 22 LT 2 cwt 0 qtr (22.45 t)
Bogies 15 ft 5 in (4.70 m) as Ministerial cars, later 37 ft 1.5 in (11.32 m) between bogie centres, 8 ft (2.44 m) axle spacing
Braking system(s) Westinghouse
Coupling system screw, later autocouplers
Track gauge 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)

Cars 67A and 68A, built at Williamstown Workshops in 1880, were rebuilt as Ministerial Cars 2 and 1 respectively in 1894. The two cars were externally identical, but Ministerial No.2 was reversed against No.1 so the two end platforms met in the middle, and the two cars had slightly different interiors. Each car had nine window-panels per side, plus the end platform section. Ministerial No.1 had its access door at the second panel; the diagram shows that section as the Lavatory, but it was not connected to the water closet and apparently acted more as a vestibule. There was an adjacent WC and then a large saloon, with a table, four seats and a three-seater bench, then the 2 ft 3 in (0.69 m) end platform. Ministerial No.2 was something of a mirror image internally, with its end platform then saloon with a smaller table, two long benches for five each, a WC on the same side as Ministerial No.1, and another lavatory/vestibule with access doors.

At some point each car had one axle removed and replaced with a short bogie. Ministerial No.1 had the bogie placed at the platform end, while Ministerial No.2 had the bogie placed under the lavatory/vestibule end. The bogies had an axle spacing of 4 ft 10 in (1.47 m)

In 1899 the two cars were lifted from their underframes and placed on a single bogie underframe, and the new combined carriage was called Edinburgh. In this form the car had three saloons, separated by a unisex lavatory and a kitchen, and flanked by 2 ft 3 in (0.69 m) compartments. The outer two saloons were 6 ft 10.75 in (2.10 m) with up to 8 seats, while the central saloon was 12 ft 10.5 in (3.92 m) with four seats, a bench and the buffet counter.

The car was renamed Mitta Mitta on 3 December 1910, with a complete internal rebuild. The central compartment was converted to a kitchen, and the other two saloons were each split into two 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) dining tables for six, with a total capacity of 24 diners.

In July 1924 the car was modified again and renamed the Vision Test Car. It was once again cleared out, and this time there was no remnant of the earlier three-compartment design. From one end platform, there was a 7 ft 3 in (2.21 m) compartment that served as the doctor's living quarters while the car was touring the state. The majority of the car was devoted to the testing room, as a single 22 ft 6.25 in (6.86 m) compartment with various tables and chairs for different tests and a dark room separated by a curtain. The remainder of the car was split into three waiting rooms with folding seats; these rooms were 3 ft 6.625 in (1.08 m) 7 ft 3.25 in (2.22 m) and 5 ft 11.25 in (1.81 m) respectively.

The car was scrapped on 29 May 1939, and replaced with the former dining car Wimmera as the new Medical and Test Vision Car.

First Class carriages[edit]

These cars were mixed first- and second-class versions of the standard fixed wheel rollingstock. First Class compartments were slightly wider, allowing for more legroom.

AB cars were built between 1859 and 1887, and a further ten were converted from other classes in 1892. As a result, the total fleet was in the range 1AB to 157AB.

From 1888 to 1904 the class was converted to other uses, as patronage increased and so mixed-purpose carriages became less useful. Conversions were mainly to second class (and a small number to TBO, a second class van with a booking office installed), though a handful were converted to workmen sleepers. Car AB118 was relettered to 118ABH in about 1900, for holiday traffic.

The 1910 recoding saw the leftover cars converted from AB to XY; 118ABH became 15XYH, and was removed from service in 1913. Otherwise, the number range was 1-42XY, although about five cars were never converted and instead scrapped or given to other uses.

The cars were progressively scrapped or converted to other uses (mainly workmen vehicles of the W-series) between 1911 and 1958, the last being 25XY on 29 July 1958.

It is thought that the carriage body in Werribee is a former XY carriage:[1] Another carriage body, from 5XY, is thought to be in Hampton, and was recorded as in good condition in 1996.

Composite First, Second & Guard's Van Carriages[edit]

As car designs were being mixed and matched to find a better balance between offering patronage and weight hauled, combination carriages became more common. The ABD type was an odd result of this experimentation, with nine cars built by 1886. These each had half the car as a guard's van and luggage area, and the other half split into a second- and first-class compartment of normal style. The final total was from 1ABD to 18ABD.

Between 1889 and 1891, three cars were transferred to other service. Car ABD 8 was most interesting. The car was altered to 380B in 1889. This suggests the car was originally a standard carriage with one compartment used as a van section or that the van was fitted with seating and the cupola section blanked off or removed. Twelve were built new during 1893/1894. Five cars were transferred to other service between 1898 and 1903. In the 1910 recoding the class was relettered to XYZ_. The numbers were altered to fill gaps when the cars were relettered. The railways ran a small group of guards vans that had 1st and 2nd class accommodation. The vans were used on mixed trains and smaller branchline trains. The carriages/vans were classed as ABD_ until 1910 when the lettering and numbers were altered and the car/vans became XYZ. By 1910 there were thirteen vehicles. The class numbers were 1 - 13. One XYZ car was scrapped in 1912. An extra vehicle was not converted until 1922 when 12YZ became 14XYZ. This class was gradually withdrawn from service between 1928 and 1939.

First & Guard's Van Carriages[edit]

These vehicles entered service between 1881 and 1886. They were built to a similar design to YZ vans but were for First Class. The number group is 1 to 58. However many cars are missing from the list. From the data it appears that the class was re-organised in 1886. Many vehicles in service prior to 1886 were scrapped and the numbers left vacant for replacements that were never built. Cars 3, 7, 17, 18, 24, 30, 37 - 44, 55 - 57 were never in service after 1886. Cars 1, 2 and 4 entered service about 1886 as replacements for earlier cars. Car 4AD is now 69YZ, preserved in running condition at Seymour. Between 1887 and 1904, the vehicles were converted to _BD_ at about the rate of about two or three per year with twelve conversions for 1891. In the 1910 recoding the sole remaining vehicle in the class, AD 4, was recoded to XZ, number 1. In February 1914, XZ 1 was relettered to YZ 69.

Second Class Carriages[edit]

The group of Second Class carriages were coded 'B'. They were placed in service from 1858 to 1886, with a sole Second Class carriage built in 1893. From 1886 onwards, First Class carriages coded A were downgraded to Second. The introduction of bogie carriages to country service cascaded stock allowing older vehicles to be scrapped or converted to works cars. In the mid to late 1890s, older stock was marked with a 'H' to indicate 'Holiday' traffic; stock stored for use until busy holiday times of the year. The cars were eventually coded _BH_. In the 1910 recoding these cars were recoded to YH. The B/BH group was numbered 1 - 479. In the 1910 recoding the 'B' class was recoded to Y. To remove gaps in the numbers caused by conversions and scrappings, the carriages were renumbered as they were recoded. The Y/YH group were in the 1 - 385 group. From the mid 1890s and possibly earlier, older carriages were stored and used infrequently. Their use was generally to provide more capacity on trains at holiday times or for the make up of special excursion trains. The addition of a letter 'H' next to the code, but not part of it, was the initial indicator with the 'H' later becoming part of the code from the 1900s. The H was not included in traffic reports. Carriages marked BH were downgraded from class B. For some carriages it is difficult to determine whether they were converted from carriages as B and came BH or whether the conversion was directly to BH. The BH cars were recoded and renumbered to YH in the 1910 recoding. The numbers were altered as well to remove gaps when cars in the 'B' group had been scrapped and not replaced. The numbers run 1 - 385. This number group is also shared by YH cars.

Two hundred and sixteen cars were relettered in the 1910 recoding with four cars converted into the class between 1913 and 1922. The cars were progressively removed from service between 1911 and 1935 by scrapping or conversions to W works sleepers. The remaining few cars, sited at loco depots, were removed and scrapped by 1956. One car survived to 1963 as a railmotor trailer on a distant branch line. The car Y 309, was restored and is now part of the 'Veteran train'. One hundred and sixty four cars were recoded in 1910. The number group is part of the Y group. Both form one number group 1 - 385. The YH numbers recorded by the author are: The 'H' grouping was all done by 1902. This is to say that no more cars were down rated from Y to YH after about 1902. Most of these cars were converted to W works sleepers between 1912 and 1956. Other cars were removed and scrapped.

Y numbers: 4, 7, 17, 20, 22, 30-31, 33, 38, 52, 54, 63, 65-69, 77, 89, 91, 93-96, 98, 100, 102-208, 212, 213, 217-224, 230-247, 250-251, 253, 257-258, 267, 270-272, 276-279, 288-289, 292, 294, 299, 300, 302-303, 306, 309, 315, 320-322, 325-326, 329, 330, 333, 336-337, 339, 342-344, 347-348, 350-351, 357-358, 360-361, 363, 366, 369, 371-378, 383 and 385. YH numbers: 1-3, 5-16, 18-19, 21, 23, 25-29, 32, 34-37, 39-51, 53, 55-62, 64, 70-76, 78-88, 90, 92, 97, 99, 101, 209-211, 214-216, 225-229, 248-249, 252, 254-256, 259-266, 268-269, 273, 275, 280-287, 290-293, 295-298, 301, 304-305, 307-308, 310-314, 316-319, 323-324, 327-328, 331-332, 334-335, 338, 340-341, 345-346, 349, 352-356, 359, 364-365, 367-368, 370, 379-382 and 384.

Second Class & Guard's Van Carriages[edit]

Between 1883 and 1887 there were twenty six vehicles placed into service as BD. From 1887 to 1904 a further forty six vehicles were converted to BD from classes AD and ABD. The resulting number group was 1 to 68. About 1895, BD cars 43 and 67 became BDH 43 and 67. They were retained for holiday traffic and stored at other times. In the 1910 recoding they were relettered to YZH. The last car YZH 67 was removed from service in 1913. In the 1910 recoding the class BD was relettered to YZ with the same numbers retained. Some vans were converted into the class in the late 1900s. The number group was 1 - 69. In 1922, YZ 12 was converted to XYZ 14. By the 1930s, the only vans left were stationed at loco depots on 'Breakdown trains'. One van survived as a railmotor trailer in the Mallee district.

Guard's Vans[edit]

Fixed-wheel guard's vans
Victorian Railways ZD van.jpg
Van 611 ZD, in storage at the Seymour Railway Heritage Centre
Manufacturer Victorian Railways
Built at Newport Workshops
Family name Fixed-wheel carriages
Replaced Each other
Constructed From 1851
Refurbishment Each other
Number built Roughly 750
Number scrapped Roughly 700
Design code D, Z
Fleet numbers 1D-265D; 1Z-33Z & 35Z-746Z

4 LT 0 cwt 0 qtr (4.06 t) (3-axle Z/ZL)

2 LT 0 cwt 0 qtr (2.03 t) (ZD & two-axle Z/ZL)[2]
Operator(s) Daylesford Spa Country Railway, Victorian Goldfields Railway and Steamrail Victoria
Car body construction Timber
Car length 24 feet 2 inches (7.37 m) over body, 27 feet 6 inches (8.38 m) over coupling points
Width 8 feet 0 inches (2.44 m)
Height 12 feet 6 12 inches (3.82 m)
Wheelbase 7 feet 6 inches (2.29 m) between axles; 15 feet 0 inches (4.57 m) total and for four-wheeled vans
Maximum speed 50 mph (80 km/h)

10 LT 8 cwt 0 qtr (10.57 t) unloaded (Z & ZL)
14 LT 0 cwt 0 qtr (14.22 t) unloaded (ZB)

13 LT 8 cwt 0 qtr (13.62 t) unloaded (ZD)
Axle load 3 LT 7 cwt 1 13 qtr (3.42 t) unloaded
Braking system(s) Westinghouse air brake
Coupling system Screw, later autocouplers
Track gauge 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm); two on 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

These fixed-wheeled vehicles were the primary group of guard's vans built for the Victorian Railways. They were built nearly continuously, from 1858 to 1891. The code 'D' was applied on a van, as late as 1907.

These vans were attached at the rear of trains. As there was no continuous brake, the guard at the rear assisted stopping by using the handbrake.

When construction of the 'D' vans stopped, the number group was from 1D to 265D. However, there were far more vans that this in total, because many of the earlier vans had been scrapped and replaced by new vans which took the same numbers. Eventually around 750 vans were constructed (not counting duplicates); and from 1888 bogie vehicles were constructed with a central cupola and two ends matching the D type design; these vans were called the DD class, later C class.

In the 1890s some vans were rebuilt from four to six wheels.

DH, ZH vans[edit]

Short-bodied, fixed-wheel guard's vans
Manufacturer Victorian Railways
Built at Williamstown Workshops & Newport Workshops
Number built 4
Number scrapped 4
Design code DH, ZH
Fleet numbers 25, 27, 33 & 34
Capacity 3 LT 0 cwt 0 qtr (3.05 t)
Car body construction Timber
Car length 19 feet 6 inches (5.94 m) over body, 22 feet 9 inches (6.93 m) over coupling points
Width 8 feet 0 inches (2.44 m)
Height Likely 12 feet 6 12 inches (3.82 m)
Wheelbase 11 feet 2 inches (3.40 m)
Maximum speed 50 mph (80 km/h)
Weight 7 LT 15 cwt 0 qtr (7.87 t) unloaded
Axle load 3 LT 17 cwt 2 qtr (3.94 t) unloaded
Braking system(s) Westinghouse air brake
Coupling system Screw
Track gauge 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)

During the normal construction program of D vans four vans were segregated and constructed to a different plan, with four wheels and a shorter body. The vans, numbered 25, 27, 33 and 34, were intended for shorter workings in suburban areas, counteracting additional length in more powerful locomotives to allow trains to still fit in sidings and platforms.[3]

25D was built in 1863 at Williamstown Workshops, followed by 27D, 33D and 34D in 1883-1884 at Newport Workshops. In 1890 the four vans had booking offices installed at the non-cupola end of the vans, so that tickets could be sold on the trains instead of requiring platform staff on lesser-patronised lines, like the remnants of the Outer City Circle or perhaps the Buninyong Line. From around 1895 the vans had a letter "H" marked on the body sides, indicating that they were to be stored for the most part and used in service only in times of peak traffic. The letter was formalised into a code in 1899, when the vans were reclassed DH to avoid confusion with the regular vans. In 1910 they were to be reclassed ZH, following that pattern. 25D became 25Z accidentally, but it was scrapped in 1911 so the problem was rendered moot. Around the same time 34ZH was allocated to the Ballarat breakdown train.[4], until it was withdrawn in November 1956. The van was officially scrapped, but the body remained onsite as late as 1979. Vans 27ZH and 33ZH were scrapped in 1919, as electrification spread throughout the Melbourne network and locomotives were no longer taking up valuable platform length.

Mail Sorting Vans[edit]

In early 1909, five D vans were modified to include a mail sorting section, for traffic between Melbourne and Bendigo. They were numbered DMS 1 to 5, previously having been 188D, 177D, 180D, 194D & 179D.

In the 1910 recoding the class was altered to ZDS, following the principle where the two bogie guard & mail sorting vans, previously DDMS, became CDS.

In March 1911 the vans were returned to the standard guard van design. They took the number group Z243 to Z247, in that order.

Z Vans[edit]

In the 1910 recoding, the 'D' vans took on the letter 'Z', setting a pattern for the next seventy years. D vans 1 through 265 were renumbered to 1 through 242, filling gaps opened by scrapped and converted vehicles. Vans 1 through 5 ZDS became 243-247Z.

All vans built to this style from 1911 onwards, were lettered 'Z' and numbered from 248 up.

In 1924, the New South Wales Government Railways took control of the Deniliquin and Moama Railway, and acquired three Z vans previously purchased from the VR. All assets were then handed to the Victorian Railways, per Clause 47 of the Border Railways Act, 1922, Schedule 1.[5] The vans numbered 1 and 2 under the D&MR system became 27Z and 33Z, using numbers freed by the ZH series, and the third van was scrapped. As noted above 25DH became 25Z, instead of 25ZH; and there is no reference to a 34Z, indicating that this would have been the number applied to the third D&MR van.

Construction continued through to 1929, terminating with vans no. 624Z, 625Z and 626Z entering service on January 26th that year.[6][7] Vans fitted with automatic couplers after 1933 were marked with a large, painted letter A in opposite corners.

The program picked up again during World War II, as freight trains were running more often and the existing fleet of vans was no longer sufficient. 1941-1945 saw a new group of vans built to the existing planked-body design, but with only two axles rather than three, and steel underframes in place of timber. The increased axle load was not an issue because all lines had long-since been upgraded to handle the additional strain, and locomotives were far more powerful than they had been when the vans were first introduced in 1886. The new vans took numbers 627Z through 706Z, with the first 20 entering service in 1941, a further 20 in 1943, and the balance of 40 built continuously through 1944-1945. These vans had their shunter's steps mounted higher, roughly in line with the axleboxes rather than just below them. Additionally, the vans were constructed with only two cupola windows, rather than four, to save on glass costs.[8]

A final batch of vans was constructed in 1950-1951, this time with a steel frame and two axles, but also with panelled body sides in place of planks. These forty vans were numbered 707Z through 746Z.

In later years many vans would have panelled or planked sections swapped, depending on the parts available at the time.

Notably, when the Victorian Railways wanted to save money in marking the ends of rarely-used sidings, they would place a pair of white timber baulks across the track. With the introduction of the D/Z vans, these baulks had to be notched at the left side when approaching on the track, to make room for the underhanging threaded screw rod from the hand brake at the cupola end of the vans and avoid further damage in case of a derailment.


As buffers were phased out of all trains in the late 50's to early 60's the Z vans began to develop riding quality issues caused by the excess slack in couplings along the length of trains. Guards reported being thrown around and injured by the rough riding. Trains had previously typically run up to 45 wagons' length, where a standard wagon length was around 12 to 15 feet. With automatic couplers becoming the new standard, that had increased gradually up to 74 wagons plus van, doubling the slack forces that needed to be absorbed.[9]

Additionally, the new diesel locomotives being introduced were only fitted with automatic couplers, rather than the dual screw and automatic couplers as fitted to most steam engines of the time. To overcome both problems a number of vans were modified, going through various iterations until solutions could be found.

ZP Vans[edit]

To solve the issue of coupler compatibility, a group of vans were fitted with dual couplers recovered from scrapped steam locomotives. This allowed them to be used as transition vehicles between newer diesel locomotives, fitted with automatic couplings, and older passenger cars fitted with screw couplers. Dates of conversion are not recorded, but vans altered were marked with a letter "P" painted in the upper corners, standing for "plural". This was explicitly different from the "P" marking later applied to freight stock permitted to travel at passenger train speeds of 70 mph (113 km/h); these vans were only allowed to run at 60 mph (97 km/h).[10] The extra speed was made possible by the addition of a false floor covering 3 LT 0 cwt 0 qtr (3.05 t) of scrap rails. The lower centre of gravity also improved the ride quality relative to track state, but did nothing for slack action. From 1956 the vans were officially recoded ZP, rather than just Z with "P" markings. The vans fitted exclusively with automatic couplers were not recoded ZA, because by that time the entire fleet was autocoupler-compatible.

Vans converted to ZP were 19, 31, 33, 56, 85, 153, 181-182, 184, 187, 190, 194, 197-198, 206, 211-212, 215, 222, 224, 227, 237, 239-240, 253, 260, 468-471, 494, 498-500, 585, 599-601, 603-604, 611 & 619 for a total of 42 vehicles.

The ZZ Van[edit]

In an effort to find a better solution for ride quality, the Railways converted 742Z from a four-wheeled van to a bogie guards van. It featured cast bogies with outside spring dampers, and entered service as 742ZZ. It was theorised that the extra springs between axles and bogie, as well as between bogie and frame, would help to reduce vertical forces experienced due to less than ideal track geometry, though it is not clear how the fitting of bogies would have helped with coupler slack issues.

The van ran on experimental trains from December 1958. Departmental officers rode other trains as well to gauge the difference in riding qualities across different van types. The test was deemed a failure on cost grounds and the van was placed back into storage at Newport Workshops by the middle of 1959.

ZL Vans[edit]

One of the other concepts put forward was to fit vans with longer-shank couplers in lieu of the standard type, to give greater coupler travel. This allowed more time to absorb the acceleration and braking forces in the train, and effectively prevented the rough riding caused by the slack action.

About 300 vans were modified on a rotating basis; a van shell would be lifted, the underframe removed for modification, and the underframe from the previous van would then be rolled into place, to accelerate the program. Modified vans kept the number of the body (against locomotive practice, where the number stayed with the frame); and were recoded ZL on completion. The first altered van was 719Z to ZL in 1959, and in January 1960 No.742 re-entered service as a ZL. The program continued through to 1965, eventually absorbing some of the ZP vans as well.

Three vans, no's 347, 420 and 431 ZL, were exclusively allocated to the Cudgewa line, for stock specials. These vans had been fitted with extra vents and berths for cattle drover accommodation. A further two vans[11] were allocated to standard gauge, and were used on either end of NN wagons on the ballast trains during construction of the new Albury line.

Clearance Van[edit]

In 1961, the remnants of van Z218 (ex D241) were modified such that it could be used to test clearances for special loads going to Gippsland, for the Hazelwood Power Station project.

A pantograph was fitted with a graphing device which recorded the height of the overhead contact wire.

The vehicle was stored at Newport Workshops when not in use. It is thought that the vehicle was not used beyond 1974; it was later sold to Simsmetal and scrapped on 22 December 1979.

ZB Vans[edit]

Like the ZP vans before them, twenty of the ZL fleet were upgraded in 1971 by adding three tons of rail and a false floor. The vans were coded ZB, possibly indicating a planned use on ballast trains where constant stopping and starting could have created derailment risks. The vans were numbered 1 through 20, previously ZL van bodies 552, 348, 528, 427, 574, 452, 378, 308, 472, 317, 434, 405, 224, 393, 226, 463, 288, 481, 232 and 457 respectively. The vans were not considered particularly useful, with the first withdrawn in 1973 and none lasting beyond 1984.

ZD Vans[edit]

By 1978 most of the older screw-coupled passenger stock had been withdrawn, so the ZP vans were losing their usefulness. From that year, some of the class had their ballast removed and the ZP designation replaced with ZD, indicating retention of dual couplings but lowering of maximum speed back to 50 mph (80 km/h), for freight work and possibly as transition vehicles within workshop limits. About a third of the class was recoded, those members being 19, 31, 211, 237, 239, 260, 468 - 471, 494, 500, 600, 604, 611 and 619, for a total of 16.

Mail vans[edit]

The railway records show twenty two fixed wheel mail vans in service. They were given the code E and were numbered 1 - 22, and externally resembled D guard's vans without the cupola at one end.

They appear to have been attached to trains and used to transfer mail between centres. Port Melbourne is mentioned, mail transfer between Melbourne and ships most likely.

They were placed into service between 1858 and 1885. There are however anomalies as the records were rewritten in 1886 with most of the previous data lost. From the diagrams available, some of the class were converted from surplus carriage stock.

The vans were progressively removed from service from 1888. Three were converted to C Hearse vans.

Remaining cars were modified as sleeping vans for use by the then 'Existing Lines Branch'. Until 1910 they were recoded into the WS group, and W thereafter.

Most of the vans (as W) were scrapped in the late 1920s / early 1930s.

Three vans survived to the 1950s

   E 9 as W 116 - scrapped late 1970s, body at Elmhurst at 1999
   E 21 as W 114 - scrapped 1958
   E 22 as W 113 - scrapped 1960, earmarked for ARHS, no disposition information

Workmen Vans[edit]

The WS class evolved from a collection of old carriages and vans in railway service. At 1886 there was a list of carriages and their use as works sleepers. These carriages were later absorbed into the "WS" number group. It is difficult to determine when the class letters were first used, the data suggests 1887.

These works sleepers were used throughout the state system. They were accommodation for supervisory and repair staff who were required to travel. These people included telegraph fitters, foreman, bridge repairers, track staff, signal fitters. Conversions of redundant stock progressed through the 1890s until April 1910. No doubt this stock was released by bogie the introduction of bogie carriages. This caused a cascading effect which left the oldest stock built up to the 1880s for railway use.

By April 1910, the WS fleet numbered 1 - 120. In the 1910 recoding, the WS class letters became simply _W__. The vehicles were re-numbered in the process which makes research from the Diagram Books difficult. Construction and conversion into this group continued after April 1910 as the 'W' class and in that number group. Types The WS class includes conversions from: _AB_ First/Second class fixed wheel cars, _B__ / _BH_ Second class fixed wheel cars, _E__ mail vans and _D__ Guards Vans. 1-8WS became 2-9W; 10-12WS became 1-3WW; 13-118WS became 11-118W.

In the most cases the WS cars that became W were the 2nd or 3rd vehicle of the number.

From 1906, a number of older vehicles were scrapped and were rebuilt to a new sleeping van design built in 1901. This van eventually became _W__ 1.

Significant cars[edit]

  • 1A (2nd) - built 1889 by Brown & Marshall and was noted as an "Exhibition Car". It survives today as a carbody on a farm, 160 km north of Melbourne.
  • 4A (2nd) - built 1893. From 1903 to 1907 was used as the Vision Test car, a predecessor to the medical services provided by the Railways to all staff, to ensure that they were capable of carrying out duties safely.
  • 67A, 68A - built 1880 as 4-wheelers. 1891, each had a single bogie added, became known as Ministerial 2 and 1 respectively. 1899, merged onto single underframe as Edinburgh, renamed 1910 as Mitta Mitta. 1924, became Vision Test Car. Scrapped 1939.
  • 69A - built 1858 as 4-wheeler. 1890 as Departmental car. 1896 as Dynagraph car. Spotted Newport Workshops 1939, with last-oiled date 1924. Scrapped 1953.
  • 147A - built 1883 as 6-wheeler. 1892 as 359B. 1910 as 37X. 1946 as 43W. 1963 as 151WW. Off register by 1986, was kept as living quarters for Steam Crane no.45's driver. Had been stabled at Arden Street workshops (North Melbourne / Macaulay) since approx. 1970 on own track with canopy. Body only from 1997; occupant left after hip operation. Body offered to ARHS.
  • 153A - built 1883 as 6-wheeler. 1892 as 343B. 1909 as Hospital Car No.2.
  • 199A - per above, then 283B (1887), 283BH (1889), destroyed in Braybrook (Sunshine) crash 20 April 1908.

Other conversions[edit]

Travelling Booking Office (TBO)[edit]

As a result of the 1890s economic depression the railways, like all other businesses, were required to cut costs in any way possible. One method of achieving this was to remove staff members from a lot of small stations; to compensate, ticket sales were made on the train. To achieve this, a handful of carriages were fitted with a booking office area, with a small sales window.

The South Gippsland Line had a special carriage provided; first class car 173A was modified to become 1TBO in 1892. The car had been acquired from the Hobson's Bay & United Railway Company in the 1870s. The car was converted to full-passenger traffic as second class holiday car 68BH in 1900. In the 1910 recoding this became 57YH; 1913 saw the car altered again to a Workmans sleeper 156W, which was finally scrapped in 1938.

A second car, 2TBO, was converted from 77AB in 1900 as a replacement for 1TBO. 77AB had been built in 1882. This car ran in service until 1909 when it became 117WS, then 115W in the 1910 recoding. It was marked "off register" in 1911.

Weight Machine Adjuster (WMA)[edit]

These three vans were assigned to weighbridge fitters, who travelled around the state maintaining weighbridges. They were probably outfitted as sleepers.

In 1888 carriage 247B (ex Hobsons Bay) was relettered as 1WMA. The vehicle was four compartments long, each with a door on either side; the body was 20 ft long. This was scrapped in 1903.

A further two cars were converted to 2WMA and 3WMA in 1898, coming from 45AB and the first 376B (ex 172A, Hobsons Bay stock) respectively. 2WMA was scrapped in 1906 and replaced with a new-build workmans sleeper, 23WS. That van was recoded to 21W and lasted in service to the late 1970s. 3WMA became the second 82WS in 19078, then in the 1910 recoding it became 80W. It was scrapped in 1928.

References to a 5WMA exist, but there are no records indicating that the van was ever built or in service. This is thought to be a case of 'pre-empting' uncompleted work, or else a mis-lettering of the 45AB/2WMA diagram.

1910 recoding and later[edit]

In the 1910 mass recoding, the cars kept their then-current designations but with A replaced by X, B replaced by Y and D replaced by Z. There were no passenger C cars in service at this time, and the letter had been recycled in 1893 for hearse vehicles. H, where appropriate, was retained.

Cars that had been built between 1850 and 1880 were largely scrapped by 1930. Later-built stock was recycled for other uses, being used up to the 1980s and ending their days as workmen sleepers.

The final number range was from 1A to 274A excluding 129, although not all numbers were in use at the same time and the majority were recycled at least once. In fact, 117 numbers were used twice, and of those 13 were used three times. After 1886 a total of 276 cars were classed A at some point or another. Before the 1910 recoding there were B/BH cars in the range 1-479; after the recoding, with renumberings to fill the gaps, the range shrunk to 1-385.


The mail vans were the first to go, being phased out by the 1930s.

The fixed-wheel passenger stock hung around a little longer, but was mostly gone by World War II. By 1976 the fleet was mostly used for vintage excursion purposes, with a handful noted as in service.[12]

After about a century of service to the Victorian Railways, guard's vans began to get phased out around the mid-1980s. By the end of the decade they were gone, replaced by 'electronic guards' - red lights that flash - on the end of the train. In 1976, the Victorian Railways' rolling stock register recorded a mere seven Z vans, along with 19 of the 20 ZB vans, 10 ZD and 5 ZP vans out of 42, and 342 ZL vans recorded as serviceable on the broad gauge system, plus two on standard gauge.[13]


Compared to the huge number of cars that were constructed, only a handful have survived with preservation railways (not counting the plethora of privately owned bodies used on barns around country Victoria).

The Australian Railway Historical Society museum at Newport has Z 174 reserved, though it is currently held at Newport Workshops East Block. The group also has possession of ZL 220.

At Bright railway station a display of rollingstock, representative of the trains which would have visited the station in its heydey, includes ZL 488. Similarly, a display at Coal Creek, Korumburra, includes ZL 334 along with some passenger cars, K 169, a pair of QR open wagons and the frame from Oil Tank 45.

The Central Highlands Tourist Railway in Daylesford has ZL 544, and it is used on the end of works trains as a crew carriage.

Southeast of Melbourne, the Mornington Railway Preservation Society has custody of ZB 20, ZL 582, ZL 586 and ZD 604.

ZD 470, ZD 471 and Z 590 is kept by Steamrail. The ZD vans were previously used to link between autocoupled and screw-coupled rollingstock; these days the vans are only ever used for shunting displays on open days. Steamrail may also be the custodians of ZD 600, which was a support van for steam locomotive Y 112 when West Coast Railway was operating.

The Seymour Rail Heritage Centre controls ZL 2 and 395, and ZD 611. It is thought that they are used as mobile tool storage facilities.

ZD 468 is kept at Trentham, as part of a collection of rollingstock thatg may one day be amalgamated into the CHTR collection.

The Yarra Valley Tourist Railway has ZD 619, and has recently acquired both ZD 19 from Steamrail Ballarat and ZL 594's underframe from Huon. It is thought that Z 58 still resides at Huon.

Finally, the Victorian Goldfields Railway has ZL numbers 333, 456 and 518.

The Veteran Train[edit]

Carriage set 40X-309Y-69YZ was first restored to operating condition in the early 1950s as a display piece for the 1954 Victorian Railways Centenary. Since that time the cars have been kept in fairly good condition.

Current deployment[edit]

  • Carriage set 40X-309Y-69YZ at Castlemaine, recently transferred from Seymour.[14][15] Coupled with Z vans either end, fitted with autocouplers.
  • XY cars 12, 136 at ARHS, Newport
Photograph of the body of Victorian Railways carriage 136AB at ARHS Museum, Newport.
Photograph of the body of Victorian Railways carriage 12AB at ARHS Museum, Newport.
  • XZ car 47 (body only) at Seymour
  • Y car 222 (body only) at Steamrail; YH 382 may be at Seymour
  • A car 143 (Brown & Marshall, 1883) exists as WW110 (on 3' 6" bogies) at the Bellarine Railway, Queenscliff

Photos of the last move the Seymour set were involved in; 40X-309Y-69YZ

  • Additionally, 19YZ was until recently stored at Maldon minus underframe; it has since been sold to a private individual.

Model Railways[edit]

Steam Era Models makes an HO scale plastic kit of the Z vans, which is designed for the ZP vans, but can be kitbashed to any of the other variations. The ZL would be the easiest conversion, because the only 1:87 scale change would be the "L" in the code. It would be relatively straightforward to backdate the kit to the D van, or postdate the van to ZD, ZL, ZP or ZZ types. Parts from the kit could be recycled, in conjunction with Steamandthings's carriage side etchings to construct a new body for passenger and mail vans.

In early 2016, Austrains announced the release of ten Z-type 6-wheeled vans, in packs of two retailing at $145.00 plus postage. Numbers produced are 4Z, 315Z, 477Z; 330ZL, 418ZL, 488ZL, 579ZL and 153ZP, 239ZP, 471ZP.[16]

Pack Van Colour From To Cupola windows Inner cupola ends Chimney Door type Axle Boxes Notes Photos
Z001 004Z Wagon Brown c1910 (Ex D) 1973 (Off Register) All visible Yes Yes, Black Solid, unbarred Regular Incorrectly marked as ZP 1956-1957 Pre-1910?[17][18]
Z001 315Z Wagon Brown 1912 (Built) 1979 (Off Register) All visible Yes Yes, Black Solid, unbarred Regular Ballarat Breakdown van, later Loco Van, 1936 to 1979 27/04/1975,[19][20] 02/10/1976,[21] 14/10/1979[22]
Z002 477Z Wagon Brown 1914 (pending windows?) 1975 (Off Register) All visible Yes Yes, Black Solid, unbarred Regular c1935, Maryborough Breakdown Van. Scrapped 1975.
Z002 330ZL 1965 (ex Z) 1983 (Off Register) Centre pairs covered Yes Yes, Black Solid, unbarred Regular Permanently allocated to Seymour Breakdown Train
Z003 418ZL 1961 (Ex Z) 1981 (Off Register) Centre pairs covered Yes Yes, Brown Solid, unbarred Regular 19xx,[23] 1979,[24] 07/01/1978,[25] 24/04/1978,[26] 13/10/1978[27]
Z003 488ZL Wagon Brown 1963 (pending windows? Ex Z) 1981 (Off Register) Centre pairs covered Yes Yes, Brown Solid, unbarred Regular Ex 488Z 1963; mesh over windows 1980; Off Register 1981; Preserved Bright 1978[28]
Z004 579ZL 1961 (Ex Z) 1980 (Off Register) Centre pairs covered Yes Yes, Black Solid, unbarred Regular
Z004 153ZP Passenger Red 1956 (ex Z) 1974 (Off Register) All visible Yes Yes, Brown Solid, unbarred Regular
Z005 239ZP Passenger Red 1956 (ex Z) 1974 (marked Overhead Only) All visible Yes Yes, Brown Solid, unbarred Regular Ex 239Z 1956. In 1974, marked with "OVERHEAD ONLY"; 1977 recoded 239ZD, 1978 off register c1975,[29] 17/10/1976[30]
Z005 471ZP Passenger Red 1956 (Ex Z); 1957 (Painted red) 1977 (Recoded to ZD) All visible Yes Yes, Brown Solid, unbarred Regular 1976 - on last train to Maldon. Preserved Steamrail 1983. 1960's,[31][32] 06/03/1977,[33] 06/05/1977,[34][35] 25/03/1979[36]


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External links[edit]



Z van modifications[edit]

Special & Other Cars[edit]

Workmen vehicles[edit]