Glossary of Australian railway terms

This page contains a list of jargon used to varying degrees by railfans and trainspotters in Australia, including nicknames for various locomotives and multiple units. Although not exhaustive, many of the entries in this list appear from time to time in specialist, rail-related publications. Inclusion of a term in this list does not necessarily imply its universal adoption by all railfans and enthusiasts, and there may be significant regional variation in usage. State variances may be indicated by the state abbreviation (e.g. VIC, NSW).

Contents :


412 or Regulation 412
An inside joke in which "412" is always highlighted, no matter the context, or in the case of Regulation 412, a fictional rule in which anything can be justified


Annett key
A large key which locks levers or other items of signalling apparatus, thereby serving as a portable form of interlocking
Annie Oakey set
QR heritage carriages—allusions of the Wild West


Bandicoot (QLD)
An EMU with a distinctive grey band painted across the cab wind shields
QR pacific type BB18¼ 4-6-2 steam locomotive used on express passenger and freight trains—named after the telegraphic code
Blue babies
QR DD17 class suburban tank engine, in a blue midway between navy and sky blue
Broad gauge
5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) as used in the states of Victoria and South Australia. Standard gauge of 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) exists nationwide except for the state of Tasmania, Queensland runs some narrower 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) lines as do the states of West Australia and South Australia. The island state of Tasmania is exclusively 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm).
Brown bomber
A QR C17 4-8-0 (2D) steam engine, typically painted brown
Bug Hut (VIC)
Victorian Railways "Workmen's Sleepers"—primarily surplus carriage stock converted to onsite work crew accommodation


Centralized traffic control (CTC)
A system in which signals and switches for a given area of track are controlled from a centralized location[1]
The person checking tickets on a tram or train
Cyclops (QLD)
An EMU with one cab modified to only have one central wind shield, which can then only be used as a guard's cab in the middle of a six-car set


Victorian diesel electric rail motor
Detonator (DET)
An explosive device placed on rail and triggered by wheel pressure—used to warn of hazard ahead
Dog or dogspike
A spike with a slightly altered head shape for easier extraction when the spike has become too loose in the sleeper[2][3]
Doggies (VIC)
Former "dog box" type red suburban trains


Electric staff
System of safeworking used on single track to allow the movement of trains
Electric multiple unit (EMU) (QLD)
A specific class of suburban train
Evans set (QLD)
Brisbane wooden suburban set


Flying flea (archaic)
The portion of the Westlander that divides at Charleville for Quilpie


A rail enthusiast or train spotter who photographs Hitachi suburban electric trains in particular
The person in charge of the train
A rail or tramway enthusiast


Harris (VIC)
Former Harris type (or Blue) electric suburban train


Interurban multiple unit (IMU) (QLD)
A class of electric multiple units manufactured by Walkers Limited/Downer EDI Rail, Maryborough for Queensland Rail's Citytrain division between 1996 and 2011


A portable (often handheld) light source that is used to signal train crews[4]
Light-headed guard
See Battery-operated guard.


Mothballed (QLD)
A railway line that is still owned by Queensland Rail, but no longer operated on. As a few lines were closed, before having to be rebuilt again like the Cleveland Line, QR no longer completely closes lines, so that the railway need only be fixed to an operable condition if reopened.


Number nicker or number shark
A rail fan who writes down numbers of trains they have seen


QR class 1170 diesel
Colloquial term for train staff (token)
Petrol electric rail motor (PERM)
A railmotor operated by the Victorian Railways of Australia, later called the Diesel Electric Rail Motor


Rail motor stopping place (RMSP)
A short platform on a country line specifically for picking up and setting down of passengers of a rail motor
Rattler (QLD)
Colloquial term for former Evans sets in Brisbane
Red rattler (VIC/NSW)
Colloquial term for the former red Tait (VIC) and Tulloch/Comeng single-deck (NSW) suburban electric trains


Silver (VIC)
Colloquial term for a Hitachi suburban electric trains
Six-volt guard
See Battery-operated guard.
Snapper (QLD)
Roaming staff who check tickets on trains or at stations
A suburban electric train
Standard gauge (QLD)
3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm), as opposed to the 'broad' standard gauge used in other states
Steel set
QR suburban passenger sets from 1960s, replacing the Evans sets
Colloquial term for signal


Tait (VIC)
Former Tait type (or Red) electric suburban train, known colloquially as red rattlers
Two trains on the same mainline


Uniform gauge (QLD)
Standard gauge


V-set (NSW)
Double deck interurban trains—targeted "V"


White set
A Queensland Railways long-distance train sporting their livery from the 1950s


QR AC16 class steam loco. American Balwin locos imported during World War II. 221A still in service with QR.

See also


  1. "Railroading Glossary: C". Kalmbach Publishing. Archived from the original on 13 September 2014. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
  2. Railway Track Engineering (fourth ed.). New Delhi, India: Tata McGraw Hill Education Private Ltd. 2010 [first edition published 2000]. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-07-068012-8.
  3. Fitch, Ron J. (2006). Australian Railwayman: From Cadet Engineer to Railways Commissioner. Rosenberg Publishing Pty Ltd. ISBN 1-877058-48-3.
  4. Cunningham, William A. (1997). The Railroad Lantern, 1865 to 1930: The Evolution of the Railroad Hand Lantern as Reflected by the United States Patent Records and by Lanterns Made by Cross, Dane & Westlake, Dane, Westlake & Covert, the Adams & Westlake Manufacturing Co. & the Adams & Westlake Company. Wm. A. Cunningham.
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