Victorian Railways open wagons

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Open Wagons
Manufacturer Victorian Railways
Constructed From 1859
Number built >15000
Operator(s) Victorian Railways
Line(s) served All
Track gauge 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)

The Victorian Railways used a variety of both 4 wheel and bogie open wagons for the transport of a wide range of loads.


The first open wagons were 4 wheel wagons of all wooden construction, had no brakes and could carry up to 8 long tons (8.1 t; 9.0 short tons). Westinghouse brakes were added from 1891 with most vehicles modified by 1905. The addition of brakes and the use of steel frames meant that loads by 1928 vehicles with 27-long-ton (27.4 t; 30.2-short-ton) capacity had been developed.

The first bogie open wagons were built in 1880 and had a capacity of 20 long tons (20.3 t; 22.4 short tons). Bogie vehicles stayed in the minority of vehicles up until their widespread introduction in the mid-1950s with the construction associated with Operation Phoenix.[1]

4 Wheel Wagons

I Series wagons

The first I wagon was built in 1859 of all wooden construction and could carry a load of 8 tons. In 1902 the first 15-long-ton (15.2 t; 16.8-short-ton) I wagons were built and got the nickname 'Tommy Bent' Wagon. From 1907 to 1926 the 'standard I wagon was built which could also carry 15 tons. These wagons had a longer wheelbase than the earlier 15 ton wagons.[2][3]

I - Four wheel Open Wagon

IA - Four wheel Open Wagon

IA wagons are identical to the steel 15-long-ton (15.2 t; 16.8-short-ton) I wagons. The only difference is they were recoded to allow for dual rating of 11 and 15 tons. this allowed loads of up to 11 long tons (11.2 t; 12.3 short tons) being charges at the 11 ton rate and loads 11 to 15 ton at the 15 ton rate. This recoding started in the early 1929 and continued while IB wagons were being scrapped.[4]

IB - 11 ton Open Wagon

In 1929 all I's with a load of less than 15 long tons (15.2 t; 16.8 short tons) were coded to IB to separate the lower capacity wagons from the newer higher capacity wagons.[5]

IC - Fixed Wheel Tippler Wagons

Approximately 350 I/IA wagons were converted for tippler traffic from 1954 to carry coal between Yallourn and Newport Power Station. Later traffic and then the only tippler traffic was between Bacchus Marsh and Fairfield. These wagons were modified by removal of the doors and replacing with a steel plate welded in place.

ID - (ex D&MR Co) Open Wagon

IG / IX Fixed Wheel Open Wagon

Drop sided wagon[6]

IO - Fixed Wheel Open Wagon

IY - Fixed Wheel Open Wagon

These wagons the same as the standard I wagon with a stronger underframe making them strong enough to carry a load of up to 22 long tons (22.4 t; 24.6 short tons). 350 of these wagons were made between 1926 and 1927.[7]

IZ - Fixed Wheel Open Wagon

In 1929 the first 27-long-ton (27.4 t; 30.2-short-ton) wagon was produced.[8]

G Series Wagons

In 1935 the VR first started transporting bulk grain. To cater for this traffic 200 of the standard I wagon were modified with grain proof seals and coded G.

In about 1956 due to the number of GY wagons these wagons were no longer required for bulk grain and were reclassified to I or IA.[9]

G - Bulk Grain Open Wagon

G - Fixed Wheel Open Wagon

GY - Fixed Wheel Open Wagon

In 1939 the VR produced the first of about 5000 wagons for carting bulk grain. Construction was carried out regularly from 1939 to 1958 with the majority being built in the late 40's and early 1950s. These wagons could be seen in long rakes of up to 73 wagons hauling the grain harvest. When not required for grain transport the GY could be used for general goods service.[10]

GZ - Bulk Grain Wagon

These wagons were a grain proofed version of the IZ wagon.[11]

HY - Fixed Wheel Open Wagon

This wagons were a general goods version of the GY wagon. As they were not designed for bulk grain so did not have the grain proof seals around the doors.[12]

HZ - Fixed Wheel Open Wagon

Other Four-Wheel Open Wagons

APM - Fixed Wheel Open Wagon

KF - Fixed Wheel Car Body Transport

KW - Fixed Wheel Motor Car Body Transport

RY - Fixed Wheel Open Wagon

N Series Wagons

N - Low-sided Ballast Wagon

NB - Low-sided Ballast Wagon

ND - Low-sided Ballast Wagon

NN - Low-sided, side-drop Ballast Wagon

S - Low-sided Ballast Wagon

Bogie wagons

Over time, four-wheeled wagons became obsolete as a design. Bogie vehicles could run at higher speeds and with more wheels they had a better axle-loading, meaning that they could carry a larger load. To this end, a number of classes of bogie vehicles were constructed.

Broad Gauge wagons

E - Bogie Open Wagon

In 1925 the South Australian Railways placed a large order for rolling stock with the American Car & Foundry, USA. The Victorian Railways elected to tack on to that order two louvre vans, two flat cars and two open wagons, becoming 1 and 2 V, S and E respectively; the equivalents of the South Australian Railways M, Fb and O types, along with a class of 12 J-type hopper wagons.

The vehicles were assembled at Newport Workshops with supplied components including pressed steel ends, sides and doors, for a capacity of 44 tons.[13][14] As the tests in both states proved successful, the Victorian Railways constructed a further 200 E type open wagons between 1027 and 1928.

From 1941, 100 randomly selected E type wagons had their sides, doors and ends removed for conversion to S type flat wagons. The vehicles retained their numbers except wagon E1, which became S203 because the original S1 was still in service. Of those converted, following World War II 20 wagons were further converted to tank wagons. Another 14 were restored to open wagon format before later being converted to tank wagons, while 38 were converted directly from open to tank with no intermediate flat wagon stage.

In the late 1950's the riveted bodies of the E wagons were wearing out, so welded components similar to those used in the ELX program were used as required.

Some wagons were specifically allocated to State Electricity Commission traffic, running wooden power poles from the Brooklyn depot to various country depots as required. These units had their doors removed and bolsters fitted to the floors to make removal of the poles easier.

EF/EX - Bogie Open Wagon

13 wagons were reclassed EF and fitted with roller bearing bogies and grade control equipment for use on the standard gauge line. These vehicles retained their E wagon numbers, but when made bogie-exchangeable they were recoded to EX and renumbered in the new series 1-13.

VOAA/VOAF - Bogie Open Wagon

15 wagons made it to the 1979 recoding, becoming VOAA or VOAF depending on the bogies fitted.

ELF Wagon


In photographs, the ELX is most easily distinguished from the similar E wagon by the fact that the ELX has four panels between its side doors, while the E wagon only has two.

ESX, VODX - Slab Steel

Twenty six of these wagons were built between 1964 and 1965, they were numbered 1 to 26. Primarily designed for transporting sheet steel, they also saw use as general wagons due to the design being very similar to the ELX Wagon. In the late 1960s they were used for transporting pipes for pipeline projects in Victoria.

OO - Bogie Open Wagon

QR, VOWA & VZWA - Drop Door Open Wagon

Victorian Railways open wagons
Number built 377 short & 30 long
Number preserved 17 short & nil long
Number scrapped 360 short & 30 long
Capacity 26 LT 0 cwt 0 qtr (26.42 t) diamond-frame bogies
Car body construction Timber planks
Car length 38 ft 5 12 in (11.72 m) over pulling lines (short type)
Width 8 ft 5 12 in (2.58 m)
Height 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m)
Wheel diameter 33 in (0.84 m)
Maximum speed 45 mph (72 km/h)
Weight 13 LT 10 cwt 0 qtr (13.72 t)
Axle load 3 LT 7 cwt 2 qtr (3.43 t) unloaded
Power supply Axle-mounted generators
Bogies 23 ft 0 34 in (7.03 m) centres (Types 1 & 2)
Braking system(s) Westinghouse
Coupling system screw, later autocouplers
Track gauge 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)

The design of the QR was effectively a compromise between the existing designs for medium-size flat wagons (Q) and medium-size open wagons (R).[15] The ends were fixed, but the three drop doors on each side could be removed if required.

The first vehicle entered service in March 1889, and was deemed successful. From July 1890 through May 1892, 150 wagons were constructed by Wright & Edwards at their Braybrook workshops on behalf of the Victorian Railways, followed by QR152-201 in 1892 constructed by the Railways, rather than being contracted out. These initial wagons were built with swing-motion, diamond-frame bogies; the underframe used both steel and wooden components, and was reinforced with truss rods. The final result provided a wagon with capacity of 26 LT 0 cwt 0 qtr (26.42 t).[16]

The design was slightly altered in 1912 and 175 wagons entered service in five batches up to February 1924, when QR376 entered service.[17] These vehicles were initially distinctive in their use of plate-frame bogies (otherwise used on heavier flat wagons, like the QB series), and were rated at 30 LT 0 cwt 0 qtr (30.48 t) load.

The 1919 General Appendix indicates that only QR trucks with strengthened draw gear (no's 202-351) were permitted on Express trains, and even then that they must be attached immediately behind the engine. Their use on any type of passenger trains required the explicit permission of the General Superintendent, and the Train Examiner was required to check the vehicle before its inclusion in such consist.[18]

A further 30 wagons, QR 377 to 406, were built in 1927 to an extended design with four doors per side in lieu of three.[19] The final member, QR407, was constructed in 1930 using leftover parts and matching the Type 2 design.[20]

In the 1930s the automatic coupler project saw the underframes replaced. The new design was all-steel, reinforced with centre sills in lieu of the truss rods and heavier bracing on the ends, and the brake equipment on the first 201 wagons was upgraded from the previous combined brake cylinder and auxiliary reservoir to a larger brake cylinder and a separate auxiliary reservoir. When the buffers and truss rods were removed in the 1950s, the wagon capacity was boosted a further ton.[21]

The 1936 General Appendix specifies that QR wagons 394 and 396 "have been specially prepared for the conveyance of theatrical scenery, &c., by Passenger trains. When no so utilised they are to be located at Port Melbourne for terminal traffic. A circular will be issues on each occasion that these trucks are used for the conveyance of special traffic."[22]

In 1979 the class was recoded from QR to VOWA, translating to Victorian Open, Wood and Low Speed respectively. Some wagons were allocated to metropolitan-area work from 1983, and these had 2000 added to their identities, i.e. VOWA356 became VOWA2356. The wagons were generally removed from mainline service and transferred across to maintenance trains in the mid 1980s, and recoded to VZWA with the "Z" indicating that change, and vehicles previously renumbered retained that change. Works wagons were also generally had a 30 cm-wide vertical green stripe applied to the right-most door, to help yard workers identify them.[23][24]

R - Bogie Open wagon

VKOX - Slab Steel Wagon

VOCY - Bogie Open Wagon

VOFX - Bogie Fertiliser Transport

Some recoded to BODX (Weekly notice 29/2014 pg15)

VOJX / VOJF - Bogie Open Wagon

Narrow Gauge Wagons

Just like the broad gauge railways, the 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge lines required open and flat wagons for general goods. Over two hundred were constructed between 1898 and 1914.


In general, open wagons have been painted in Victorian Railways Wagon Red livery. The grain-proofed wagons had a diagonal yellow stripe in opposite corners to readily identify these vehicles from non grain proofed wagons, and from 1970 the GY wagons were painted Hansa-Yellow.

Model Railways

Steam Era Models produce plastic kits of the GY wagon, Tommy Bent I wagon, the standard I/IA wagon and IY wagon, and a slightly more difficult kit of the E bogie wagon. The four-wheel wagons generally retail for up to A$20, while the E bogie wagon retails for around A$25. Precision Scale Models has previously produced a 5-pack of GY wagons in the VR Brown Livery with yellow stripe, including numbers 4380, 4897, 5236, 5633 and 6002 for A$1,500.

Both Austrains and Powerline produce ready-to-run models of the ELX in various forms.

Austrains has released 3-packs containing flat-sided ELX 5-27-44 or 11-47-65, strengthened ELX numbers 67-96-101 or 72-97-105 and ESX open-sided 3-10-24 or 7-13-20. All wagons are in VR Wagon Red livery. Each three-pack retails for around A$140. The company has also indicated that they will produce a ribbed-sided ELX as well as the South Australian Railways and Australian National variations, and they are looking into producing the V/Line and further livery options. Th wagons do not come with Kadee Couplers fitted, but they use a high quality metal coupler that looks similar to the Kadee 58/158 coupler.

Powerline has chosen to produce only the ribbed-sided ELX wagons, and these retail for around A$30 with the plastic "PLM" couplers, or A$35 with real Kadee No.5 Couplers. The wagons feature proper metal wheels in their bogies. Variations include the AN-liveried AOBX 527 and 533, SAR ELX 502 and 504, V/Line Brown VOCX 294-D and 451-E, VR Brown ELX 110, 259 and 379 and VR Brown VOCX 157-Y, 246-E and 339-H. However, all wagons of the same version (i.e. both SAR 502 and 504) have the same catalogue number, so customers will need to be specific if ordering by phone or email. Wagons with a Kadee Coupler have the letter A after the catalogue number, i.e. PD604A.

Railmotor Models has released a variety of polyurethane "loads" to fit inside the Powerline ELX wagon, including coal, ballast and sleeper loads in various colours.


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  18. ^ Victorian Railways, General Appendix to the Book of Rules and Regulations and to the Working Time Table, April 1919, p.318
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  20. ^ Bray, Vincent & Gregory, Preserved Rolling Stock of Victoria, 2013, ISBN 978-0-9806806-4-5, p.266-267
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  22. ^ Victorian Railways, General Appendix to the Book of Rules and Regulations and to the Working Time Table, 1 December 1936, p.299
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