1899 Narrow Gauge Recoding

It has always been assumed that the prefix 'N' on the narrow gauge codes had been applied since the start of the narrow gauge running. However information and inspection of official records has revealed that this may not be the case.

This investigation also answers a question in regard to the engines that ran on the 2'6" lines. The locomotives had number plates with 'A' but were referred to as 'NA'. This was alluded to in the publication 'Speed Limit 20' but no details given.

The information currently determined is itemized below in the hope that more information may shed more light on the subject. Note: 'XX' is used to represent various class letters.

From all of the above information the author proposed a theory for the possible change and an approximate date. The date seemed to have been about 1902. The reason is quite interesting.

The first narrow gauge line was isolated in the North East region of Victoria. The codes adopted for the rolling stock were identical to broad gauge equivalents. As the line was new and 'narrow gauge' the buzz of the times it would have seemed that any call for parts or rolling stock equipment from Wangaratta would obviously be 'narrow gauge'. The two main depots for loco and rolling stock maintenance were Benalla and Wodonga. Only Wangaratta would be servicing locomotives or rolling stock and narrow gauge ones at that. The author postulated that perhaps with other narrow gauge lines opening ( Colac, 1902 ) the terminal facilities were shared by both broad and narrow gauge interests. A request for 'QR' parts or loco 'A' equipment would immediately draw the response 'Broad or Narrow?'. Indeed, there are stories out of 'Puffing Billy' at Belgrave that a mix-up did occur. No details, though.

However, the postulated date of 1902 did not hold as more data narrowed the gap of early codes after 1897 and prefix 'N' codes before 1902 were referenced.

The available data suggests that the prefix 'N' was not applied to stock until the opening of the line to Whitfield and the running of the first official train. This means that during the line construction the rolling stock codes were as for broad gauge; ABAB, QR, Loco A, etc. It appears that close to line opening date in March 1899, the classes of rolling stock were hastily altered to show a prefix 'N'. It seems that mix ups or incorrect equipment deliveries to maintain stock would have been a logical 'trigger' to generate the change.

Until more data comes to hand, a more accurate relettering date is not available. On the basis that these pages are a provisional history and a full history will never be known, a history of the NG is not complete unless the outstanding unknowns are also mentioned. To not mention this information is a dis-service to readers who will assume that the history is complete.


This research was started by the research efforts of Rob O'Regan who questioned some information.

[ CodeList ] [ Contents ]

File m1899m compiled by Peter J. Vincent, updated 4/2//2007