In early 1979, the Victorian Railways started relettering all revenue bogie vehicles to a new standard 'Australia wide' lettering system. A hint of what was to come started in late 1978 when new ELX wagons were issued to traffic as 'VOCX'.
The new "National coding" as it was called was divided into four parts:
This was used to describe the owner, ie V for Victoria, N: New South Wales, etc
This indicated the type of vehicle. B=Boxvan, L=Louvrevan, O=open wagon, etc
This was used to segregate the different types with the same grouping of "Second letter". At the start of the coding the VR grouped all types by age and progressed from letter "A" onwards. This gave VLAA, VLBY, VLCX, etc.
For some traffic, the letter was used to indicate traffic type. N=Newsprint as in VLNX for example.
This letter indicated speed and bogie exchange capability plus bogie type if required.
A=low speed, non interchange bogies, X=high speed bogie exchange, Y=high speed, non interchangeable. As "Y" was mistakenly adopted, it was not until the late 1980's that the "Y" was changed to letter "F" to indicate the same thing.
The rolling stock relettering was applied to VR bogie freight stock between 1979 and about 1985. In theory, a five year maintenance cycle should have completed the task. At the time all vehicle were maintained on a five year workshop cycle.
In the lead up to this event there were many rumours. But correspondence unearthed from 1970 in recent times revealed more and shed some light on past information.
In 1970, the VR were to build some high capacity wagons. Some code suggestions at the time include the four letter "National Coding" designation. Recoding was planned for back then.
In the late 1970s when QMX were under construction, the designation was planned to add the "V" as required when recoding took place, ie to VQMX.
The mystery mentioned was about South Australian codes. In the late 1960's a lot of South Australian Railway codes were four letters with the first letter "S". There was never any explanation why. In light of the 1979 events, it seems that there were moves from the 1960's to introduce a form of "National coding". This must have met with State resistance and that South Australia was the only railway to start the project.
File m1979m compiled by Peter J. Vincent, updated 28/3/2008