Glossary of New Zealand railway terms

This is a list of jargon commonly used by railfans in New Zealand.

Contents :


Blue Fern
A passenger train of 56-foot steel-panelled carriages replacing 'Silver Fern' railcars on the North Island Main Trunk when they were unavailable
Blue Rattlers
ADK class on the Auckland suburban network
Blue Streaks
Three NZR RM class 88 seater railcars renovated for a fast service between Hamilton and Auckland[1][2]
Tranz Rail Bumble-Bee livery
Yellow and black Tranz Rail livery. Introduced on DC 4323 in 2001 after the Makihi collision, and officially named 'Hi-Viz'. Originally all locos were to have the Tranz Rail winged logo, but most carried 'TR' block letters on the long hood and several locos did not carry any branding (No Name).
WW class locomotives before rebuilding


Passenger carriage with a guard's compartment at one end, classes AF (wooden body) and AL (steel body). Originally built to relieve a shortage of guard's vans and used on rural branch lines in place of a separate carriage and guard's van, the later AL carvans were used in suburban service only.
Tranz Rail Cato Blue livery, seen on these two DC class locomotives
Cato Blue
New Zealand Rail/Tranz Rail blue, yellow and grey livery used from 1990 to 2001. Originally NZ Rail used a darker blue, which was changed to a lighter tone by Tranz Rail.
Clockwork Orange
1970s orange and yellow livery used on DX class[3]
Coal train, particularly from Rapahoe and Ngakawau on the West Coast to Lyttelton. Also Genesis Energy coal trains between Mount Manganui and Weavers Crossing (these trains ceased running in 2012), but not for coal trains on the Rotowaro Industrial Branch.
DAR 517 in Corn-cob livery
Toll Rail yellow and aquamarine livery[4]
A restored Wellington EMU set including DM 556[5]


DX class locomotives
NZR RM class 88 seater railcars[6]
Dora the Explorer
Northern Explorer


Elephant style
Multiple locomotives coupled facing forward
'En and chicken
N and M class steam locomotives coupled together. 'En, an abbreviation of 'hen', refers to the larger N class locomotive, and chicken refers to its underpowered M class assistant.[7]


Fairlie Flyer
The passenger train between Washdyke Junction and Fairlie along the Fairlie Branch. Also AB 699 on the Pleasant Point Railway, which runs along part of the old branch line.
NZR RM class 88 seater railcars[1]
Flying Matangi
Matangi FP/FT class EMU 4472—so named as it shares its number with the LNER Class A3 steam locomotive 4472 Flying Scotsman
Flying Tomato
A simplified version of the Fruit Salad livery, with the grey replaced with red. Applied to members of the DC, DF, DSC, and TR class locomotives in the 1980s as a cheaper alternative to the full Fruit Salad livery.
Fruit Salad
NZR red and grey livery with yellow highlights, also known as International Orange[4]
A railfan—particularly one whose enthusiasm appears excessive[8]


Grass Grubs
88 seater railcars converted to carriages for locomotive haulage, from their green livery[2]
Gull Roost
The Onerahi Branch's 323-metre-long bridge across the harbour in Whangarei, because of the large number of gulls that roosted there. The branch closed in 1933 and the bridge no longer exists.[9]


The Hill
The Johnsonville Line out of Wellington, or the steep section of the North Auckland Line between Newmarket and Remuera in Auckland. See Over the hill.
Hot water bottles
FS class steam heating vans used to warm the carriages of passenger trains following the withdrawal of steam traction in 1968 (North Island) and 1971 (South Island)[3]
The L, LA, LB, and LC wagons—so called for their high metal (LA, LC) or wooden (L, LB) sides


Most of the "Toasters" are painted in the International Orange livery
International Orange
A livery of yellow, orange-red and grey, more popularly known as Fruit Salad[10]


A track inspection vehicle[11]


KB country
The section of the Midland Line between Springfield and Arthur's Pass famous for the use of KB class steam locomotives between 1939 and 1968[12]
Kingston Flyer
Heritage passenger train instituted in 1972 using steam locomotives AB 778 and AB 795, originally between Lumsden and Kingston and later truncated to the 14 km between Fairlight and Kingston


Longest xylophone in the world
Former road and rail bridge on the now-closed portion of the Ross Branch south of Hokitika—named for the loud rattling its planks made[13]
The M, MA, MB, MC, and MCC wagons, so called for their low sides. These wagons had lower sides than the L-series 'highsider' wagons, and were often used for loads that could not fit into a highsider or did not warrant the use of one.
Locomotive on a bush tramway. Abbreviation of the term 'locomotive', but shortened by bush workers and adopted by railway enthusiasts.


FT/FT class electric multiple unit used on the Wellington suburban network, chosen in 2008 in a public competition run by the Greater Wellington Regional Council, and comes from the Māori word matangi, meaning wind or breeze (in reference to Wellington's windy reputation)
Auckland's MAXX Blue livery
Livery on Auckland rolling stock operated by Transdev Auckland
Midland Red
Livery used in the 1920s and 1990s on passenger carriages, DM/D class electric multiple units and some other rolling stock. It was first trialled on the carriages of the Parnassus Express, the predecessor of the Picton Express. Its name derives from the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, from whom the colour was originally sourced.[14]


No Name
Several Tranz Rail locomotives received the 'Bumble Bee' paint scheme without any signwriting on the long hood. Mostly applied to members of the DC and DX classes.


Old reds
DM/D class electric multiple units in their traditional red livery[15]
Over the hill
The southern approach to Auckland from the North Island Main Trunk Railway at Westfield via the North Auckland Line and Newmarket Line. See The Hill.


Pearson's Dream
E 66, nicknamed after its designer, G. A. Pearson, as it did not fulfill his ambitions[16]
Pie Cart
1. Ford Model T railcars RM 4 and RM 5
2. Overhead inspection vehicle PW 2
The Pig
DXR class locomotive 8007 and 8022
The Phoenix
The DM 216 set, stored at Hutt Workshops out of service prior to its return to service in late 2008 or early 2009
Pig Dog
DAR 517
Pimple face
New cabs fitted to ten of the DG class locomotives starting with DG 761 (TMS DG 2111) in late 1979 and ending in 1980
1970s orange and yellow DX class livery
M class—named for their lack of pulling power in comparison to other classes[7]


The racetrack
The Main South Line near Rakaia, where steam-hauled passenger express trains attained high speeds[17]
Rat hole or The Hole
The Otira Tunnel, or the Karangahake tunnel on the East Coast Main Trunk Railway's former Waihi route
Red Sets
Three-car DM/D class Tranz Metro Wellington units
Red Terror
A Leyland Cub car converted to run on rails for inspection use by the Railways Department General Manager Garnet Hercules Mackley in 1933. It was converted for uses associated with electrified lines in 1941, and after spending a few years in the Hutt Valley, it was transferred to Otira and remained there until the Otira Tunnel was de-electrified in 1997. It is now owned by the Ferrymead Railway.[18]
Rimutaka railcars
Wairarapa railcars, derived from the fact they were built to operate on the Rimutaka Incline
The Z class bogie vans, so called as they could be unloaded (supposedly) onto the roadside. Often used for parcels traffic, especially by Railfreight, and as luggage vans on express passenger trains, for which they were fitted with x-25330 'Timken' bogies to run at 80 km/h.


The Sergeant
ED electric locomotive 101, so called because of the three stripes on the body[19]
Toll-liveried locomotive. Derived from Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, as Toll is an Australian company.
Super Ganz
The refurbished Ganz Mavag EMU EM 1373


Tin Hares
Wairarapa railcars[20]
New Zealand EF class locomotives, because of their toaster-like appearance
Tonka Toy
The preserved TR class locomotive[21]
1970s orange and yellow livery; used on the DX class[22]
The Twins
DBR class Wellington-based locomotives 1200 and 1267, commonly paired for purposes such as banking south of Paekakariki. Because of this nickname, paired DBRs in Auckland are occasionally referred to as "non-identical twins", depending on their liveries.[23]
NZR RM class 88 seater railcars[1]


Electric multiple units


Track-inspection jigger


Water bottle
Tank car filled with water, used behind preserved steam locomotives

See also


  1. 1 2 3 David Jones, Where Railcars Roamed: The Railcars Which Have Served New Zealand Railways (Wellington: Wellington Tramway Museum, 1997), 22.
  2. 1 2 Eric Heath and Bob Stott, Classic Railcars, Electric and Diesel Locomotives of New Zealand: Volume Two (Grantham House: Wellington, 1993), 34.
  3. 1 2 Geoffrey B. Churchman and Tony Hurst, The Railways of New Zealand: A Journey Through History (Auckland: HarperCollins, 1991), 58.
  4. 1 2 Timotheus Frank, "Canterbury Railscene", accessed 26 May 2008.
  5. "Awards Honour Efforts to Protect our Cultural and Natural Heritage". Department of Conservation. 10 August 2006. Archived from the original on 14 October 2008. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  6. Sean Millar, From A to Y Avoiding I: 125 Years of Railway Motive Power Classification in New Zealand (New Zealand: Sean Millar, 2001), 35.
  7. 1 2 Churchman and Hurst, The Railways of New Zealand, 144.
  8. Marcus Lush, "The Grand Finale", Off the Rails: A Love Story (New Zealand: Television New Zealand and Jam TV, 2005), DVD.
  9. Churchman and Hurst, The Railways of New Zealand, 100.
  10. Churchman and Hurst, The Railways of New Zealand, 70.
  11. Churchman and Hurst, The Railways of New Zealand (Auckland: HarperCollins, 1991), 22.
  12. Churchman and Hurst, The Railways of New Zealand, 189.
  13. Churchman and Hurst, The Railways of New Zealand, 193.
  14. J. D. Mahoney, Kings of the Iron Road: Steam Passenger Trains of New Zealand (Palmerston North: Dunmore Press, 1982), 105.
  15. Heath and Stott, Classic Railcars, Electric and Diesel Locomotives, 20.
  16. W. N. Cameron, Rimutaka Incline: Extracts from "A Line of Railway" (Wellington: New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society, 1992), 83.
  17. Churchman and Hurst, The Railways of New Zealand, 179.
  18. Jones, Where Railcars Roamed, 13.
  19. Geoffrey B. Churchman The Story of the Wellington to Johnsonville Railway (Industrial Publishing Ltd, Wellington, 1988) ISBN 0-9597832-1-0
  20. Jones, Where Railcars Roamed, 14.
  21. TR 534
  22. Tony Hurst, Farewell to Steam: Four Decades of Change on New Zealand Railways (Auckland: HarperCollins, 1995), 81.
  23. New Zealand Railfan, December 2010
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