Railway and Tramway Gauges

Broad and narrow gauge track points, with standard gauge track at left of photo, Peterborough, South Australia, 17 July 2009.

Railway and Tramway Gauges

The gauge of a railway or tramway refers to the distance between the two rails. Railway and tramway wheel sets operate on rails of a particular gauge. In Australia at least 22 gauges have extended for a distance of 1.6 km (one mile) or more, although most of these were local lines that operated for short distances.

Three major railway gauges are used for heavy railways in Australia:

  • Standard gauge: 1435 mm (4 feet, 8½ inches)

  • Broad gauge: 1600 mm (5 feet, 3 inches)

  • Narrow gauge: 1067 mm (3 feet, 6 inches).

Queensland has extensive networks of sugar cane railways, most of which use a gauge of 610 mm (2 feet). Dual gauge track has been laid in some locations throughout Australia, enabling trains of two different gauges to operate over the same line. Tramway and light rail lines in Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, Adelaide and the Gold Coast use standard gauge tracks.