I have always known that Melbourne’s rail system is a bit confusing to new users due to the irregularity between line names and the ultimate destination of the train. This was never really a problem for me because I have memorised all the places which Melbourne trains terminate (and there’s quite a few in peak that bear no resemblance to the line name), but when I was trying to tell my Dad how to get to Watsonia Station on the weekend I hit a hurdle.

Watsonia is on the Hurstbridge line and, due to the way the line is engineered, not all Hurstbridge line trains can go all the way to Hurstbridge. Instead Metro alternate the terminus between Hurstbridge, Eltham, Greensborough and Macleod. I couldn’t expect my Dad to remember all of those names so I had to look up a train that he would probably connect with and told him just to look for that one.

Since not all visitors to Melbourne have my telephone number, the above solution is just not reasonable, but clearly identifying the lines with a letter (and number in some circumstances) would be.

I decided it would be best to letter the lines alphabetically and clockwise starting with Williamstown. This is simpler and easier than line-significant lettering (for example; S for Sunbury, F for Frankston) because some lines start with the same letter as other lines. This also removes the need to re-letter a line if the main terminus is changed.

Let us begin.

A for Williamstown, Altona Loop and Werribee


This first example also showcases the use of numbers and letters. I thought it would make sense that lines which share a significant part of their route should also share a letter with the ultimate terminus identified by a number. This allows someone travelling to Scienceworks, for example, to be told to catch “any A train and hop off at Spotswood”. But I should note that most Werribee trains run express through Spotswood in peak.

B and C for Reserved


Placeholders for Geelong and Bacchus Marsh.

D for Sunbury


Every second Sunbury line train terminates at Watergardens so identifying this line with a letter is extra useful.

E for Reserved


I was tempted not to reserve the letter E. Will we ever get a train to the airport?

F for Craigieburn


Some peak trains terminate at Broadmeadows.

G for Upfield


One day this line will be extended to Wallan if Labor let PTV do their job.

H for South Morang

South Morang

Soon to be H for Mernda.

I for Hurstbridge


The inspiration for this post.

J for Reserved



K for Belgrave, Lilydale, Blackburn and Alamein


I included Blackburn due to the somewhat consistent stopping pattern during the week on the Ringwood corridor.

L for Glen Waverley

Glen Waverley

I actually forgot Glen Waverley. I had to re-letter the lines after it.

M for Reserved, Pakenham and Cranbourne


Rowville could happen now with high capacity signalling from the city to Caulfield and quadruplication from Caulfield to Huntingdale. You would have to remove Frankston from the City Loop, though.

N for Frankston


Not all trains terminate at Frankston in peak.

O for Sandringham


Not much to say about this one. Brighton Beach is nice.

Displays and announcements

Imagine the letter as you see them above, always sitting to the left of the train’s destination on platform displays, train heads, signage and network maps.

For announcements the only change needed would be to include the letter with the train destination so instead of, “Your next service to depart from platform one will be. The five thirty four. Frankston,” you will hear, “Your next service to depart from platform one will be. The five thirty four. N service to. Frankston.”

And, if I understand the system correctly, the train knows where it is going and its stopping pattern by the driver entering a unique code in the driver’s cab. Theoretically this could also inform the passengers of the train’s destination after Flinders Street so when a train departs Richmond the train should announce, “The next station is Flinders Street. From Flinders Street this train will form an. A one service to. Williamstown.”

Congratulations on reading all this way. Your prize is the story of a UFO above Westall.