British and Continental
Railway Loading Gauges

Part of
The replica Joyce clock at Stalybridge station
Joyce's World of Transport Eclectica


This site attempts to explain the numerous different loading gauges which apply on Britain's railway network and on the networks of Continental Europe.

These gauges are (mainly) for freight wagons. They represent the maximum height and width to which vehicles can be constructed or loaded. They can only be used for vehicles of a certain length - vehicles which are longer must be built and loaded to slightly narrower dimensions.

In 1999, Railtrack devised a new nomenclature for the freight vehicle loading gauges used on Britain's national railways. The following summary is taken from the 1999 Network Management Statement:

British Rail codeRailtrack codeUIC height equivalentHeight
above rail
W6W6   33202700
W6A (Freightliner 8')W7   34482500
W6A (Freightliner 8' 6")W8   36002500
SB1cW9   37152600
n/aW10 > UIC "A"38962500
n/aW10w > UIC "A"38962600
n/aW11 > UIC "B"41302500
n/aW11w > UIC "B"41302600

Heights and widths are in millimetres. More details can be found at Railtrack's Freight Commercial web site. This includes maps of the British railway network showing which routes are cleared to the different gauges. It also explains the varying combinations of loading gauge and low platform wagon which can be used to move tall containers safely. Click on the following links to see a scan of the different gauges.

Good honest British gauges:

W7 Freightliner Exception Gauge (8 foot boxes)
W8 Freightliner Exception Gauge (8 foot 6 inch boxes) scan not yet available
W9 - "Swop Body" Gauge (previously known as SB1c)
C1 standard British passenger carriage gauge

Perfidious Continental gauges:

UIC standard gauge, sometimes known as Berne Gauge
UIC "A" Gauge
UIC "B" Gauge
UIC "C" Gauge
Iberian Gauge (Spanish and Portuguese railways)
And a useful diagram summarising the different corner heights of UIC gauges, including UIC "B+", an improved gauge for container traffic

And finally, determined to outdo everyone else, an overweaning North American gauge:

"Double stack" container gauge

Apologies in advance - some of the scans are better than others. If you need absolutely accurate information, you should really go direct to Railtrack or to the UIC - Union Internationale des Chemins de Fer.


This information is posted for discussion purposes only and should not be relied upon for building or operating railway rolling stock. There is no guarantee that this site can be updated to reflect any changes made by Railtrack or the UIC.

It follows a number of threads in the Usenet newsgroup, uk.railway. It was transcribed and posted to the Web in March 2001 by the entity known as Joyce Whitchurch. Comments on the text, or any broken links, are always welcome: mail me.

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