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Chapter Eleven


The Railway Construction Act of 1884 had politicians’ fingerprints all over it, but Speight had managed to get the Railways’ agenda included. Many politicians had wangled lines to please their electors, but once passed the prioritisation of works was largely left to the Railway Department.

Werribee Viaduct

The completion of the inter-colonial link to South Australia was a priority following the passing of the Railway Construction Act 1884. Associated with this work was the making of a direct line between Melbourne and Ballarat, which included the enormous wrought iron viaduct across the Werribee River near Melton. Built at a cost of approximately £140,000, it towered 130 feet above the river, which it spanned for 1,230 feet on 27 lattice trestles, the 1,400 tons of ironwork being supplied by the Derby firm of Handyside & Co. [1] Marginally shorter than the Moorabool Viaduct, built 25 years earlier, the new viaduct was based on the American lightweight metal truss and trestle design. [2] A few years earlier Henry Mais was faced with building the Adelaide Hills section of the inter-colonial railway on a tight budget. He angered local manufactures by ordering twin viaducts from the American firm of Edge Moor Iron, and endured the scepticism and hostility of nervous colonials while these flimsy looking structures were being erected. An attempt was even made in the South Australian parliament to replace them with earthen embankments, such was the prejudice against American technology. Mais and his professional supporters stood firm, reassuring doubters that the technology was widely applied in America. [3] The spidery Kinzua viaduct then being built in Pennsylvania was the world’s highest. [4] Mais having blazed the trail, the Victorians were emboldened to adopt a similar design for the viaduct across the Werribee, but it was considerably stronger than the Adelaide Hills viaducts, and the order for wrought iron went ‘Home’, and not to the United States. The viaduct was designed by Victorian Railways engineer J.T. Thompson, who supervised its erection. [5]

Victorian Railways Werribee Viaduct 1886
The Werribee Viaduct during testing in 1886. Locomotive No.100 is on the viaduct with the Commissioner’s inspection train. PROV H3426.

Mais inspected the Werribee viaduct in the course of its building, [6] and a crowd gathered to witness its testing on 15th March 1886, during which four locomotives, together weighing 186 tons, charged across at 40 miles per hour to the satisfaction of Speight, the assembled Heads of Branches and John Kitson, then visiting from England. An engineering work its size was of great interest, and no doubt Kitson was able to give a first-hand account to fellow Yorkshireman Andrew Handyside on his return. [7] Despite its apparent spindly construction, by the early 1950’s ‘The Overland’ was careering across it at 70 mph behind two R class locomotives, each as heavy as the combined weight of the four engines used in the 1886 test. [8] It was still standing in 2005 when V/Locity trains began crossing at 100 mph. [9] Its first passenger train was on April Fools’ Day 1886, and carried punters for the Bacchus March races! [10]

It should be no surprise to Victorian sporting enthusiasts that their government railway supported horse racing throughout their history, the first branch line being opened to Flemington racecourse in 1867. The very first of the many lines authorised by Gillies’ ‘Octopus Act’ to be completed was to Lal Lal Racecourse. It was the fifth special purpose racecourse branch in the colony, [11] the two mile line opening on New Year’s Day 1886 when some 25,000 punters and holiday makers arrived by trains from Ballarat and Geelong, not just to watch the races but to picnic by the falls in the picturesque valley, the brightly coloured bustle dresses of the women folk adding to the spectacle. [12]

The Warracknabeal Branch

The next lines opened that year were in the new wheat-growing districts, to Yarrawonga and Warracknabeal. Farmers had taken up land in advance of the railway, so these lines were certain to be well used from the outset. [13] Prior to the coming of the railway, one Warracknabeal farmer had kept his wheat for two years rather than pay the cartage to Stawell, then the nearest railhead. When eventually forced to send it there, the wagoner charged 12s per bag, or £7/4/- per ton for the journey of 60-65 miles. When rain turned the roads to mud, the wagons could not get through at all. [14] Even farmers 15 miles from a railhead found the cartage rates of 18s ton discouraging. [15] The railway rate for wheat struck in January 1887 for 11-23 miles was just 3 shilling per ton, a reduction of 83 percent! The railway would haul a ton of wheat the 180 miles from Warracknabeal to portside at Williamstown for 15s. [16] No wonder wheat was being stacked at stations well before the line was opened: at Minyip alone some 4,000 bags were waiting for the trains to begin running. [17] During the year John Robb took to build the 31¼ miles of railway, [18] the population of Warracknabeal fully doubled in anticipation and triumphal arches were erected to greet the official party for the opening, which took place in a new flour mill, opened in advance of the railway just weeks before. [19] There were celebratory balls that evening at both Warracknabeal and Minyip, but Mr Coutis MLC was half a minute late for the train at Ballarat and missed out. [20]

Thomas's Mill at Warracknabeal
Thomas’ Mill at Warracknabeal, circa 1895. It was opened in advance of the railway in 1886. J.Discaciati Studio, Museums Victoria MM189.

The only other ‘Octopus Act’ lines opened in 1886 were the short branch to the Ballarat Cattle Yards and a section of the direct route to Ballarat, between Gordons and Ballan. The following year two thirds of the new railways opened were in wheat growing districts. The remainder were extensions of trunk lines to the east and south-west, and short suburban extensions. Thereafter, the rate of building the ‘Octopus Act’ lines steadily increased until the last, from Lancefield to Kilmore, was opened in April 1892.

The National Workshops at Newport

Among the first of the ‘Octopus Act’ works to start was the building of the Newport Workshops, but it took some time to finalise the specifications. Allison Smith took up duties in July 1885 and no doubt brought his experience in setting up the Addington workshops to bear before the first contract was awarded 9th October for £58,000. This was for the East and Central Blocks, the contract for the West Block being let a few months later, on 26th February 1886 for £52,000. [21] Very extensive earthworks were also needed to raise much of the site by three to four feet, a contract for £13,800 being let in December 1886. [22] The magnitude of the planned workshops was worrying to the protectionist party, but Gillies gave assurances that the new facilities would only be used for repairs and maintenance. [23] William Shaw was savvy enough to see the threat to his Phoenix Foundry, and in an effort to keep it competitive he left for England in early November 1885 on a buying trip for the latest labour saving machinery. [24]

Building Newport took about eighteen months, [25] and by early 1887 tenders were being sought for machinery. The Trades Hall got wind of rumours that the orders for lathes and other machinery would be placed with English firms and agitated to have the machinery made locally, [26] although no such agitation followed Mr. Shaw’s ordering machine tools from England for the Phoenix Foundry at Ballarat. The Age, The Ballarat Star and The Bendigo Advertiser all reported Shaw’s return with not a hint of criticism. [27] In March 1887 a deputation of ironworkers met with Speight, who in his usual conciliatory manner reassured the men that the tools being sought could not be made in the colony, and that in any case, imported machinery faced a massive 25 per cent duty. Not surprisingly, colonial manufacturers were preferenced where possible! [28] But the Railway Department procrastinated, and whether pending advice on the latest developments from Solomon Mirls as he visited English workshops, or through wariness of the protectionists, some four months passed before Gillies revealed that tenders had been called but none had yet been accepted. Hydraulic machinery and special tools to the value of £24,000 were required, but he thought half of these could be made in the colony. Woods and Gaunson thought just about everything could be made locally. [29] The protectionists were also incensed that Newport was building carriages in clear breach of an assurance given by Gillies that all new rolling stock orders would be contracted to private local firms. The explanation that Newport was only rebuilding obsolete carriages was scoffed at. The Ballarat Star reported a local MLA as saying:

‘Every fraction of some new machinery wanted in the Newport workshops was being imported. As for the renewals, the department got a second-hand key-hole and constructed a new smoking carriage round it.’ [30]

The opposition was worrying enough for the government to cancel all the tenders it had received for fitting out the new workshops with hydraulic plant, engines, machine tools, cranes and the like. Deposits were returned to the preferred companies in mid-August and new tenders were called with a view to having local companies make as much equipment as possible. Only specialised machine tools which could not be made in Victoria were to be imported. [31]

Local firms therefore took the lion’s share of the contracts. Supply of ten travelling cranes was let to the local shipbuilders Campbell, Sloss & MacCann in October 1887; [32] Hughes, Pye & Rigby obtained orders for machine tools two months later, [33] then Langlands Foundry were given the contract for three water-tube boilers and R. Bodkin the task of erecting chimneys and flues in April 1888. [34] The value of these contracts amounted to £28,328. This win for the protectionists undermined the independence of the Railway Commissioners, as did the decision trumpeted by The Ballarat Star to give preference to the construction of the 13½ mile branch line to Springs (Waubra). Gillies denied that pressure had been brought to bear, claiming that lines ‘were constructed as nearly as possible in the order of their importance.[35] Perhaps it was coincidence that among the first ‘Octopus Act’ lines constructed were those to Lal Lal Racecourse, the Ballarat Cattle Yards, Springs and Creswick to Daylesford: all of them in the Ballarat district! [36]

As the East and West blocks took shape either side of the two storey central office and clock tower, passengers on the Williamstown and Geelong lines must have marvelled at this new ‘Industrial Palace’ with its frontage of one thousand feet: about one and a half Melbourne city blocks. Considered ‘very plain’ at the time ‘as befits a workshop’ its bi-chromatic brick gabled bays were 300 feet deep with slate roofs, glass skylights, arched doorways and fanlight windows. They would not have been considered plain even a generation later. Externally similar, the roof supports varied between the East and West Blocks, the former being less substantial, but adequate for its function of housing the stores, pattern shop, brass foundry, copper and tinsmiths’ shop, sawmill and the carriage and wagon builders. [37] Each main block had its own engine house, with boilers supplied locally by Austral Otis. In the East Block the shafting for driving the array of machine tools was carried underfloor, eliminating the dangerous overhead shafting and belt drives so common in workshops of the day. This was an important safety feature, as was the clever provision of underfloor ducting to carry away offcuts, chips and sawdust from machines in the carpentry shop. The waste was used as feed for the boiler furnace. The eight bays of East Block were finished in 1887 along with the central offices. Allison Smith and his staff moved in to the new offices under the clock tower on Friday 27 August 1887, [38] but the move produced an unexpected backlash from railway contractors. Used to visiting the Branch heads at the convenient Spencer Street Station, they now faced a train ride to Newport and then a half-mile walk through the windswept workshop yards to reach the Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Branch offices. Alternatively, they could use the newfangled telephone, but they complained Allison Smith was often unavailable and their messages when taken by the clerks were garbled. [39]

Victorian Railways Newport Workshops circa 1910
The ‘National Workshops’ at Newport with the central Administration building and tower, the East Block to its right, and the West Block to its left. Circa 1910. PROV H2271.

The West Block took longer to finish, as it comprised the halls of heavy engineering: turnery, ironworking, boiler making and smithy, [40] with the need to incorporate lathes and other machine tools, forges and steam hammers. The roof was supported on substantial cast iron columns, with four of its ten bays being somewhat higher. These housed the locomotive erecting shop, each being provided with a 25 ton overhead travelling crane. [41] The smithy housed sixty eight forges, but instead of each having its own chimney inadequately carrying off smoke and fumes, all were connected to an underfloor flue, which carried their smoke to a 178 ft. chimney; the tallest in the Southern Hemisphere. Complimenting this landmark was an impressive water tower about 100 ft. tall, its 100,000 gallon tank surmounting a five storey base in bi-chromatic brick with corbeled capping. [42] A separate Tarpaulin Shed was built in 1887 at a cost of £3,000. [43]

Newport Workshops West Block circa 1904.
The West Block of the ‘National Workshops’ at Newport showing the four bays of the erecting shop, the chimney at right and water tower in the background at left. Circa 1915. PROV H2161.

Other repair facilities were established in Ballarat, [44] Geelong and Maryborough [45] but they were small in comparison with the new establishment at Newport, which was dubbed the ‘National Workshops’. [46] Pre-federation Victoria saw itself as an emerging independent nation and had boasted a National Gallery since 1861, [47] hence the £200,000 [48] of public money poured into Newport warranted a ‘National’ epithet! But the West Block was still incomplete when Mirls returned from Europe in March 1888. [49] The demands of the protectionists had so hindered progress that four years after the work had received parliamentary approval and funding the Commissioners were getting impatient. It was thought the buildings and machinery would be handed over by the contractors in October that year, [50] but it was another six months or so before full possession of West Block was taken and the chimney finished. [51]

It was explained to journalists that vast though the workshops appeared, they were just adequate for maintaining the rolling stock fleet that had accumulated over thirty years, and it was expected that the growth of the network would require extensions in the not too distant future. [52] In later-day jargon, Newport was future proofed. None of the workers could have imagined that their grandchildren would be building flying machines in those very shops, or the global war that necessitated it. [53]

Ballarat travellers had to pass the Newport Workshops on their way to and from Melbourne, and their alarm grew as the vast complex took shape. Immediately after the joint stock carriages had been built for the Adelaide Express, Allison Smith had Newport start work on ten similar bogie cars, but with clerestory roofs in lieu of the mansard roof preferred by Thow. [54] Speight and Allison Smith over-reached themselves in building ten of these cars. The government was allowed to build prototype vehicles for testing, but all new rolling stock was meant to go to public tender. The new smoking cars were prototypes yes, but one or two would have sufficed for design testing. The building of ten was justified as replacements for cars wrecked in the Windsor accident, financed through working expenses and not capital. It was a fine point, but did not go down well! A storm broke in July 1887 when Colonel Smith, the popular MLA for Ballarat, asked Gillies if there was any truth in the newspaper report that Newport was building these cars. Gillies and Speight dissembled, claiming they were rebuilds, and not new. [55] But fears were expressed that charging ‘renewals’ against working expenses was just a tactic to enable Newport to manufacture, not just repair, as Gillies had promised. [56] Speight and Gillies explained that specimens of new designs were made internally, but that new carriages funded from capital were always submitted to tender. The carriages being built were being funded internally from working expenses as replacements. But this did not wash, especially in Bendigo, home of the carriage builder G.F. Pickles and Son. As a sarcastic local journalist wrote,

‘…it is said the old carriages and gear smashed up in the Windsor accident is being utilised in the making of fresh carriages on the principle that it is economical to put a new front, back collar, and sleeves to a shirt, so long as the wristbands are not frayed. What is the difference between renewals and additions? So far as is shown in the Commissioners’ memo, about the same as that between tweedledum and tweedledee.’ [57]

The electors of Ballarat, home of the Phoenix Foundry, were also nervous. Distrustful of government promises and determined to protect their local industry, an ‘Anti-Government Manufacturing League’ was formed in Ballarat, with about 1,500 people attending a public meeting on 19th September. Chaired by the Mayor, they unanimously called for a reversal of the Commissioners policy of letting additional rolling stock chargeable to loan capital to public tender, but using the railway workshops to construct replacements for obsolete existing rolling stock. [58] It was not as if railway contracts had dried up; Pickles had received an order for 12 bogie brake vans two months before, and 30 1st class bogie cars to Allison Smith’s design had been let to the Melbourne firm of P. Bevan & Son only weeks before. A tender was still out for a further thirty to the same design. [59] But as the protectionist lobby had forced the railways to re-tender the Newport workshops contracts to favour local manufacturers, now the decentralists fired a salvo across the bows to stop any further encroaching on private industry’s perceived right to build new rolling stock. The Yea and Alexandra Standard editorialised that ‘unless Mr. Gillies redeems the promise given to Parliament that only repairs shall be done [at Newport], he will have a rough time.[60]

The ten joint stock and ten smoking carriages built at Newport in 1887 were clear evidence that the Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Branch wanted to hone their design and construction capacity. In the new workshops they had the wherewithal to make locomotives and rolling stock, but were hobbled by government policy to favour private manufacturing. That the railway management were looking for ways to stretch that policy can hardly be doubted. Speight’s explanation was that the ten joint stock cars built at Newport might otherwise have been imported by the South Australian Railways. [61] The SAR had imported half a dozen Ashbury cars in 1884 and the four Mann Boudoir cars in 1886, but otherwise their rolling stock was built locally by the Adelaide Locomotive Works. [62] Apart from the Boudoir cars, South Australia built the rest of their portion of the joint stock cars locally. [63] Neither could Speight credibly claim the ten bogie smoking carriages were rebuilds, [64] as the eleven carriages damaged in the Windsor wreck were small fixed wheel stock. [65]

Gillies got the message, and with Speight by his side reassured a deputation that there ‘was no pretence at manufacturing. If the department went in for manufacturing, the numbers of the staff would have to be trebled.’ [66] But Speight insisted that railways would continue to design new rolling stock and build prototypes for evaluation, and perhaps build half a dozen carriages as replacements for obsolete stock. ‘Instead of patching up, say three old carriages, which would cost £200, they would concentrate the money in building a new carriage.’ [67] So the Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Branch was restrained for the next decade, biding their time and developing carriage designs that were arguably superior to anything else in Australasia.

Breaking the Bottlenecks

1. Richmond

Up-country farmers were not the only people clamouring for a slice of the railway budget. The heart of the network was badly constricted. Just 1½ miles from the City the residents of Richmond were fed up with prolonged delays at the Swan Street level crossing. Suburban expansion had put great pressure on railway facilities between Richmond and South Yarra. Successive governments were besought by the Richmond Council and its residents to do something about the Swan Street level crossing, the Council even going to the expense of engaging an engineer in 1880 to prepare plans and estimates for a minimal scheme to eliminate the crossing. The financial strictures imposed by Graham Berry’s government from 1878 and the ensuing ‘Berry Blight’ were met with the frank admission by Gillies that there was no money for the work. [68] The Council tried again two years later, perturbed at rumours the railways wanted to lay two more tracks over the crossing. [69] Everyone knew the solution was going to be very expensive, and in July 1882 Thomas Bent, Robert Watson and some others met the Mayor and councillors at the railway gates to thrash the matter out. This high level meeting must have been a curious diversion for road users stuck at the crossing while train after train rumbled past! After much discussion, Bent jumped at a suggestion that a design competition be arranged to help find a solution. He offered a prize of £150 for the winner, regardless of whether the design was adopted, thereby buying time and deferring the matter for a future government to handle! [70] By the time the results were announced Bent’s term as Minister for Railways was about to expire. It was all an expensive waste of time as the Railways had known for years what they needed to do.

Some thirty designs were submitted, one of the short-listed being from one of the Railway’s own, Francis Rennick. [71] He had been one of the leaders in the painful vendetta against Robert Ford, and had pressed for the third Inquiry into the Engineer for Construction’s behaviour. [72] Bent was considering the Inquiry’s report at the time of the meeting at the Swan Street gates, and subsequently decided to move Ford to the Public Works Department. Then in early August 1882 he had Rennick dismissed from the Railways. Rennick was Engineer of Surveys at the time, and as experienced railway engineers were at a premium in the antipodean colonies, Bent soon realised he had been too hasty. With a growing volume of work on, he was persuaded to re-instate Rennick a month later. He was welcomed back to the fold with a purse of £100, contributed in a whip-around of the engineering staff by a committee of senior officers! [73] This generosity must have bordered on the embarrassing, the sum being equivalent to half a year’s salary for an assistant engineer. [74]

Whether Rennick used his brief unemployment preparing plans to raise the tracks through Richmond and over Swan street, he must have continued this work back at Spencer Street, probably working with a team, as it was one of the largest civil engineering problems yet confronted by the Victorian Railways. Richmond station was at ground level, with a gated crossing of busy Swan Street at the down end: the line at the up end had been raised over Punt Road sometime earlier. The two tracks served the Lilydale, Brighton, Oakleigh and Frankston lines, and also carried the Gippsland traffic. By the early 1880’s the growth of rail traffic was closing the gates for seven hours out of twelve, with nearly 400 train movements over the crossing daily. [75] Rennick’s was not the winning design; his entry came fourth and was recommended for a consolation prize of £15. [76] But the winning design had a fatal political flaw, requiring as it did a track realignment which would have meant the compulsory acquisition of two hotels, whole rows of houses and some businesses, together with a realignment of two surrounding streets. Rennick’s plan succeeded in keeping nearly all the work within the railway boundary, using the expedient of retaining walls instead of sloped earthen embankments. [77] The new coalition government of James Service bit the bullet, and in October 1883 voted £67,000 towards the works, acknowledging that more would be needed. Meanwhile design work continued into the New Year. [78]

Work got under way in mid-1884, [79] with minimal delays to trains passing every few minutes. Over two million bricks were needed, but with the building boom in Melbourne the railways got no response to their call for tenders and were compelled to purchase bricks whenever the opportunity offered. On Saturday night, 4th July 1885 the first tracks were slued onto the new high level embankment by an army of 200 navvies who worked under electric lights powered by a generator set up by Kynaston Lathrop Murray, the VR Telegraph Engineer. Quite a crowd gathered at midnight to watch the event and witness this early application of electric lighting. [80]

Victorian Railways Richmond Station 1885
The new high level Richmond Station soon after its opening in 1885. PROV H3437.

The Telegraph Branch was established on 1st January 1878 [81] with Murray as its head. Educated in England, he had emigrated as a young man, joined the Tasmanian Public Service and was employed in laying the submarine telegraph cable across Bass Strait, the first in the Antipodes. He subsequently distinguishing himself as the Post and Telegraph Master at Ararat before joining the Victorian Railways. [82] Given the dependence of telegraph on electric current, its engineers were the first in the Railways to understand electrical technology. When electric lighting was introduced in 1882 it was the Telegraph Engineer who took ownership. A contract for lighting Spencer Street Station was awarded in August 1882. The gas company thought its gas lighting could compete and put in a tender, but the representatives of Edison-Bell were so sure of the new technology that they contracted to install the equipment at their expense, on the understanding that the VR would purchase it if satisfactory. [83] It was an offer Bent could not refuse, and the railways purchased the system in early 1883. It became the basis of the VR’s electric light plant, initially comprising a steam driven direct current dynamo connected to Brush arc lamps which were strung in the Spencer Street yard. [84] Illuminating the yard was a huge blessing to shunters stumbling around at night in all weathers. The arc lights were nine times brighter than the gas lamps they supplanted, although they cost more to run. [85] So by 1885 the Telegraph Branch was able to provide a portable plant to light up Richmond‘nearly as light as day’ . [86] Murray further distinguished himself by supervising the electric lighting of the Melbourne Centennial Exhibition in 1888, the largest lighting project of its kind in the colony to that time. [87]

2. The Yarra Bridges

The old timber bridge had endured many huge floods which came down the Yarra. In September 1880 a flood inundated the lower end of Flinders Street, with water up to the bed of horse drawn drays. South Melbourne was under five or six feet of water, but the railway remained open, the only means of transport to the City. [88] In December 1863 it had stood against Melbourne’s greatest flood, [89] forming the only crossing between Hawthorn and the sea. But only just; a whole house floating down river crashed against it, and men were employed fending off floating debris. The Sandridge end of the railway was under water too. [90] Stout as the bridge was, it was increasingly worrisome to nervous passengers crossing on trains to and from Port Melbourne and St Kilda. In 1881 fears were expressed in parliament and the Railways responded by making a safety assessment of the bridge. [91] Passengers became even more unsettled as the reef of rock just upstream of the bridge was dynamited away in 1884. Worried that the blasting may have weakened the foundations of the bridge, a daily traveller wrote to The Age that he always experienced a ‘quiet inward relief’ after the train had safely made it across! [92] Railway engineers assured the public that the bridge piles were unaffected and sound, [93] but they too were keen to replace it.

3. Spencer Street Yard and Goods Sheds

Before the cutting of the Coode Canal in 1886, the Yarra River looped northwards and made a junction with the Maribyrnong River near Footscray Road. The whole vast area was low lying and subject to inundation every time the Yarra was in flood. During the 1842 flood some thirsty blokes rowed a boat overland from Footscray to the Royal Highlander Hotel in Flinders Street! [94] By 1884 commercial and residential development in Melbourne had confined the railways to the area west of Spencer Street. They were literally sandwiched between the rock on which the city was built and the very soft place of the West Melbourne Swamp which formed the delta of the Yarra River. As discussed earlier Thomas Higinbotham’s solution was to avoid the area altogether and build a new central passenger station, leaving the whole Spencer Street Station area for goods traffic.   But the swamp was not just constraining the railways;  the  growing traffic in the Port of Melbourne was hampered by the tortuous bend in the river near its junction with the Maribyrnong. This was the notorious ‘Humbug Reach’, the béte noire of ship’s captains trading to the Yarra wharves. [95] The Melbourne Harbour Trust was established in 1877, the same year Thomas Higinbotham and John Woods had their imbroglio over the future of the central passenger station. A month after their stoush in the Spencer Street yard, Woods met with the Harbour Trust to promote the building of a railway dock on the north bank of the Yarra, and the cutting of a ship canal to Hobson’s Bay. [96] The idea was not new, but the expense had led to prevarication. The Harbour Trust therefore engaged Sir John Coode to investigate and recommend a feasible scheme. Coode set sail from England a few days before the ‘Black Wednesday’ crisis swept Higinbotham from his office, [97] but the same crisis also put a brake on government expenditure.

The plan of Robert Watson and R.G. Ford’s to reclaim some of the swamp for the redevelopment of Spencer Street Station and yard required the demolition of Higinbotham’s huge brick goods shed.   But finances only permitted a partial redevelopment of the yard after Higinbotham’s sacking, and his goods shed stood for another decade until Coode’s scheme was fulfilled and more wharves were built along the north bank of the new canal.   Access to these wharves required the westward extension of Flinders Street, which precipitated the demolition of Higinbotham’s goods shed and the building of an even bigger one on reclaimed land a little to the west. The new shed was built in brick and iron with a triple gable slate roof which extended 1,265 feet and was 117 feet wide. The southern end of the shed incorporated a two storey administration building with clock tower. The contract was awarded to P. Tozer and Co. in September 1889 for the extremely precise bid of £72,943 17s 5½d and took about two years to complete. [98] In September 1890 construction of another brick goods shed alongside that being built by Tozer was commenced. Intended for dairy produce, it was less imposing but nevertheless cost nearly £20,000. [99] The cost of reclaiming land for the yard and laying trackwork to the new sheds would take the redevelopment well over £100,000, and completed the plans envisioned by Robert Watson 15 years earlier. [100]

Victorian Railways No.2 Goods Shed in West Melbourne
Victorian Railways West Melbourne Goods Shed. PROV H2752.

4. North Melbourne Redevelopment

Just as Richmond to the east of the city needed a radical rebuilding to eliminate a level crossing and accommodate extra tracks for increased traffic, so too did North Melbourne. Plans had been prepared for a project estimated at £30,000 to provide for a bridge to carry the road 250ft. over six lines. A station booking office was to be incorporated in the bridge, with ramps down to three island platforms. [101] A contract for the work was let in July 1885, the whole job being completed in 1887.

Associated with the North Melbourne Station project was the building of a new locomotive shed. To be situated about 300 yards from the station, it was built on the edge of the old lagoon in the West Melbourne Swamp. The Moonee Ponds Creek flowed into the lagoon which the railway skirted between North Melbourne and South Kensington. The depth of silt in this area made it of limited value for building development due to the difficulty and expense of making firm foundations so before the new locomotive depot could be built, the site had to be raised above flood level. This meant an estimated 400,000 cubic yards of silt had to be dredged from the Moonee Ponds Creek to provide fill, and also to help drain the lagoon. [102] The contract for the work was awarded in June 1886 for £29,336. [103] It formed part of a grand plan to reclaim the West Melbourne Swamp proposed by the Public Works Department. [104] By then work was already in progress on Sir John Coode’s plan to improve the navigation of the lower Yarra by digging a channel to eliminate ‘Humbug Reach’ and mitigate flooding.

5. Removal of Higinbotham’s Locomotive Shed

The new locomotive shed was to be the third to service the Spencer Street terminal in three decades. The original engine sheds abutted the station, but were replaced by much bigger sheds and a turntable at the down end of the yard in 1874-75. At the time this was thought adequate for future expansion, but its location and design became an embarrassment. Built during the regime of  Higinbotham and  Meikle, it comprised three long sheds. One of these was the former No.1 Goods Shed. [105] Two new sheds were built beside it. All were of the run-through design, with access at each end. The western shed had four roads for locomotive servicing, each with inspection pits running the whole length. The two eastern sheds were for fuelling engines under cover. Each had two centre roads, with fuel platforms down each side. It was a rather unnecessary and awkward arrangement, constraining the number of engines that could be serviced. The contract was let at the end of January 1874 [106] and Higinbotham sailed for America and Europe six weeks later. [107] But during his 22 month absence his plans for a new central passenger station were white-anted by Robert Ford and Robert Watson, and over his strong objection the Spencer Street yards were expanded to the western side of the new engine sheds on reclaimed swamp land. [108] This left the sheds in the middle of what would later become the main running lines to North Melbourne and also hindering access to the passenger yard. [109] A large water tank was later erected on the eastern side of the running lines to guarantee water supply if the reticulated supply from Yan Yean was interrupted. But with over a hundred locomotives to service, a single turntable and constrained coaling facilities, the new sheds rapidly became congested and inadequate for the burgeoning growth of traffic: they had to go. It was estimated that the inefficient fuel shed tied up 150 wagons waiting discharge of coal, which might otherwise have been used to relieve the wagon shortage during the wheat harvest. [110]

Spencer Street Railway Yard 1880
Spencer Street Station and Yard in 1880 showing the engine shed in the middle. Detail from Samuel Calvert’s bird’s eye view of Melbourne in 1880. National Library of Australia.

Allison Smith’s North Melbourne Locomotive Shed

The new engine terminal at North Melbourne was designed from the outset for efficient servicing and storage of locomotives, with a large ‘coal gear’, or elevated coal stage on its southern side, adjacent to the swamp, and an elegant bowl shaped water tank near its eastern entrance. Wagons of coal would be railed from a new coal wharf on the Yarra, made as part of the Coode canal works, and then pushed up to the top of the coal stage to discharge their load into bins beneath. Chutes from these bins could then be lowered to fill the tenders of waiting locomotives below. Coaling would take just a few minutes, with a serviced engine quickly moving off to make way for the next.

The new ‘shed’ was to be an imposing brick building nearly 700 feet long and 205 feet wide, with a slate roof supported by cast iron columns, and covering three 50ft. turn-tables, with 24 roads radiating from each. With two locomotives stored on each road, the shed was designed to comfortably house 72 locomotives, or 100 at a squeeze. Every road included an inspection pit, making it a hazardous place for the unwary, especially at night. A hydraulic wheel drop was provided together with a small workshop and storehouse, so that locomotives could be regularly examined for wear and running repairs made without the need to send them to Newport. Enginemen were given high standard facilities, including meal rooms, four baths with hot and cold water and lavatories. A bunk room was provided for crews from other depots needing overnight accommodation, and a footbridge was made across the running lines to Railway Parade, connecting the hundreds of railway families in North Melbourne, most of them familiar with the midnight knocks of the ‘caller up’ [111] sent to alert engine crews for the start of their shift. Having outgrown the two former engine sheds, the new one was built with walls designed for easy removal should expansion be necessary. [112] Initially designed under William Greene’s supervision to a plan by Allison Smith, it was thought to be the largest of its kind in the world. [113]

Victorian Railways North Melbourne Depot c1893
Allison Smith’s North Melbourne Locomotive Depot circa 1893. The turntable roads were able to park two of the small engines of the day. PROV H1176.

The contract for the coal stage was let in August 1886, and that for the building in in March 1888, by which time John Lunt had taken over as Engineer for Existing Lines and supervised construction. [114] He was one of the Victorian Railway’s original engineers, having joined in September, 1858. Initially assigned to the Moorabool viaduct and later the Bendigo to Echuca, North-East and Gippsland mainlines, he had worked closely with Thomas Higinbotham, Robert Watson, Francis Rennick, Robert G. Ford, George Darbyshire and others who had been there virtually from the beginning. He was made Engineer for Maintenance in January, 1878, and succeeded Greene as Engineer of Existing Lines in 1887. [115] The works at North Melbourne were two years in the building, with all the locomotives being moved in during August 1890. [116]

The Railway Coal Canal

The new locomotive terminal was still not completed when a decision was made to excavate a channel through the West Melbourne Swamp from the new Coode Canal to North Melbourne. The Railway Coal Canal as it was called enabled colliers from Newcastle to discharge their cargo opposite the new coal stage. Work started in February 1889 [117] but came to a halt in the financial depression of 1892. [118] The contractor introduced a suction dredge and piped the silt to the areas to be raised, obviating the need for the army of day labourers used to make the Coode Canal. [119] It was one of many reclamation schemes that eventually obliterated all trace of the wetlands at Melbourne’s back door. Reclamation was an expensive business, but at £10 an acre, ‘two acres of such land were worth 20 acres of forest land at Korumburra or anywhere in the bush’ [120] The Railways wanted more land for future expansion and the Harbour Trust was keen to take over the railway coal wharf on the Yarra, which both hindered access to wharves further downstream and occupied space the Trust could make better use of commercially. [121] Work to complete the project recommenced in early1893, [122] and it was completed soon afterwards. [123] Potential efficiencies of moving the railway coal wharf from the Yarra to North Melbourne were given as the reason for the work, [124] but the benefits were dubious and the canal fell out of use after less than fifteen years. [125] Nevertheless, the reclaimed land was subsequently put to good use, and although much of it silted up, the defunct canal helped lower the water table and gave its name to nearby sidings. Generations of railwaymen, including the author, probably wondered why the ‘canal sidings’ were so named[126].

Victorian Railways Coal Canal 1910
Victorian Railways Coal Canal, Victoria Dock and West Melbourne Swamp. Detail from ‘Melbourne and Suburbs’ map by the Department of Lands and Survey, 1910.

Allison Smith’s Other Big Engine Sheds

In response to the government’s commitment to decentralisation, albeit half-hearted, Allison Smith planned large engine sheds and servicing facilities at Ballarat East and Sandhurst, each similar to that at North Melbourne, but somewhat smaller. Even Seymour, Warragul and Maryborough were given very substantial brick engine sheds, and simpler corrugated iron sheds were built elsewhere.

Ballarat interests had exerted their political clout to obtain a promise of a local railway workshop, and in cahoots with Sandhurst interests ensured that Newport would be restricted to maintenance. With the government forced to virtually guarantee ongoing contracts for locomotive manufacture by the Phoenix Foundry at Ballarat, and carriage manufacture by Pickles and Son at Sandhurst, the railways set about adorning the two rural cities with veritable locomotive palaces, subordinate only to North Melbourne.

When the site at Ballarat East was being excavated it was found to be over former gold mining workings. The solid bluestone foundations were in places laid on concrete footings thirty feet deep. Work started in March 1887 [127] but the complications forced the contractor to throw in the towel about a year later, necessitating the calling of a new tender. The successful builder was William Barker, who also won the contract for substantial additions to Ballarat station. [128] The brick engine shed was 400 ft. by 200 ft., with three bays covering two 50 ft. turntables, each providing access to 24 stalls with inspection pits. The roof was supported on eight cast iron columns manufactured in Geelong, and was covered with the best Bangor slate from Wales. A dining-room, large lavatory, and several enamelled plunge and shower baths were provided for the enginemen, fitters and cleaners. This was shared by men working in an adjacent workshop, 120 ft. by 60 ft., which was fitted with a drop pit and two 50 ton hydraulic rams for removing wheels, a forge, drilling machine and other machinery. An elevated coal stage, water tower and sand dryer completed the complex, the whole job costing close to £40,000. Barker’s work was first class, and visitors with experience of American and Continental practice declared the new facilities second to none. [129] Nevertheless, when the locomotives and crews were moved into the new shed at Ballarat East in June 1890, [130] the Ballarat Star raged that the repair facilities were minimal, complaining they were provided ‘under false pretences, as it is now clear that the understanding as to the extent and capacity of the repairing shops has been coolly set aside.’ [131] They made things difficult for Gillies, who was pressured into leaving the old machinery and some of the men in the former bluestone engine shed adjacent to Lydiard Street, despite it being only half a mile distant. [132] The machinery was obsolete so the capitulation was a meaningless token and when the fuss died down the old sheds were converted into a goods depot.

The engine palace at Ballarat was on the eastern fringe of town, but the new building rising at Sandhurst on Quarry Hill was visible from many parts of the city and just 250 yards from the Sandhurst station platform. In keeping with its prominent position, great care was taken with its appearance. Built with polychrome red, cream and black bricks, the triple arched frontage to the city was outlined with fancy corbelled pediments and included a dozen large iron framed fanlight windows. The slate roofs over each of the three bays included clerestory windows containing 10,000 square feet of glass and covered a single 50 foot turntable with 24 radial stalls. It was a veritable locomotive cathedral, and everyone coming and going by train would have witnessed the army of workmen laying the 700,000 bricks. The contract was let in August 1888, and after its completion the old engine shed, itself a handsome bi-chromatic brick building adjacent to the station, was converted to a workshop. [133]

Victorian Railways Sandhurst Engine Shed c1900
The magnificent Sandhurst engine shed, with 4-4-0 D540 outside, circa 1900. PROV H1175.

At Maryborough a slate roof covered the single 50 foot turntable and close by a two road brick repair shed was built, containing a smithy, the foreman’s and timekeeper’s office, store, and crew amenities. [134] It was finished in June 1888, [135] and was followed by semi-circular roundhouses at Seymour and Warragul. [136] All these sheds were solidly built in brick, but included an easily removable corrugated iron section to facilitate expansion. As with all Allison Smith’s workshops and engine sheds, the amenities provided – meal rooms, lavatories and bathrooms – were advanced for the time. The huge workshops and engine sheds being built at Eveleigh in Sydney made no such provision. Indoor toilets were not provided there until 1910, and men had to wash in buckets. [137]

Seymour Engine Shed circa 1890.
Seymour Engine Shed with 0-6-0 Q 93 on the turntable, circa 1890. PROV H1180.

But not all crew facilities in Victoria were good. One of Allison Smith’s smaller projects was a new engine shed at Geelong. [138] Built adjacent to the station on Railway Terrace, it was a modest corrugated iron shed designed to house eight locomotives, with a separate repair shop that included a drop-pit. Some care must have been taken with its appearance as it was welcomed as an asset to Geelong, but the enginemen were nevertheless unhappy that the meal room and lavatory shared the same space. The men preferred to eat next to their engines! [139] Like practically everything built by the Geelong & Melbourne Railway Company, the station at Geelong had been replaced. It was torn down in 1879 and replaced with an impressive bi-chromatic brick building and large train shed covering three platforms. Completed under budget for £7,400 it was impressive, but restrained in comparison with some of the edifices built a decade later. [140]

Landmark Station Buildings

It was the mid 1880’s before most projects authorised by the 1884 Railway Construction Act were being planned, and by then the Land Boom was under way. Duncan Gillies became Premier in February 1886 and during his administration of nearly five years ‘no extravagance was too absurd for it to obtain Cabinet’s tacit or open approval. Huge government and private loans were floated in Britain; enormous railway projects were undertaken; lavish exhibitions were planned; the boom was merrily set upon its way.’ [141] By 1885 a travel guide could claim that ‘the rise and development of the city of Melbourne, the capital of the colony of Victoria and Queen city of the South, is an event unparelled in the annals of the world.’ [142] The building boom transformed the face of Melbourne, an indication of the spectacular growth being the 200 percent increase in the bricklaying and plastering trades between 1881 and 1891. [143] Historian Geoffrey Blainey writes;

‘Melbourne’s population soared as the largest team of building workers ever assembled in one place in Australia built thousands of villas and terraces, hundreds of mansions, countless shops and scores of churches, hotels and halls.’ [144]

And skyscrapers! In 1888 work commenced on the Australian Property and Investment Company’s new building in Elizabeth Street, which rose to 173 feet, making it the tallest in the British Empire. Named the Australia Building, it was among the world’s tallest, with only a few in New York and Chicago being loftier. [145]

The works authorised by the ‘Octopus Act’ of 1884 had to be carried on in the midst of this extraordinary building spree, but by and large railway buildings looked rather modest by comparison. Just a block from Spencer Street Station the Federal Coffee Palace was opened on 1st August 1888. Built in the French renaissance style with elements of Gothic, it cost £106,000 plus £48,000 for its land. The top of the ornate dome was 165 feet above the street, and with 560 rooms it was the largest hotel in Melbourne (although it had no beer). [146] The Rialto and Olderfleet buildings a few yards further up Collins Street were symphonies in Venetian Gothic. It was the height of the Victorian Era and adornment of the functional was expected.

Collins Street West circa 1890
adornment of the functional was expected. Gothic buildings including the domed Federal Coffee Palace in Collins Street West circa 1890.

The 20th Century mantra of ‘form follows function’ was in the distant and incomprehensible future; to the Victorian sensibility, minimalism would have been anathema. Even The Age criticised the railways for the ‘repulsive’ design of the engine sheds built at Spencer Street in 1874, and lamented that given the expenditure, ‘appearances might have been studied.’ [147] Railway engineers were therefore under an obligation to make their buildings presentable. The decorative aspects of the Newport Workshops and the locomotive depots at North Melbourne, Ballarat and Sandhurst were normal for the day, and were not viewed as excessive. Indeed, the Newport buildings were considered ‘very plain’ and functional: ‘the best kind for the purpose for which they are intended’. [148]

When it came to station buildings, the engineers had to provide a building that would be adequate for the expected traffic, meet railway operational needs, and suit the status of the town, village or hamlet. When railways were built the station buildings provided were often rudimentary, a policy that also kept construction costs down. However, as traffic grew so did the pressure for improved accommodation. By the mid-1880’s the railways had an enormous volume of work on; over 480 contracts are listed in the 1887 Annual Report, mostly on existing lines. [149] Some 56 station buildings on existing lines were replaced between 1887 and 1891. To lighten the work load in the engineering office they were made to a few standard designs, the cheaper ones being of wood, the others of brick, with costs ranging from £300 and £2,700, the average being £1,100. [150]

A few grander station buildings were made during the Land Boom years, the first being Windsor. It had no special significance for railway operations, being an intermediate station on the suburban line to Brighton, but it served a wealthy area and by 1885 the old M&HBUR station was inadequate. [151] The new building doubled as a post and telegraph office and cost £5,300. Additions to the Seymour station at the same time were made for a similar cost, but Seymour was a mainline junction and far more important for railway operations. Next was Stawell, a gold mining town in the Wimmera with no special railway significance, generating about the same amount of traffic as nearby Maryborough, St Arnuad, Ararat and Horsham. [152] Yet its brick station building was replaced by a grand two storey building, incorporating a refreshment room and stationmaster’s residence at a cost of £4,100. It might have been coincidental that John Woods was the MLA for Stawell! The following year Benalla was graced with a beautiful two storey addition, even more arresting than Stawell’s and costing about a thousand pounds more. In 1889 Brighton Beach got a new station for a similar price tag. It was a busy seaside destination for Melbournians. In 1890 the impressive border station at Serviceton was opened at a cost of £8,500, and in 1891 a handsome brick building was provided on the new up platform at Sandhurst for £7,300.

These seven stations were a little extravagant, but they could not hold a candle to Ballarat and Maryborough, both of which already had substantial facilities. Ballarat was given a magnificent new booking office, refreshment room and tower on the down side. It cost £29,000, some £3,000 more than the lavish edifice built simultaneously at Maryborough. These two stations alone cost substantially more than the 24 brick stations buildings erected during the Land Boom years. [153]

Victorian Railways Ballarat Station west entrance c1895
The colonnaded west entrance of Ballarat Station circa 1895. PROV H2257.

It is a measure of Ballarat’s political clout and its significance as an important railway centre that such an expenditure was countenanced, but Maryborough was not particularly important. Its population in 1891 was less than a quarter of Ballarat’s and on a par with Stawell, Horsham and many other towns, [154] and it already had a substantial brick station building that according to the superintendent of the railway district, was ‘a little cramped’  but sufficient to ‘get through all the traffic.’ Instead of extending the first station, which was less than ten years old, Maryborough got one of Australia’s most magnificent station buildings. It was said to be about four times too large for the 20 to 30 passengers who used it at any one time. [155] It was one of many grand public buildings in country towns which were a feature of the politics prior to the Great War. Maryborough station should be set against the many magnificent post offices built due to the influence of a town’s local Member of Parliament; Maryborough was the electorate of the Premier and Minister for railways, Duncan Gillies! [156]

Victorian Railways Maryborough Station circa 1900.
The new Maryborough Station built in 1891. PROV H2238.

But only nine Land Boom station buildings can be considered excessive to needs, and given the extraordinary optimism of the time, the wonder is that the railways were so restrained. Grand churches, town halls and post offices also proliferated during these years; a community that could sanction the building of twenty four landmark churches in eight years was unlikely to quibble at the cost of a few nice railway stations! [157] Furthermore, there was no attempt to replace Melbourne’s three nondescript stations with a grand terminal. In this respect Victoria was at one with the six other colonial capitals, none of which were provided with a landmark railway station in the Nineteenth Century, but Speight’s administration did provide Melbourne with one of its grandest buildings.

Railway Administrative Offices

In September 1888 a contract for £132,937 was awarded for the construction of a new Railway Administrative Office in Spencer Street. [158] It had four storeys and extended over 140 yards along two city blocks, with north and south wings of 50 yards each. As Spencer Street was on a slope, the basement was at ground level near Flinders Street, but the ground floor was at street level near Collins Street. The ceilings were lofty. The basement’s were 13 ft., the ground floor 20 ft., the first and second floors 18 ft. Each floor had a wide central corridor running the length of the building and onto these opened the 137 rooms. The main entrance was opposite Flinders Lane, from which a grand central staircase swept up to the First Floor, where the Commissioners and the Minister of Transport had their offices. It was built of brick with stucco rendering in the Italianate style, the three entrances having Stawell sandstone columns topped with statues of feminine figures representing science, engineering, architecture, commerce, pasturage and agriculture.

The staff began occupying the building in June 1891, the first being engineers and draftsmen who had been working in rented premises. [159] Ever since the Victorian Railways had taken over the MMA&MRR offices in Spencer Street, opposite Collins Street, the accommodation had been inadequate, forcing the use of rented offices scattered around the city. [160] The new offices were spacious but it was thought they would still not be adequate to house all the staff. [161] The Commissioners occupied their new offices in October 1891, but Messrs. Speight, Ford and Greene were not to enjoy them for long. By that time the colony’s finances were in crisis, and as an economy the new building was filled with old furniture, which was not ‘elegant’. [162] Two years later much tougher economies had claimed the jobs of many Head Office staff, and it was even mooted that the Public Works Department be amalgamated with the Railways and all their staff housed in the building, which by then had ‘ample room’. [163] But like all the projects engineered during the Speight era, it was designed to meet the continued expansion of the railways, and was ‘future proofed’ so that additional floors might be added, as they were in 1912 and 1922. [164]

Victorian Railways Administrative Offices 1891
The Victorian Railways Administrative Offices as built in 1891.

The final cost was £146,600, [165] which viewed in isolation seems excessive, but the Federal Coffee Palace cost its owners as much, and like the railway offices, it too had many empty rooms during the financial slump of the 1890’s. [166] And just across the intersection from the railway head office the City Council was building another landmark, stretching two blocks along Flinders Street. Its audacious scope and decorative splendour made it ‘one of the finest, if not absolutely the finest, market buildings in the world’. This new Fish Market was ‘admittedly in advance of Melbourne requirements’ but the ‘City Council took the view that in a young and growing city it was better to be ahead of requirements than behind them’. It cost about £220,000! [167] Curving behind both the Fish Market and the railway offices was the new elevated railway viaduct linking the Flinders Street and Spencer Street stations. Built simultaneously with both these buildings, it cost about £80,000. [168] Together these works defined the south-west corner of the Melbourne CBD for the next seventy years.

Melbourne Fish Markets circa 1892.
Fish Markets with the Flinders Street Viaduct curving behind circa 1892. SLV H11709.


The first interlocking in Victoria was provided by the M&HBUR at Swan Street, Richmond in July 1874. An elevated signal box was provided and Saxby & Farmer’s equipment used to control the gates and signals. [169] Six months after Higinbotham’s return from overseas, the VR’s first interlocking of signals and points was opened with some ceremony on 1st July 1876 at Essendon Junction, on the down side of North Melbourne. At the time there were 130 to 140 train movements at that location daily. It was the first of five junctions between Spencer Street and North Melbourne to be interlocked with equipment shipped by the Worcester firm of McKenzie & Holland, who sent an engineer out to supervise the installations. [170]

It was a good start but not sufficient to prevent the head on collision of an Up Essendon train which a pointsman had turned into the path of a departing Williamstown service. The accident occurred on 11th June 1877 and despite the trains moving slowly their hand brakes were ineffective. Throwing the engines into reverse the two drivers managed to reduce the force of the impact, but nine passengers required surgery. [171] The accident led to calls for more interlocking. [172] Woods was then Commissioner and had adopted Watson and Ford’s plan for the rearrangement of the Spencer Street yard, all of which was to be interlocked and controlled from one large signal box. [173] Enough equipment was purchased from McKenzie & Holland for this, together with smaller interlockings at West Geelong Junction, Footscray and Williamstown; in total some 280 levers connected to points and signals. [174] The largest of the interlockings was at the new No.1 Signal Box at Spencer Street, opened by Woods on 28th October 1878. It had 70 levers, of which 31 controlled signals and 39 points. The lever frame was 35 feet long and worked by four signalmen. During their six hour shifts they were kept walking backwards and forwards, pulling levers that required an average 14 lb. pressure, ‘playing upon the apparatus as if it were some gigantic musical instrument.’ [175] (By comparison, the interlocking at York in England had 370 levers). [176]

Victorian Railways Spencer Street Signal Box 1878
New Interlocking Apparatus at Spencer Street 1878. Australasian Sketcher, 28 September 1878, p.100.

No.1 Signal Box was part of the complete rearrangement of the Spencer Street yard, which continued for another year or so, but by Melbourne Cup Day 1880 the new arrangements enabled 56,500 people to take trains from Spencer Street to Flemington Racecourse. This was an increase of 33 percent in just two years, yet the railways managed well and without incident. [177] Although Higinbotham had introduced interlocking on the VR, he was fiercely opposed to rearrangement of the Spencer Street yard, but to no avail. Woods sacked him in the Black Wednesday purge well before the signalling work was completed.

The purge was in response to the Legislative Council blocking Supply, but Premier Graham Berry’s determination to carry on government without it stymied much needed investment, including fifty more locations where interlocking was needed. [178] Berry took up office in May 1877 with a £200,000 surplus in Treasury but three years later the ‘Berry Blight’ had left the colonies coffers half a million short, despite increased taxation. [179] Historian Geoffrey Blainey postulated that the upheaval during the 1878-80 constitutional crisis which was accompanied by a downturn in business and a rural recession led many landholders and farmers to withhold support for the police trying to hunt down the Kelly gang of bushrangers. [180] Political turmoil continued throughout 1880, with two elections and three Ministries.

So only a trickle of money was directed to interlocking in 1880; less than £800 for a few small country locations. [181] Bent was appointed Commissioner of Railways in July 1881 and let the interlocking plans gather dust. This in spite of the accidents at Jolimont in August 1881 and Windsor in March 1882. Bent’s energies were dissipated trying to extend the network, not to make it safer. But the outcry after the Hawthorn accident on 2nd December 1882 finally forced him to commit to interlockings on the former Hobson’s Bay lines. Contracts were soon let for four signal boxes and associated interlocking in the busy Flinders Street-Jolimont area, and at St Kilda. [182] But that was all; for most of the five years between 1878 and 1883 interlocking projects were on hold despite goods traffic doubling and passenger traffic growing seven fold. [183]

Communications fared somewhat better. Railways and the telegraph grew up together in the Australasian colonies, the first electric telegraph messages being made between Melbourne and Williamstown just six months before the M&HBR opened the first railway between Elizabeth Street and Sandridge. [184] But twenty five years passed before Woods created the VR’s own Telegraph Branch under K.L. Murray. Possibly due to the newly created branch having a single minded focus the extension of the railways’ own communications was uninterrupted, whereas interlockings were just one of the extensive and varied responsibilities of the Engineer for Existing Lines. In 1880 Murray trialled several kinds of block signalling apparatus and was impressed with that patented by Craik & Winter, which was being extensively used in India. [185] During 1881 funds were found to string a second telegraph wire between Melbourne and Seymour, and new railway telegraph lines were erected to Lancefield, Numurkah and Mordialloc; 120 miles in all. That year signals in the Melbourne area were electrically connected to signal boxes, giving signalmen a positive indication of each signal’s status. A start was also made in linking signal boxes by telephone as an aid to safeworking, [186] and the following year the VR installed its own telephone exchange, initially with about 50 lines connecting the offices at Spencer Street and Flinders Street, where it was a ‘valuable aid to business’. [187]

Extending the railway telegraph proceeded during 1883 and Winter’s double line block instruments were installed from Flinders Street to Elsternwick. [188] This replaced the telegraphic block system formerly used. Instead of signalmen having to send a Morse Code message advising the section or ‘block’ between two stations was clear, and the message having to be written out or remembered, Winter’s instruments were electrically connected and displayed on dials whether or not a train was occupying a block. Bell codes were used to request permission to send a train into a block, and advise of the trains’ departure and arrival. It was faster and much more definite than the telegraph and a great improvement, but it did not prevent the accident at Windsor in 1887 as block working depended on trained and disciplined signalmen. Weaning railwaymen from old ways was to take some years.

The dangerously inadequate safeworking facilities worried Speight on his first tours of inspection. In his report just seven weeks after his arrival in the colony he expressed as a priority the need for interlocking and block working. [189] Provision for these safeworking improvements was part of the ‘New Works’ in the Railway Construction Act passed later that year. The Engineer for Existing Lines had his hands full with many projects authorised under that Act, but in 1886 a massive program of interlocking commenced. In the four years September 1886 to September 1890, contracts for a total of 92 signal boxes were let, for a total outlay of £21,850, not including contracts with McKenzie & Holland, which amounted to £58,760 for the three years 1888-91. [190]

Victorian Railways Ballarat Signal Box circa 1895
Ballarat ‘C’ Box – Typical of the Signal Boxes built in the 1880’s. Peter Bruce Collection,

But it took some time for drivers to fully accept the discipline of signals. On New Year’s Day 1879 a driver passed a danger signal beyond the Spencer Street engine shed and drove his locomotive down a dead-end siding and over an embankment, killing his fireman. [191] Eight years later on 7th March 1887 a driver took his train out of Flinders Street against a signal at danger and steamed right across the path of an arriving Brighton train, which was happily fitted with Westinghouse continuous brakes and stopped ten feet short of calamity! [192] By 1887 about £60,000 had been spent on interlocking projects, [193] but while Mirls remained in charge discipline was lax. The very necessary but unpopular task of smartening up the engine crews fell to Allison Smith.

Signalmen also took time to adjust to the new interlocking technology. On the night of 28th August 1883 as reports of the Krakatoa eruption near Java were being telegraphed to astonished newspapers, [194] the signalman at Newmarket waved the 9.45 pm down Essendon train onto the Flemington Racecourse line where, with a lesser reverberation it ran head-on into the locomotive of a shunting cattle train, injuring 21 passengers. Signalman Croaker had mistaken the oncoming Essendon train for a cattle train and set the road for the racecourse branch and the signals for Essendon at danger. When the Essendon train arrived Croaker forgot he had set the road for the branch and inexplicably gave the driver a hand signal to proceed, despite the Essendon line signal being at danger. Not only did the driver comply, but he failed to notice his train veering into the branch, or the red lamp being waived by a frantic shunter working in the cattle sidings, who sprinted 75 yards in an effort to prevent the impending wreck. [195]

Line Duplications

The Melbourne to Sandhurst and Geelong to Ballarat mainlines and the Williamstown branch were all built as double lines, and the private lines from Flinders Street to Sandridge and St Kilda, and Princes Bridge to Windsor were quickly duplicated after opening. [196] Double lines were preferred in the early days of railways as the best means of separating trains in opposing directions, but trains following one another in the same direction were separated only by a time interval. It was dangerous, but while traffic was light and there was a pressing need to extend new railways into farming regions, duplication of lines ceased, leaving 174 miles of double track until the early 1880’s. [197]

The opening of the through railway to Sydney in 1883 put pressure on the North Eastern mainline, and duplication works between Newmarket and the Goulburn River Bridge, just short of Seymour, commenced in 1882. But only 16¾ miles had been finished before Speight arrived, and the ‘New Works’ provided for the completion of the project, which was given top priority, as the North Eastern mainline was highly profitable. The job was made easier and costs kept down by Higinbotham’s foresight in designing the line with duplication in view, so that no complicated rearrangement of stations and yards was necessary. Duplicated sections were opened progressively from November 1885 to October 1886, giving 56¾ miles of double line over the Great Dividing Range. [198] The whole project was completed without any suspension of train services. [199]

Growing passenger business was taxing the capacity of suburban lines and creating serious safety concerns. Between 1882 and 1885 three suburban lines had been duplicated: Windsor – Brighton, South Yarra – Caulfield and Richmond – Camberwell. After the Burnley accident, Bent claimed credit for these projects, but the former market gardener had been Commissioner of Railways only two months before the first contract was let. With funding for ‘New Works’, suburban duplications continued from 1886 to 1891, with additional tracks laid on the sections North Melbourne – North Fitzroy, Camberwell – Box Hill – Ringwood, Caulfield – Mordialloc, Brighton Beach – Sandringham, Caulfield – Dandenong, and Brunswick – Coburg. Over the decade 1882 to 1891 an additional 123 miles of line was duplicated, increasing the total from 174 to 297 miles. All the new duplications were worked under the Winter’s Block system of safeworking.

Other Works

In addition to the major works elaborated in this chapter, there were numerous contracts for locomotives and rolling stock, and a plethora of minor works covering everything from stationmasters houses, gatekeepers cottages, station platforms, lamp rooms, refreshment rooms, toilets, goods sheds, dairy produce sheds, sheep and cattle yards, cranes, footbridges, subways, locomotive turntables, water cranes and fuel platforms, water supply works, weighbridges, bridge renewals, and the supply of everything from timber and bricks to dog spikes and platelayers tools. The year ended 30th June 1890 was a very busy one indeed, with over 900 separate contracts listed, nearly four times the 250 listed a decade earlier. [200]


  1. The Illustrated Australian News, Wednesday 31 March 1886, p.58.
  2. See Heritage Council Report Victoria
  3. The South Australian Register, Friday 4 March 1881, p.1.

    The South Australian Advertiser, Thursday 10 March 1881, p.1.

    The South Australian Weekly Chronicle, Saturday 15 October 1881, p.11.

    The South Australian Register, Monday 21 August 1882, p.6.

  4. The Advocate (Melbourne), Saturday 17 March 1883, p.9. Colonial engineers would have been aware of this viaduct’s construction.

    See Kinzua Bridge

  5. The Bacchus Marsh Express, Saturday 20 March 1886, p.2.

    The Illustrated Australian News, Wednesday 31 March 1886, p.58. This article gives his initials as J.H. Thompson.

  6. The Age, Thursday 29 January 1885, p.4.

  7. wikipedia entry for Andrew Handyside & Co. Andrew died the following year, 1887.

  8. ‘The Overland’ express between Melbourne and Adelaide in the early 1950’s was usually eleven cars.
    Reference speed over bridge needed.

  9. Regional fast rail project Ballarat Line

  10. The Argus, Wednesday 31 March 1886, p.7.

  11. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1901, Appendix 16, p.36-7. Flemington 30 November 1867, Geelong 1 February 1878, Ballarat 11 August 1881, Williamstown 6 April 1885, Lal Lal 1 January 1886.

  12. The Argus, Saturday 2 January 1886, p.7.


    The Geelong Advertiser, Monday 4 January 1886, p.4.


    Geoffrey Blainey Black Kettle and Full Moon (Penguin, 2003). p89.

  13. E. Dunsdorfs, Op. Cit., p.XXX. Check “The Australian Wheat-growing Industry: 1788-1948” for page reference.

  14. The Horsham Times, Friday 14 May 1886, p.3. A wheat bag weighed about 180lbs (80kg), or about 12 bags per ton. See ‘Transporting the Crop’ (PDF document)

  15. The Leader (Melbourne), Saturday 10 May 1884, p.9.

  16. The Argus, Saturday 8 January 1887, p.12.

  17. The Argus, Thursday 13 May 1886, p.6.

  18. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1887, Appendix 21, p.30. John Robb was awarded the contract to build the Murtoa – Warracknabeal line on 19 June 1885. The opening date was 12 May 1886, or a little under a year. See also Annual Report, 30 June 1901, Appendix 16, p.37.

  19. The Horsham Times, Tuesday 1 Dec. 1885, p.1, Friday 23 April 1886, p.3, Friday 14 May 1886, p.3

    The Argus, Thursday 13 May 1886, p.6.

  20. The Horsham Times, Friday 14 May 1886, p.3.

  21. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1887, Appendix 21, p.31.

  22. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1888, Appendix 21, p.32.

    The Argus, Tuesday 15 March 1887, p.7.

  23. The Ballarat Star, Wednesday 11 November 1885, p.3.

  24. The Ballarat Star, Friday 13 November 1885, p.2.

  25. The Leader, Saturday 26 March 1887, p.38.

  26. The Argus, Thursday 10 February 1887, p.4.

  27. The Leader, Saturday 24 April 1886, p.23.

    The Age, Wednesday 28 April 1886, p.5.

    The Bendigo Advertiser, Wednesday 28 April 1886, p.2.

    The Ballarat Star, Wednesday 28 April 1886, p.2.

  28. The Ballarat Star, Saturday 12 March 1887, p.2.
  29. The Ballarat Star, Friday 29 July 1887, p.2.
  30. The Ballarat Star, Saturday 23 July 1887, p.2. Quoting Mr. C.E. Jones, M.L.A.
  31. The Herald, Tuesday 16 August 1887, p.3.

    The Age, Wednesday 17 August 1887, p.6.

  32. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1888, Appendix 21, p.35.

  33. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1888, Appendix 21, p.42.
  34. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1888, Appendix 21, p.42, 45.

  35. The Ballarat Star, Friday 29 July 1887, p.2.

  36. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1887, and 30June 1888. Appendix 21. Contacts were let for the Ballarat Cattle Yards line on 7 August 1886, Lal Lal Racecourse 25 September 1886, Creswick – Daylesford 15 January 1887 and the Springs branch on 26 August 1887.

  37. The Herald, Friday 6 January 1888, p.3.


    The Argus, Tuesday 15 March 1887, p.7.

  38. The Herald, Friday 26 August 1887, p.2.

  39. The Leader, Saturday 26 March 1887, p.38.

    The Argus, Thursday 22 December 1887, p.7.

  40. The Argus, Tuesday 15 March 1887, p.7.
  41. The bays immediately to the east and west side of these later had their roofs raised.

  42. The Argus, Tuesday 15 March 1887, p.7.


    The Bacchus Marsh Express, Saturday 6 April 1889, p.3. (Quoting the ‘Melbourne Telegraph’)

  43. The Argus, Tuesday 15 March 1887, p.7.

  44. The Australasian, Saturday 4 December 1886, p.27.

  45. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1887, Appendix 2, p.4.

  46. The Herald, Wednesday 10 October 1888, p.6.

  47. The Argus, Wednesday 8 May 1861, p.4.

  48. The Argus, Tuesday 15 March 1887, p.7.


    The Bacchus Marsh Express, Saturday 6 April 1889, p.3. (Quoting the ‘Melbourne Telegraph’)

  49. The Age, Thursday 15 March 1888, p.5.

  50. The Herald, Monday 24 September 1888, p.7.

  51. The Bacchus Marsh Express, Saturday 6 April 1889, p.3. (Quoting the ‘Melbourne Telegraph’)

  52. The Argus, Tuesday 15 March 1887, p.7.

  53. Leo J. Harrigan. Op.Cit. p.160. Newport built the rear fuselage for about 700 Beaufort bombers and 364 Beaufighters.

  54. The Herald, Monday 4 July 1887, p.3.

  55. The Bendigo Advertiser, Friday 15 July 1887, p.3.

  56. The Bendigo Advertiser, Wednesday 20 July 1887, p.2.

  57. The Herald, Thursday 14 July 1887, p.2, p3.


    The Bendigo Advertiser, Friday 15 July 1887, p.3. Wednesday 20 July 1887, p.2.

  58. The Age, Tuesday 20 September 1887, p.6.

  59. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1888, Appendix 21, p.33,36.

  60. The Alexandra and Yea Standard, Friday 22 July 1887, p.2.

  61. The Herald, Wednesday 5 October 1887, p.3.

  62. See SAR Carriages A0900 entry at

  63. See SAR Carriages BA0201 entry at

  64. The Bendigo Advertiser, Friday 15 July 1887, p.3.

  65. The Argus, Monday 13 June 1887, p.6.

  66. The Argus, Thursday 6 October 1887, p.8.

  67. The Herald, Wednesday 5 October 1887, p.3.

  68. The Herald, Wednesday 21 April 1880, p.3.

  69. The Herald, Friday 3 February 1882, p.2.

  70. The Herald, Wednesday 19 July 1882, p.3.

  71. The Argus, Monday 22 January 1883, p.10.

  72. The three Inquiries were the Bain Royal Commission appointed July 1880, the Barwon Bridge Inquiry of September 1881 and the Ford Inquiry of March 1882, all discussed earlier.

  73. The Age, Thursday 3 August 1882, p.2., Tuesday 19 September 1882, p.3.

  74. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1887, Appendix 23 ‘Statement of Employment of Employés’ p.48.
    William Joel was employed as an assistant engineer on £190 per annum.

  75. The Herald, Tuesday 21 March 1882, p.2.

  76. The Argus, Friday 2 February 1883, p.5.

  77. The Herald, Tuesday 18 December 1883, p.3.

  78. The Age, Friday 26 October 1883, p.6., Tuesday 19 February 1884, p.5.

  79. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1887, Appendix 21. The main contacts were let to Isaac Slingo for the additional bridging of Punt Road, £3,901 on 20 June 1884; David Munro for the Swan Street over-bridge and other works at Richmond, £13,950 on 1 August 1883; and Kinnaird and Mac Mullen for erection of Richmond station buildings, retaining walls, platforms and verandas, £16,088.

  80. The Age, Tuesday 19 February 1884, p.5.


    The Argus, 1 July 1885, p.5., Monday 6 July 1885, p.7.

  81. Leo J. Harrigan. Op.Cit. p.278.

  82. The Ararat Advertiser, Saturday 21 October 1916, p.2.

  83. The Argus, Monday 16 August 1882, p.5.


    The Age, Saturday 21 October 1882, p.5.


    The Australasian, Saturday 11 November 1882, p.19.

  84. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 31 December 1883, Appendix 4, p.19. Telegraph Branch Report by K.L. Murray.

  85. The Argus, Saturday 19 May 1883, p.9.

  86. The Argus, Monday 6 July 1885, p.7.

  87. The Ararat Advertiser, Saturday 21 October 1916, p.2.

  88. The Argus, Tuesday 14 September 1880, p.6.

  89. Victoria’s Flood History prior to 1900

  90. The Argus, Thursday 17 December 1863, p.5.

  91. The Weekly Times, Saturday 24 September 1881, p.8.

  92. The Age, Monday 2 June 1884, p.5.

  93. The Herald, Thursday 5 June 1884, p3.


    The Age, Saturday 14 June 1884, p.11.

  94. Kristin Otto Yarra: A Diverting History. (Melbourne, 2005). p.71. Michael Cashmore and mates.

  95. The Illustrated Australian News, Wednesday 26 May 1886, p.90.

  96. The Argus, Tuesday 30 October 1877, p.5.

  97. The Argus, Thursday 27 December 1877, p.1.

  98. The Leader, Saturday 24 August 1889, p.21.


    Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1891, Appendix 2, p.4., Appendix 24, p.52. The work was incomplete at 30 June, but the Engineer for Existing Lines report dated 4 September 1891 shows it as complete.

  99. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1891, Appendix 24, p.52.

  100. The Age, Saturday 15 December 1877, p.7. The configuration of the sheds is uncertain, as an 1880 engraving shows only some doors in the south end.

  101. The Argus, Thursday 8 January 1885, p.5.

  102. The Argus, Friday 9 April 1886, p.5.

  103. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1887, Appendix 21, p.33. The contactor was let to J. Falkingham & Son.

  104. The Argus, Saturday 19 September 1885, p.9.

  105. The Herald, Thursday 7 January 1875, p.3.

  106. The Age, Saturday 31 January 1874, p.4.

  107. The Argus, Wednesday 11 March 1874, p.4.

  108. The Argus, Saturday 12 June 1875, p.4.

  109. The North Melbourne Advertiser, Saturday 4 May 1889, p.2.

  110. The Argus, Friday 9 April 1886, p.5.

  111. The Age, Saturday 30 July 1887, p.15.

  112. The Herald, Friday 6 January 1888, p.3.

  113. The Mount Alexander Mail, Friday 25 July 1890, p.3.


    The Argus, Wednesday 6 August 1890, p.5


    The Herald, Thursday 3 January 1889, p.4.

  114. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1888, Appendix 21, p.31. The Coal Stage contact was let to McLarty and McKenzie on 13 August 1886 for £11,419; the Engine Shed and associated works to A. P. Tozer and Co., on 2 March 1888 for £58,822.

  115. The Illustrated Australian News, Friday 1 April 1892, p.4.

  116. The Argus, Wednesday 6 August 1890, p.5.

  117. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1890, Appendix 21, p.44. The contact was let to G. Higgins on 22 February 1889 for £40,555. The contract for the engine shed had yet to be completed at 30 June 1890 – p.38.

  118. The Age, Tuesday 9 February 1892, p.4.

  119. The Australasian, Saturday 15 March 1890, p.21.

  120. The Argus, Thursday 1 June 1893, p.7.

  121. The Argus, Tuesday 26 July 1887, p.5., Thursday 13 March 1890, p.8.

  122. The Age, Saturday 7 January 1893, p.6, Tuesday 24 January 1893, p.5.

  123. The Argus, Thursday 1 June 1893, p.7. By June 1893 the Moonie Ponds creek had been redirected into the canal, which indicates the work was finished.

  124. The Age, Saturday 20 December 1890, p.14.

  125. The Age, Monday 27 April 1908, p.6. The precise date the railways ceased to use the canal has not been established, but this article notes it was ‘unused’.

  126. The North Melbourne locomotive depot is indicated in blue on the map.

  127. The Age, Wednesday 2 March 1887, p.5.


    Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1887, Appendix 21, p.38. Contract let to M. Gleeson, 18 February 1887 for £1,796.

  128. The Ballarat Star, Tuesday 15 May 1888, p.2.


    The Argus, Wednesday 18 June 1890, p.5.


    Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1888, Appendix 21, p.33, contact let to Lewis & Roberts, 3 February 1888 for £3,338 to complete the foundations., and p.36 contact let to W. Barker 8 June 1888 for £23,869 to build the shed, workshop and associated facilities.

  129. The Argus, Wednesday 18 June 1890, p.5.

  130. The Ballarat Star, Thursday 19 June 1890, p.4.

  131. The Ballarat Star, Tuesday 10 June 1890, p.2.

  132. The Ballarat Star, Thursday 19 June 1890, p.4.

  133. The Bendigo Advertiser, Tuesday 4 September 1888, p.2., Wednesday 25 September 1889, p.3.


    Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1889, Appendix 21, p.42, contact let to J. Summerland for £21,091 on 24 August 1888.

  134. The Herald, Friday 6 January 1888, p.3.

  135. The Age, Saturday 30 June 1888, p.10.

  136. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1890, Appendix 3, p.4. The sheds at Seymour, Sandhurst, Ballarat, Warragul, and North Melbourne were all completed in the financial year 1889-90.

  137. Eve Leigh We All Washed Buckets

  138. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1884, Appendix 21, p.39, contract let to J. Coulson, 28 January 1887 for £6,758.

  139. The Geelong Advertiser, Thursday 26 July 1888, p.4.

  140. The Geelong Advertiser, Wednesday 2 April 1879, p.2.


    Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 31 December 1880, Appendix 4, p.18.

  141. Michael Cannon. The Land Boomers. Op.Cit. p.31.

  142. Jos. Pickersgill. Victorian Railways Tourist Guide. Melbourne, 1885, p.5. Online copy from State Library of New South Wales.

  143. Graeme Davison The Rise and Fall of Marvellous Melbourne. Op. Cit., p.86.

  144. Geoffrey Blainey. A History of Victoria. (Cambridge University Press) 2006). p.74.

  145. The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil, Thursday 12 July 1888, p.106.


    The Herald, Friday 27 June 1890, p.1. Testing the lifts when the building was completed.

  146. The Argus, Tuesday 31 July 1888, p.5.

  147. The Age, Saturday 31 January 1874, p.4.

  148. The Argus, Tuesday 15 March 1887, p.7.

  149. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1887, Appendix 21

  150. Not including Richmond and North Melbourne.

  151. The Age, Tuesday 6 January 1885, p.5.

  152. Railway Traffic Western Victorian Towns 1886
    TownOutward £Inward £Outward £Inward ££
    St Arnuad4,0903,4415,9037,27320,707
    Not including parcels, livestock and wool.
    Source: Victorian Railways Annual Report 30 June 1886, Appendix 4, p.13-14

  153. See Appendix XX for details of station and costs.

  154. The Argus, Tuesday 5 May 1891, p.5. ‘Population of Victoria by Electoral Districts’

  155. The Age, Tuesday 25 July 1893, p6.

  156. Margot Beevor, ‘Duncan Gillies (1834–1903)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972.

  157. Large Churches built during the Land Boom
    NameDenominationCityYear Completed
    Highbury GroveMethodistKew1883
    St ColumbsAnglicanHawthorn1883
    Sacred HeartCatholicSt. Kilda1884
    Lydiard StMethodistBallarat1884
    St PaulsAnglicanSale1884
    St Thomas ApostleCatholicWerribee1884
    Sydney RdPresbyterianBrunswick1884
    Highbury GrovePresbyterianKew1887
    St MartinsAnglicanPrahran1887
    Cairns MemorialPresbyterianEast Melbourne1887
    Wesley ChurchMethodistWarragul1888
    Oxley StMethodistHawthorn1889
    Toorak RdPresbyterianToorak1889
    Yann StMethodistPreston1889
    Immaculate ConceptionCatholicFitzroy1889
    Stanton StChurch of ChristCollingwood1889
    Bridport StMethodistAlbert Park1890
    Thomson MemorialPresbyterianTerang1890
    St JohnsPresbyterianBendigo1891
    Glenferrie RdPresbyterianHawthorn1891
    St JamesCatholicElsternwick1891
    St PaulsAnglicanMelbourne1891
    Source: Miles Lewis Victorian Churches: Their Origin, Their Story & Their Architecture. National Trust (Victoria), 1991.

  158. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1891, Appendix 24, p.50. Contract for Ballarat West let to W. Barker on 16 November 1888, final cost £29, 133. The Maryborough station contract was let to J. Moore on 28 September 1888. Final cost reported by The Argus, Friday 27 May 1892, p.4., as £26,200.

  159. The Australasian, Saturday 27 June 1891, p.24.

  160. The Argus, Monday 2 February 1891, p.8.

  161. The Argus, Monday 7 September 1891, p.5.

  162. The Argus, Monday 2 February 1891, p.8.

  163. The Argus, Tuesday 18 April 1893, p.4.

  164. Heritage Council Victoria Victorian Heritage Database Report: Former Victorian Railway Headquarters. Statement of Significance, January 13, 2000.

  165. The Argus, Friday 27 May 1892, p.4.

  166. Michael Cannon. The Land Boomers. Op.Cit. p72-73.

  167. The Argus, Saturday 22 October 1892, p.7.

  168. The Age, Monday 3 April 1893, p.5.

  169. The Age, Thursday 9 July 1874, p.2., Thursday 28 October 1880, p.36.

  170. The Argus, Monday 3 July 1876, p.6.

  171. The Argus, Tuesday 12 June 1877, p.7.


    The Argus, Saturday 16 June 1877, p.6.

  172. The Argus, Tuesday 12 June 1877, p.7., Saturday 16 June 1877, p.6.

  173. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 31 December 1877, p.7.

  174. The Argus, Saturday 13 July 1878, p.7., Thursday 28 October 1880, p.36

  175. The Argus, Tuesday 29 October 1878, p.9.

  176. The Age, Tuesday 29 October 1878, p.3.

  177. The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil, Saturday 20 November 1880, p.314.

  178. The Argus, Saturday 13 July 1878, p.7.

  179. H.G. Turner, Op. Cit., p.217-8.

  180. Geoffrey Blainey. A History of Victoria. (Cambridge University Press) 2006). p.66-67.

  181. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 31 December 1881, Appendix 4, p.21, Contracts No.1782 on 27 Feb 1880 £150 McKenzie & Holland for interlocking apparatus at Queenscliff, Wahgunyah, and Goulburn Valley lines; No.1831 on 5 Mar 1880 £621 for All Lines.

  182. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 31 December 1882, Appendix 2, p.22-24. Two new signal boxes at Flinders Street, one each at Jolimont Junction, St Kilda Junction and St Kilda., and Appendix 24, p.53,55. Contract No.1351 on 25 Aug 1882 £15,455 McKenzie & Holland interlocking apparatus for All Lines, and No.1352 £798 for semaphore fittings.

  183. Tonnage of goods and Livestock 1878: 960,479 cf 1883: 1,881,760.
    Passengers carried 1878: 3,829,256 cf 1883: 26,485,305.
    ~ Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 31 December 1883, Appendix 19, p.34.
  184. The Argus, Monday 6 March 1854, p.4.


    The Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, Friday 17 March 1854, p.4.

  185. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 31 December 1880, Appendix 3, p.18.

  186. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 31 December 1881, Appendix 3, p.22. Telegraph Branch Report by K.L. Murray.

  187. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 31 December 1882, Appendix 4, p.25. Telegraph Branch Report by K.L. Murray.


  188. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 31 December 1883, Appendix 4, p.19

  189. Report of the Victorian railway Commissioners for the Quarter Ending 31 March 1884. p.4.

  190. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1891, Appendix 24, p.48.

  191. The Argus, Thursday 23 January 1879, p.6.

  192. The Leader, Saturday 26 March 1887, p.28.

  193. The Argus, Thursday 12 May 1887, p.6.

  194. The Age, Wednesday 29 August 1883, p.5.

  195. The Age, Thursday 30 August 1883, p.6.


    The Argus, Friday 31 August 1883, p.6.

  196. Leo J. Harrigan. Op.Cit. p.41-42.

  197. The 2½ mile duplication from Essendon Junction to Flemington Racecourse in 1870-71 was an exception.

  198. Keith Turton, Op. Cit., p.32-33. Distances for Newmarket and Goulburn Junction given p86, 92.

  199. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1887, Appendix 2, p.4.

  200. Victorian Railways, Annual Report, 30 June 1890, Appendix 21, p.38-63., cf 31 December 1881, Appendix 4, p. 23-29.