About this blog

This blog is about the history of the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp and neighbouring areas, such as Pakenham, Cranbourne and Garfield, and any other historical subjects I feel like writing about. It's my own original research and writing and if you live in the area you may have read some of the stories before in the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society newsletter or the Koo-Wee-Rup township newsletter, The Blackfish, or the Garfield township newsletter, The Spectator.
Heather Arnold.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Garfield Railway Station

I have written before about how the construction of the Sale Railway line was the seminal event in the establishment of the town of Garfield.  The Gippsland line to Sale was opened in stages - Sale to Morwell June 1877 (the material for this stage was shipped along the coast to the Port of Sale); Oakleigh to Bunyip October 1877; Moe to Morwell December 1877;  Moe to Bunyip March 1878 and the last stretch from South Yarra to Oakleigh in 1879. Originally, the only Stations between Dandenong and Bunyip were Berwick and Pakenham. However a number of timber sidings developed along this line including the Cannibal Creek Siding built in 1885.  In May 1886, the Cannibal Creek Post Office was established at the Railway Station and this changed its name to the Garfield Railway Post Office on May 16, 1887. The name Garfield came from the assassinated American President, James Garfield, who was shot July 2, 1881 and died September 19, 1881.

View of the Goods Shed at the Railway station in 1920. The Garfield Hall is in the background.
Berwick Pakenham Historical Society photograph

In the book Rigg of the Railways: Station Masters of the Victorian Railways the author Tom Rigg lists the following Station Masters as having served at Garfield.
McLean, Roderick  February 1910 to August 1911
Finnie, Norman  July 1912 - August 1917
McCauley, John Alexander  June 1918 - March 1920
Lanigan, Patrick  September 1919 - February 1919
Mather, James  around 1920,1921
Stewart, Francis David   March 1920 - September 1921
Lang, Elmo Thomas  December 1921 - July 1923
Marks, John Alexander July 1924 - January 1927
Bently, Leslie George  December 1926 - June 1928
 Callaghan, Henry Richard  July 1928 - January 1933
Hosking, Henry Towers  January 1933 - September 1937. Due to economic depression wife was caretaker part-time at Garfield.
Smith, Arthur Leslie  June 1942 - December 1944        
Graham, Norman Joseph      December 1944 - December 1954. I couldn’t find anyone listed after 1954, but my mother says that a Mr Tighe was the Station Master around the late 1950s/ early1960s.

This is a view from the Station towards Main Street Garfield - taken in the 1980s.

Apparently, Station Masters were classified according to the Station to which they were appointed and Garfield (in 1923 at least) was a Class 8 station, as was its neighbours Tynong and Nar Nar Goon. Bunyip was a Class 7 and so must have had more freight and was therefore busier.  There are other Railway Station employees listed in various sources prior to 1910 but it does appear that Garfield wasn’t busy enough for a permanent Station Master until then. For instance, in Bill Parrish’s notes on the history of Garfield (held at the Berwick Pakenham Historical Society) he lists James Godfrey as ‘Porter in charge’ at Cannibal Creek siding in October 1885 and he became the Post Master in 1886. The Post Masters and Mistresses at Garfield were all Railway employees until around the end of the First World War, when the Post Office moved from the Railway Station.  Bill also lists a Mrs Thomson as being the Station caretaker in 1904.

1965 Garfield Railway Station diagram from www.victorianrailways.net

Over the years, all sorts of produce was loaded at the Garfield Railway Station - livestock, milk and other dairy products (such as cheese from the Cora Lynn factory), chaff and timber. There was a spur line that went off the main line to the Goods Shed and loading area (where the car park is now on the Highway side of the railway line)
 My Dad, Frank Rouse, used to load potatoes there. All potatoes in the 1940s and until 1954 had to be sold through the Potato Board and had to be loaded at a prescribed loading area, in this case Garfield.  They were loaded onto the rail and sent to Spencer Street railway yards where the marketing board had their shed. They were then sold by the Board. If you sold ‘out of the Board’ you were up for massive fines. Farmers were given a quota for the week, for instance seven bags (each bag was 150 lbs or 65 kg, later on they were reduced to 50kgs)  and that was all you were allowed.

The railway trucks could take 12 tons but before they were loaded they had to be inspected by the Potato Inspector, Jack Stalker. Apparently, he was a fan of the VW Beetle, so if you wanted to get your potatoes passed you just talked about VWs or if you told him you were a ‘bit worried about them’, and then he would just pass them. If they weren’t passed then you had to empty the bag, remove the bad ones and re-pack them and re-sew the bag. The farmers had to load the railway trucks themselves and some railway trucks had doors but others were like carts, with a wall about a metre or so high and in this case the bags had to be lifted by hand over the wall and then stacked in the truck. Sometimes the produce just sat there for days before they were picked up. The Potato Board finished in 1954 and after that you could sell them where you wanted. Dad and his brother Jim used Dan Cunningham as an agent and they also later loaded at Nar Nar Goon. If you sold them interstate they could be delivered by truck.

In the 1950s, the line was duplicated from Dandenong to Morwell and also electrified due to need to transport briquettes from Yallourn to Melbourne. In 1954, the electrification process was completed as far as Warragul and it was on July 22 in that year that ‘electric traction’ commenced according to the Victorian Railways Annual Report. Duplication works were completed in stages with the Tynong to Bunyip section opened in August 1956. The Bunyip to Longwarry section still remains unduplicated due to the need to widen the bridge over the Bunyip River.  Due to the increased number of trains (it was estimated that briquette transportation would require an additional 20 trains per day, over the existing seven) the level crossing which was basically opposite the Picture Theatre was closed and the overpass was opened in 1953. The Thirteen Mile Road used to continue over the railway line to the goods yards and this was closed perhaps around the same time or maybe earlier.

The Goods Shed was originally built around 1905 and a weigh bridge was erected in 1919.  At 2.00pm on Thursday February 21, 1924 the Station was destroyed by fire.  The Argus reported that a few milk cans were rescued from the goods shed. A number of parcels, including two bicycles and a perambulator, and a quantity of passengers' luggage, were destroyed, in addition to departmental records. Both the Station and the Goods Shed were rebuilt at the time but they were then demolished some time ago and replaced by the banal and tacky structures that pass for railway architecture today. They were still there in December 1989 - if you want a nostalgic look at them, then check out this website ‘When there were Stations’ - http://www.stationspast.net  


  • Rigg of the Railways: Station Masters of the Victorian Railways by Tom Rigg (published by the author in 2001)
  • The Electric Railways of Victoria : a brief  history  of the electrified railway system operated by the Victorian railways 1919 to 1979 by S.E. Dornan and R.H Henderson (Australian Electric Traction Association, 1979)

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