Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A trip from Dandenong to Bunyip by rail

In a previous post we did a road trip from Dandenong to Garfield along the Gippsland Road - so this month I thought we will take the same journey on the railway. Interesting to note that the line from Dandenong to Bunyip was finished by 1877 and all the railway stations we pass today (except one) were in place by around 1885, about 130 years ago. Given that the population of the area (the old Shire of Berwick) in the mid 1880s was around 6,300 and the population of the same area today is about 200,000 and given that the only new station in all that time (apart from the short lived industry specific General Motors Holden stop) is the Cardinia Road Station and, thirdly, given that the majority of the stations are now unmanned and have minimal shelter structures  it seems that there has been a remarkable lack of government money spent on public transport infrastructure in the area in the last 130 years. There was however some money spent on the line in the 1950s as it was duplicated from Dandenong to Morwell and also electrified due to the need to transport briquettes from Yallourn to Melbourne.

The railway line from Oakleigh to Bunyip opened in October 1877 and originally the only stations between Dandenong and Bunyip were Berwick and Pakenham. For the pedantic amongst us, the official opening according to newspaper reports at the time, seems to have been October 5 even though most sources say that it is October 8, so that may have been the first day of passenger services. When the line opened it did not actually get you into Melbourne as the section from South Yarra to Oakleigh didn’t open until May 1879.

Railway Timetable
South Bourke & Mornington Journal June 1 1881.

As a journalist in the South Bourke and Mornington Journal of October 10, 1877 wrote after his trip on the railway line   It is not necessary to dwell on the mistake now so lamentably obvious, which was committed in beginning the line at a point 10 miles from Melbourne - only to be reached by means of horse drawn wagons and carts - but practical men outside of the service of the Government, which, of course is prudently reticent on the subject, estimate that as much money has been wasted in the cartage of materials for the first section and part of the second as would have built a large part of the now needed section from Melbourne to Oakleigh.

So we’ll start at the Dandenong Railway Station. This station became a junction station on October 1, 1888 when the Great Southern line, which eventually went to Yarram, opened as far as Tooradin.  The information about the date of the railway station openings comes from an interesting website http://vicsig.net/  which calls itself the ‘Premier Victorian Rail resource’.   The next station along the line was opened on November 18, 1956 to serve the General Motors Holden Factory which at one stage employed 3,000 people.  The Station closed July 2002 and you can still see remnants of it as the train passes by.

The Hallam Station opened on December 1, 1880 as Hallam’s Road and changed its name to Hallam in May 1904. Hallam was a ‘flag station’ when it opened and only stopped when there were passengers to discharge or a  flag was displayed to indicate that there were passengers to be picked up.  As early as May 1883 the local residents were asking the Railways for increased platform accommodation (according to a newspaper report) and if you have ever been past the station in the morning peak hour you would know that the platform accommodation is still inadequate.
The Narre Warren Station opened on March 10, 1882. A local influential resident, Sidney Webb agitated for the railway station and after it was completed he agitated for a road to be put from the Princes Highway to the railway station, the road was not surprisingly called Webb Street. The original Narre Warren settlement, well north of the Highway was renamed Narre Warren North after the new town developed around the station.

Woodcut of Berwick Railway Station, 1877

Berwick opened October 8, 1877, one of the original stations. Beaconsfield opened December 1, 1879. The Officer Railway Station began as Officer's Wood Siding, constructed to despatch timber from land owned by the Officer family to Melbourne. It was renamed Officer in February 1899. Sir Robert Officer was at one time the Health Officer for Hobart and a member of the Legislative Council and in the early 1840s he moved some of his interests to the main land. It was his son, William, who had their Mt Misery property, near Beaconsfield, and after the railway line was opened he used to rail his sheep from his other property at Deniliquin to Officer in times of drought.
Cardinia Road station opened on April 22, 2012. The next stop, Pakenham was an original station. The town that developed around the station was known as Pakenham East, initially in opposition to the ‘old’ town of Pakenham which had developed around the La Trobe Inn (also known as Bourke’s Hotel) on the Gippsland Road, near the Toomuc Creek which we talked about last month. Eventually Pakenham East over took not only the original town of Pakenham, but its name as well although it was still referred to as Pakenham East well into the 1960s.

Nar Nar Goon. There were various reports in the papers saying that the residents of Nar Nar Goon had petitioned the Minister of Railways for a siding and platform in August 1878, they tried again a year later in August 1879 but were told there was no money and even if there was the Railway Department considered a station at Nar Nar Goon unnecessary. A railway timetable from June 1881 shows that there was station at Nar Nar Goon then so that narrows the opening date from August 1879 to June 1881, but that’s as close as I can get.

Tynong - like Nar Nar Goon there are newspaper reports that Tynong residents agitated for a railway station after the line was opened, but the earliest mention I can find of a station is in April 1881. The Garfield station developed from a timber siding in the same way that Officer did. The Cannibal Creek Siding opened in December 1884 to accommodate the Cannibal Creek Saw Mill Company and it was renamed Garfield in March 1887.

Garfield Railway Station, c. 1910
Image from the book North of the Line: a pictorial record 
published by the  Berwick Pakenham Historical Society.

Bunyip was opened October 1877 as one of the original stations and the extension of the line from Bunyip to Moe opened March 1, 1878. Just before you get to the Bunyip Railway Station there is an electricity substation which has been heritage listed, which I must say was a surprise to me. The Heritage citation says that it is one of ‘19 sub and tie stations constructed between 1952 and 1954 from Nar Nar Goon to Traralgon for the electrification of the main Gippsland line.’  It is listed as it is historically significant ‘as it serves as an important reminder of the electrification of the first main line in Australia’; it is technically significant ‘as it serves as an important reminder of the electrification of the first main line in Australia and the system of electric locomotives associated with the transportation of briquettes and the industrial growth in the Latrobe Valley’ and it is socially significant ‘as it represents an important tangible link with the transportation of brown coal and the associated coal and briquette industry located at Latrobe Valley which was central to the economy and economic development of the State of Victoria particularly in the 1950s’.