Friday, 6 November 2015

Port Melbourne: Australia's first railway line

The Melbourne and Hobson's Bay Railway Company opened Australia's first railway line on September 12, 1854. The line was only 4 km long and stretched from Station Pier in what is now Port Melbourne, across the Sandridge Bridge to what is now Flinders Street Station on the north bank of the Yarra River. Yet from those humble beginnings, railway lines were soon stretching out in every direction across the state of Victoria.

A rear-end view through the tram drivers compartment on the Port Melbourne Line, July 2015.

Although the Port Melbourne Railway Line closed in 1987, the right-of-way was converted to light rail and absorbed into Melbourne's tram network. Today, it is possible to jump on the 109 tram out the front of Southern Cross Station, and retrace the original 1854 line to Port Melbourne. For most of the short journey, the line splices through the middle of a leafy reserve past the former railway stations of Montague, North Port and Graham, before arriving at the terminus of Port Melbourne.

Port Melbourne Station is today a lively cafe that stands opposite Station Pier. Photo July 2015.

Originally opened as Sandridge on September 12, 1854, the heritage listed railway station building you see today was rebuilt following the depression of the 1890's. Despite the station building being redeveloped as a cafe following the line's closure in 1987, it has remained relatively untouched.

Railway tracks once extended out onto Station Pier. Today it is used by the Spirit of Tasmania. 2015.

Across the road from Port Melbourne Station on the shores of Port Phillip Bay, stands the impressive sight of Station Pier. The railway line once extended onto the pier to load cargo from visiting ships, and at one time had 8 tracks extending out over the water. Following the demise of the steam ship trade, Station Pier has been redeveloped to accommodate visiting cruise ships and the daily Spirit of Tasmania vehicular ferry that connects Melbourne to Devonport in Tasmania.

Port Melbourne Station as viewed from the north, photo taken July 2015.

Back at the station however, there are just enough angles to view the view the old building on the platform and imagine what it must have been like to stand beside a simmering steam train ready to depart for Flinders Street. Oh well, at least its a good place to get a decent coffee.

Port Melbourne is just one of the places I visit in my book Train Tripping Around Melbourne. Over 3 days in July 2015, I covered 365 km by tram and train in search of Melbourne's best places to visit. From Geelong to Gembrook and the MCG, my window-seat guide will provide you with everything you need to know to create a railway adventure of your own when visiting Melbourne.

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