Did you know that the first section of today’s Hurstbridge Line was a track from Clifton Hill to Alphington, entirely isolated from the rest of the Victorian Railways network, which sat idle for over a year after completion in 1883? Or that the first services to run on the line were not operated by a VR steam locomotive, but a gas motor tram, powered by a very early design of four-stroke internal combustion engine, cutting-edge technology at the time?
Authors Mark Cauchi and Owen Ryan have pieced together an incredible story of the early days of this railway line. As is so often the case with railway construction in Victoria during the 1880s, it is a story of political intrigue, in which the larger-than-life figure of Sir Thomas Bent plays a part. After politically-connected local landowners in Richmond successfully thwarted efforts to built a railway through their district, the isolated Clifton Hill to Alphington railway sat idle for over a year, a source of embarrassment to the Victorian Government given the significant expenditure on the line with its substantial earthworks and 600 foot-long viaduct over Merri Creek. Enter Messrs Danks and Barnes with their proposal to operate the railway line with a private tram service, in what can be regarded as Australia’s first urban light rail operation. While no photographs are known to exist of the remarkable tram, it was a technical if not a financial success. It ran for over two years, before connection of the Clifton Hill line to Royal Park and the rest of the VR network enabled the operation of conventional trains. A fascinating and little-known episode in the story of Melbourne’s early railways.
Our News section is packed with stories of interest, including some key measures announced in the 2022 State Budget that will accelerate the replacement of the now-40-year-old V/Line N sets with VLocity railcars. We also include the exciting news of freight rail service returning to Bairnsdale, following the recent replacement of the Avon River Bridge and the construction of a new intermodal freight terminal at Bairnsdale.
- Calendar anniversaries
- General works
- Operations and sightings
- Photos in focus
- PTV service quality
- Where is it?
>And for possibly the first time in Newsrail history, we have a Sport column! We have a run-down of Melbourne’s strong debut performance at the European TramDriver Championship in Leipzig on 21 May.
Our cover photo, for our cover story noting the impending demise of the N sets across many regional lines, was taken by David O’Brien.