Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey

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ADDED : February, 2019



Preston (Reservoir) to Whittlesea

(Opened 23 December, 1889)

The line was built through to Whittlesea primarily for freight purposes, initially four trains per day (but none on Sundays) ran from Whittlesea carrying milk, some livestock and timber from the farming areas around the Plenty River.  Bell Station for several decades had holding yards for pigs which were then driven up to Oakover Road and the J. C. Hutton's ham and bacon works.   Despite long public protests, the yards weren't closed until the late 1940s.

Given the freight revenue was a key factor in the extension, several sidings were linked to the main line to allow for easier loading of goods: the Northcote Brick Works siding was opened in 1892 and extended from the north side of Langwell's Parade across High Street just south of Beavers Road and  curved south-west to join the main line at the end of Elm Street; a similar spur ran from the Clifton Brick Company just north of Showers Street to Bell Station, whilst further north the Reservoir Stone Company siding opened in 1895 and a little later another at the Epping Quarries just south of the Darebin Creek bridge.

The original line beyond Epping to Whittlesea is still shown in street directories - the track from Epping (now extended to Mernda) remained, running east-north-east until it crossed Plenty Road at the intersection of Gordon's Road, South Morang, and from that point almost due north to Whittlesea, most of the latter section lying less than 100 metres from Plenty Road.

Your Timetable

Although referred to as the Preston and Whittlesea line, it was initially a two-tier service, Whittlesea trains stopping at stations to Preston (Reservoir)and then running express to North Fitzroy, while Reservoir services stopped at all stations, meaning those from the northern sections destined for Preston or Northcote were forced to change trains. In later years, the Whittlesea service ran direct to Croxton, making most of the settled parts of Northcote directly accessible.

Sixteen trains ran in each direction between Spencer Street and Preston (Reservoir) on weekdays and Saturdays, but if you missed your Sunday train, you had a fair wait with just six trains per day, including nearly a three-hour gap after the first train at around 9:45 a.m.  

There was no Sunday service to Whittlesea until 1895

With the round-about route, the journey from Preston (Reservoir) to Spencer Street took 39 minutes, 22 minutes of that on the Inner Circle Section between Merri and the city.  

Initially, weekday and Saturday services from Preston (Reservoir)to Melbourne (the "Up" service) departed at 6.06, 7.46, 8.11, 9.49 and 11.09 a.m.; and 12.01, 1.16, 2.31, 3.52, 4.56, 5.56, 6.49, 7.48, 9.21 and 10.29 p.m., with a post-midnight service at 12.16 p.m. for the night owls.

The "Down" service commenced at 5.15 a.m. with the last service at 11.25 p.m.  

The evening "peak-hour" timetable from the city was a particular bone of contention for several years -  services were scheduled at 4.40 and 5.40 p.m., but with most city offices not closing until 5.30, workers had to rush to Spencer Street to make the latter train, otherwise they were forced to cool their heels until 6.48 p.m.  

The trip today from Reservoir via the "direct" route to Flinders Street takes 29 minutes or 35 minutes depending on whether the train is via the City Loop.

From Whittlesea, there were just four trains per day in a single track to North Preston; the journey took just on 90 minutes depending on the engine used.  

For the locals heading off to the big smoke when the line opened, it was nine pence (eight cents today) First Class from Preston-Murray, or sixpence (five cents) Second Class.

Those to the north craving the luxury of a first-class compartment could save a penny with a brisk walk to Preston-Bell, but anyone relaxing in First Class for the full journey between Melbourne and Whittlesea parted with 3/8 (37 cents); for the rest of us it was 2/7 (26 cents), but as with all the fares, there was a significant discount for a day return ticket.

The fares were in fact later considerably reduced in appreciation of the inconvenience of the indirect route to Spencer Street and it wasn't until late in 1901 that they started to increase, the proposed new fares being just 5½d First Class from Murray Road or 4½d Second Class (the Leader suggested at the time that "for years now, residents of Preston have been able to boast of enjoying "the cheapest railway travelling in the world").

Regardless of the class in which one rode, those dressed in their city fineries would have been reluctant to open a window with the trains powered by steam from coal-burners and with a thick plume of trailing black smoke.  This also became an issue when the Collingwood to Prince’s Bridge line of 1901 when various schemes were considered for extracting smoke from the sections under Hoddle Street and Wellington Parade.

Left : Whittlesea station staff, circa 1890. This scetion opened 23 December, 1889

Right : A Whittlesea-bound locomotive traversing the Rucker’s Hill cutting in 1912. Given the duplicated line opened 1 December, 1912, this may have been of the first services after the dual track was introduced

 Darebin’s Transport : Tall Tales and True