Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey


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ADDED : February, 2019

 



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Spurs (and Whips)

Indirect as the Preston-Whittlesea and Heidelberg lines were in their routes to Spencer-street were, they were in some respects ever more frustration for many early passengers because of two unlikely diversion

Fitzroy

Heading to Heidelberg, past North Fitzroy and just before St. George's Road, a spur line ran south-east (this and the main Inner Circle line neatly straddling the old fire station) along the west side of Mark Street and through the Edinburgh Gardens to Fitzroy Station on the north-east corner of Napier Street and Queen's Parade, the platform established in part to provide for football followers heading for the old Brunswick Street Oval.   

The expected patronage never came and the spur was closed to passenger trains just four years later.   The line continued to be used up until 1981 for freight (largely carrying coal AND briquettes to the Metropolitan Gas Company's gasometer, a prominent landmark that stood near the south-western corner of Queen's Parade and Smith Street until the early 1970s).  

A goods yard, briquette depot and later wheat silos were established to the east of Edinburgh Gardens in the area bounded by Napier and Jamieson streets but although the Inner Circle Line itself from Royal Park to Clifton Hill was also electrified in July 1921, the spur line was never powered.   Virtually all of the proposals to construct a direct line from the Merri Creek however included Fitzroy station as a central point in the route.

The Fitzroy yards were accessible from Queen's Parade and after their closure on 1 August, 1981 were re-developed into a mixture of public housing and private town houses.  

The footbridge over the goods yard was removed to Moorooduc on the Mornington Peninsular and now forms part of a tourist railway.

The tracks and old railway gates in St. George's Road remained until the early 1980s - the original route is still shown on street directories as a pathway and cycle track and parts of the track itself remain at a couple of level crossings.

Collingwood

After trains returned to the main line, passengers to Heidelberg suffered another was another spur from Clifton Hill to Collingwood Station (now Victoria Park).

Just what the rationale was for this diversion remains a mystery – Johnson Street was obviously a major thoroughfare, but "Victoria Park" itself was equally well-known as Dight's Paddock, and although a few junior football and cricket teams used the area, it was to be another four years before the Collingwood Football Club was formed and entered the senior Victorian Football Association competition.

This spur at least proved popular - although not because of the railway service!

Collingwood station had by a considerable margin the highest passenger counts during the 1890's, simply because Heidelberg patrons heading for the centre of the city found it far quicker to leave the train at Collingwood and catch the Johnston-street cable tram - estimated at over 20 minutes quicker than the tortuous rail route to Spencer-street and then probably another cable car or a five or six-block hike.

This spur line became part of the "direct link" through Collingwood to Melbourne opened in 1901; a switch of names in May, 1909 saw Collingwood became Victoria Park, and the next station to Melbourne, Collingwood Town Hall (originally proposed to be South Collingwood but changed at the behest of the Collingwood Council) assumed the simpler Collingwood.  Both were misnomers, the station is actually in Abbotsford, which was considered as an alternative for Victoria Park!

With the two spur lines, most of the early journeys from Spencer Street to Heidelberg took just under an hour and a half. After wandering through Royal Park to North Fitzroy, the train then diverted up to the Fitzroy station, back to North Fitzroy, across to Clifton Hill, along the second spur to Collingwood, and then finally back to Clifton Hill and then bravely on to Heidelberg - the guests on the first train included Robert Harper, the local M.L.A., who appropriately enough described the route as "supremely ridiculous, perfectly absurd".

Perhaps the ludicrous nature of the original Royal Park loop can best be shown by some simple geography.  The Fitzroy station was seven miles from the city by rail, but only 2¼ by road. Even ignoring the spur lines, Fairfield by this route was nine and a half miles, though only five via Heidelberg Road.

Mont Park  

Although just outside of Darebin's boundaries, there was another spur line which at various time was under consideration as possibly part of an integrated rail network.

The official confirmation late in 1908 of Government plans to establish an asylum at Mont Park led to the construction of the Macleod railway station which opened on 1 March, 1911 after Mr. M. A. Macleod, who owned a strip of land alongside the railway line separating it from the Asylum, agreed to sell his 75 acres to the Government on the proviso that a railway station be erected.

"Everything is now in readiness for the carrying out of the work, and shortly a new station-probably "Macleod"-will be established on the Eltham line"      The Argus, 19 February, 1910

The land of around 215 acres at Mont Park had been selected by the Government in 1906 in preference to a larger site on the banks of the Plenty River at South Morang, principally because of the site's proximity to the Heidelberg railway line.

The Railways Commissioners later intimated to the Heidelberg Shire Council (which had the final say over the name to be used) that they intended to rename the station Mont Park, but the Council objected saying it saw no reason for the original name to be changed.

The purchase of Mr Macleod's land allowed a spur line to be laid from just south of the station to serve the Mont Park Asylum complex, working commencing in March and completed the same year with the construction expense met by the government Health Department.

It opened soon after completion of the station and was a goods-only line, although some wounded soldiers were transported via rail after arriving back from overseas during the First World War.  An Act was passed in 1946 allowing passenger services but these were never implemented. At the same time, it was suggested that a planned railway from Alphington to East Preston would probably be extended through to Bundoora and Mont Park.

The Mont Park section was electrified in 1928, some five years after the main line, then the electrified section terminating at Eltham.  The line was last used in 1964, the "out" platform at Mont Park remains without the associate building.

Left : At the Macleod station, Group of some of the last troops leaving 16th Australian General Hospital, 1 April, 1920

Right : Part of an aerial image of the Brunswick Street Oval in 1927 showing the spur line behind the ground, footbridge, the goods shed and part of the gasometer on the far right.





 Darebin’s Transport : Tall Tales and True

Freight trucks at the Mont Park platform, with one of the store rooms visible behind the carriages