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South Gippsland railway line

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South Gippsland railway line

South Gippsland railway line, Victoria
South Gippsland line map
Line details
Commenced 1888
Completed 1892
Closed 14 December 1994
Fate Suburban Cranbourne line, South Gippsland Tourist Railway, Great Southern Rail Trail
Length 126.7 km
Stations 18
Tracks Single
Used by South Gippsland Tourist Railway (Nyora - Leongatha), Suburban Cranbourne line (Dandenong - Cranbourne)
Connections Gippsland line
Former connections Wonthaggi line, Barry Beach line, Woodside line, Outtrim line, Strzelecki Line
Rail transport in Victoria

The South Gippsland railway line opened in 1892, branching from the Gippsland line at Dandenong, and extending to Port Albert. Much of it (the section up to Leongatha) remained in use until July 1993, however only a small portion is in use today, as the suburban Cranbourne line. In addition to the Cranbourne line, the section from Nyora to Leongatha is used by the South Gippsland Tourist Railway and Leongatha to Toora and a portion of track at Koo Wee Rup have been converted into the Great Southern Rail Trail.

History

The Melbourne and Suburban Railway Company opened a line from Princes Bridge railway station to Punt Road (Richmond) and South Yarra in 1859 and extended to Dandenong in 1879. The South Gippsland railway line (also known as the Great Southern Railway) was opened from Dandenong to Cranbourne in 1888 and extended to Koo Wee Rup, Nyora and Loch in 1890, Korumburra and Leongatha in 1891 and Welshpool, Alberton and Port Albert in 1892. The section from Alberton to Port Albert was closed in the 1940s. A branch line was built from Alberton to Yarram and Woodside in 1921.

The line was well known for its sharp curves and spectacular scenery and was also one of the last lines to offer a 'Mixed Passenger and Goods' service in Victoria. The section from Yarram to Woodside was closed on May 26, 1953, with the section from Welshpool to Yarram closed on October 26, 1987 when the superphosphate freight services ceased. From this point until June 30, 1992, the track beyond Agnes, referred to as Barry Beach Junction received minimal usage, although a short branch leading from Agnes to Barry Beach was used extensively for goods traffic to serve the oil platforms in Bass Strait. After the withdrawal of this freight service the railway line beyond Leongatha would be closed. This section of track was then dismantled in 1994, in which required the strengthening of the line's derilcit trestle bridges in order to allow the track removal machine to dismantle the tracks.[1]

On July 24, 1993, the last regular V/Line passenger train operated to Leongatha with P Class diesel locomotive number 18 hauling the return passenger train with a set of 4 H-Set carriages. Just after the withdrawal of all rail service beyond Koala Siding, the section from Nyora to Leongatha was transferred to the South Gippsland Railway in 1994, in which were originally founded as the 'Great Southern Railway Society' based in Nyora in 1990 with the intention to preserve the line in case of closure. On January 15, 1998, all regular V/Line services would cease on the line after the withdrawal of the Australian Glass Manufacturing Sand train that operated from the AGM siding at Spotswood and the sand works siding at Koala Siding situated between Lang Lang and Nyora railway stations. Since April 1998, no trains have operated beyond Cranbourne.[2]

Branch lines


A 5 km-long narrow-gauge horse-drawn tramway was built from Welshpool to Welshpool Jetty in 1905. It was closed in 1941.

The mountainous Strzelecki branch line was built from Koo Wee Rup to Strzelecki which opened in 1922. This line was closed in stages throughout the 1930s, '40s and '50s.

The Wonthaggi branch line was built from Nyora to Wonthaggi opening in 1910 to serve the State Coal Mine, a small extension to the line was opened in 1917. The Wonthaggi line was closed in 1978.

The Outtrim branch line was built from Korumburra to the coal mine at Outtrim in two stages, the initial stage to Jumbunna was opening in 1894 with the final stage to Outtrim opening in 1896, The line was closed in two stages the first from Jumbunna to Outtrim on 4 September 1951 and then from Jumbunna to Korumburra on 1 October 1953.

Services

Passenger services operated on the line since opening. Services from Melbourne to Leongatha and Yarram were withdrawn on 6 June 1981, with replacement buses starting three days later.[3] The Yarram train was a loco hauled mixed train, while the Leongatha train was a DRC railcar hauling MTH carriages. To fill the gap local trains were introduced on a three-month trial from Dandenong to Lang Lang, being withdrawn on 3 October 1981 due to insufficient patronage. Services to Leongatha were restored on 9 December 1984 but were again withdrawn on 24 July 1993.[3] The line became unused beyond Cranbourne with the withdrawal of freight services from Koala siding in January 1998. The exception was a tourist operation which would become known as South Gippsland Railway which commenced operation between Nyora and Leongatha. In 1995 the section between Dandenong and Cranbourne was electrified and a station added at Merinda Park, as part of a $27 million Federal Government funded project.[4]

The Barry Beach freight service ceased in 1992 and with it all usage of the train line beyond Leongatha. V/Line passenger services ceased to Leongatha on 24 July 1993 with last train to Melbourne. By the mid-1990s only T, Y and P class diesel locomotives were used on the line from this time due to their low axle loads, with a 15 km/h speed limit applying to parts of the track.[2] This continued until the 15 January 1998, when the Koala Siding (near Nyora) to Spotswood sand train ceased operation.[2] It took an average passenger train 2 hours and 15 minutes to travel from Spencer Street Station to Leongatha during its final 10 years of service, with the current bus service completing the journey in a similar time of 2 hours and 30 minutes on average.

Steamrail, railfan enthusiasts trains

A number of special railway enthusiast services were operated along the line during the 1980s and 1990s, since the line was near closure. The last steam hauled train to run beyond Leongatha was on 13 November 1988, when steam locomotives D3.639 and K.153 traveled to Foster. This would be the last time the locomotive turntable at Foster would be used before its relocation to Korumburra railway station for the operating purposes of the South Gippsland Tourist Railway. Annual chartered special diesel and Railcar hauled trains operated beyond Leongatha that were supported by local Melbourne community groups until 1991.[5] K.153 hauled the last steam special to Yarram on October 24, 1987, as well as another to Foster on 6 September 1987.

During the 1990s, steam tours would only operate as far as Leongatha with the first occurring on September 9, 1990 again hauled by steam locomotive K.153.[6] In 1993 there were two notable trips to Leongatha that were steam hauled. Both specials operated by Steamrail Victoria hauled 11 car consists of Victorian Railways E-Type and W-Type wooden carriages ran numerous shuttles between Korumburra and Leongatha stations for the public to experience. The first one was on May the 2nd, which was supposed to be a triple header of K Class steam locomotives. However, one of the locomotives scheduled to haul this train, K.190, suffered a defective main internal steampipe failure at [9]

The last locomotive to traverse the South Gippsland mainline before its closure was steam locomotive K.190 operated by Steamrail Victoria. It returned to Steamrail Victoria's base at Newport on April 29, 1998, after it was leased to the South Gippsland Tourist Railway (SGTR) in December 1996.[10] The South Gippsland Tourist Railway had first loaned the locomotive during the summer of 1995-1996. The locomotive again returned for the summer of 1996-1997. K.190 was leased to the South Gippsland Tourist Railway on December 7, 1996, when Steamrail Victoria operated another steam special to Leongatha.[11] Diesel loco T Class number 345 was also loaned out to the tourist railway at the time and was part of the train from Newport workshops. K.183 double headed with K.190 to Nyora with T.345 attached to the special. K.190 & T345 were detached at Nyora station. Shortly afterwards K.183 journeyed solo to Leongatha. K.190 followed with a consist of the tourist railway's carriages to Leongatha. T.342, T.345 and DERM.55 combined for a Saturday tourist railway service. Later on, K.183 returned with the Steamrail Victoria train back to Newport workshops. However, steam locomotives D3.639 and K.183 combined for the last steam excursion to traverse the South Gippsland rail line on 25 September 1997. During this time D3.639 along with K.190 were both on loan to the South Gippsland Tourist Railway.[12]

Current status

The track beyond Leongatha to Yarram and the Barry Beach branch line was dismantled in 1994, but removal of other infrastructure along the line such as level crossing signals took place around mid to late 1992, soon after the last train ran to Barry Beach. The section between Leongatha - Foster was turned into the Great Southern Rail Trail in 1998. In 2011, the Tarra Rail Trail from Alberton to Yarram was completed. As of September 2013, the section between Foster and Toora had been complete leaving the final section from this point to Alberton currently under construction of being converted into the Great Southern Rail Trail.

The section from Dandenong to Cranbourne was electrified in 1995 and is now part of the suburban rail network as the Cranbourne Line. The first level crossing on the closed section of the line, the South Gippsland Highway crossing in Cranbourne has since been paved over. The Victorian Transport Plan of 2009 has stated that the Cranbourne line will be extended 2 kilometres to a new station at Cranbourne East by 2015. The new Cranbourne East station will be built near Renyard Street and the Casey Complex.[13] The line from Nyora to Leongatha is now used by the South Gippsland Tourist Railway. The branch line from Nyora to Wonthaggi was closed in 1978 and later dismantled by 1990, now forming the Bass Coast Rail Trail. Since its closure, a significant section of the former Wonthaggi Line has been leased or sold to farmers, while other sections have been cut away to widen highways and main roads in the coastal South Gippsland region. As of September 2013, the former branch lines to both Outtrim and Strezlecki have become a distant memory.

The remaining section of track from Cranbourne to Nyora is disused but mostly still intact. A length of track was pulled up at Koo Wee Rup in 2009 to put toilets at the nearby bus and coach stop. The Wonthaggi desalination plant pipeline has also made it necessary to remove three more sections of the line. The first section is about 100 metres on the down side of Monomeith Road where about 50 metres of track have been removed. The second is on the up side of Caldermeade Road where about thirty metres of track have been removed and the third, is about halfway between Caldermeade and Lang Lang stations.

Much of the operational and safeworking infrastructure remains in place in this section, including signalling equipment, level crossings, and easements not having been otherwise leased or sold. Station platforms are also in place, but mostly without station buildings, such as Lang Lang, Koo-Wee-Rup, and Tooradin. Parts of the track have warped due to erosion or movement of the supporting groundwork and displacement of sleepers, these are especially evident near Lang Lang, Tooradin and north of Koo-Wee-Rup. Other potential problems include questions on safety of certain bridges and culverts along the route.

Prior to the 1999 Victorian election, the state Labor Party made a promise to return passenger services to Leongatha. In 2008 a report commissioned by the Victorian Department of Transport found the cost of returning passenger services to Leongatha to be unjustifiably high, at an estimated $72 million, and that only 20 per cent of respondents surveyed about their transport needs considered restoring train services to be the main priority. Instead $14.7 million will be spent on road coach service upgrades.[14][15] The former Minister for Public Transport Lynne Kosky had stated that the State Government had provided funding for development of a rail trail between Cranbourne East and Nyora to support tourism in South Gippsland in May 2008.

In April 2011, the South & West Gippsland Group formed at Lang Lang to campaign for a new solution for the region. The group is proposing for rail passenger services to be reinstated to Leongatha, a dedicated freight line to Port Hastings from Dandenong, a new rail line from Nar Nar Goon to Monomeith (forming a loop) & freight services to Port Anthony (Barry Beach) via Fish Creek. In February 2012, parts of disused line at Koo Wee Rup were being dismantled for the proposed rail trail from Cranbourne East to Lang Lang, possibly limiting the chances of the line being reinstated in the short to medium term. Despite the declining condition of the Koo Wee Rup swamp lands, 2 other proposed locations have been put forward by the lobby group since its existence. One is a rail line branching off East of Pakenham that would follow the proposed Koo Wee Rup bypass road instead of sharing the line between Dandenong and Cranbourne, located around Pakenham - Koo-Wee- Rup Road that would then join the existing tracks just west of Koo Wee Rup station. This would mean the track could be dismantled between Cranbourne East and Koo Wee Rup via Clyde, Tooradin and Dalmore for a new rail trail but not from Koo Wee Rup to Nyora unless it locates alongside the actual rail tracks. The second proposal is to have the line branched off from Drouin along the Gippsland line and diverting through Poowong and joining the existing tracks at Nyora. This would mean that the tracks could be dismantled between Cranbourne East and Nyora to allow a rail trail to be constructed all the way from the proposed Cranbourne East station. As of December 2013, representatives from the group have called on for state government support in the upcoming election in 2014 to see the railway line reopened as far as Leongatha by early next decade (2020).[16]

References

  1. ^ "Disappearing Tracks". Newsrail (Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division)): pages 101-106. April 1995
  2. ^ a b c "Farewell — The Sand Train". Newsrail (Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division)): pages 71–76. February 1998. 
  3. ^ a b Chris Banger (March 1997). "Rail Passenger Service Withdrawals Since 1960". Newsrail (Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division)): pages 77–82. 
  4. ^ Fiddian, Mark (1997). Trains, Tracks, Travellers. A history of the Victorian Railways. South Eastern Independent Newspapers. p. 154.  
  5. ^ Grant Payne "ARHS DERM to Barry Beach and Welshpool, 12.5.90". Newsrail (Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division)): pages 228–31. August 1990.
  6. ^ "Preservation". Newsrail (Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division)): page 349. November 1990.
  7. ^ "Preservation, Stemrail". Newsrail (Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division)): pages 214–15. July 1993.
  8. ^ "Operations, South East - Korumburra". Newsrail (Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division)): page 183. June 1994.
  9. ^ "ARE Leongatha tour - report" https://groups.google.com/forum/#!msg/aus.rail/V1PD9R_d3Rc/LP8IoTY5Tk8J
  10. ^ "Around the State". Newsrail (Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division)): page 189. June 1998.
  11. ^ "Tourist Trains". Newsrail (Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division)): page 119. April 1997.
  12. ^ Geoff Peterson "Dream Come True". Newsrail (Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division)): page 307. October 1996.
  13. ^ The Victorian Transport Plan
  14. ^ "Gippsland Public Transport Links Boosted in Budget". Media release from the Minister for Public Transport. www.doi.vic.gov.au. 2 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-04.  Communication from Minister Lynne Kosky, 3 June 2008.
  15. ^ TransNet Logistics (1 May 2007). "Leongatha Rail Line: Reintroduction of Passenger Train Services (Review Summary & Transport Options Assessment Report)". www.doi.vic.gov.au. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  16. ^ http://www.sgst.com.au/rail-return-an-election-issue/

External links

  • Statistics and detailed schematic map at the vicsig enthusiast website
  • Photos: Between Cranbourne and Clyde stations
  • Bikes make tracks for Gippsland
  • South & West Public Transport Group
  • South Gippsland Railway Videos by Graeme Reid
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