Monday, July 08, 2013

Princes Bridge to Hurst's Bridge

DAVID WATSON will be the guest speaker at next month's Heidelberg Historical Society Meeting. His talk is on:

PRINCES BRIDGE TO HURST’S BRIDGE. The story of the Hurstbridge railway, with its strange and disjointed origins linked to the “railwaymania” of the 1880s, has much of interest to social, local and railway historians.

Oddly, the first section of it to open to traffic was completely isolated from the rest of the rail network. When the railway to Heidelberg was opened, at first the trains departed westwards from Flinders Street to travel a circuitous route, which after 25 minutes had you within four kilometres from where you had started. Agitation to extend the railway beyond Heidelberg to Eltham and Hurstbridge arose not from any desire to serve residential areas as did the rest of the network, but in order to facilitate the movement of freight into and out of the predominantly rural district. The Hurstbridge extension was excluded from the original electrification proposal and when it was undertaken wooden poles were used for economy.
The line had two industrial branch lines, one served the APM mill at Fairfield and has a fascinating railway history of its own, and the other served the Mont Park hospitals. The Heidelberg line was also to be the starting point of a proposed but never built line to East Preston.

The post-war building boom saw the sleepy nature of the line beyond Heidelberg give way to new heavy commuter traffic. Trains were just as heavily loaded then, as they are now and were also complained about. When the blue “Harris” trains were introduced, one was rostered to run the 5.20pm Monday to Friday Hurstbridge train to alleviate overcrowding. Various duplication and improvement schemes were undertaken in the 1950s to cope with the increasing demand. 

The line has the only tunnels on the Melbourne suburban network and was amongst the last on which swing door “dog-box” trains operated. Nineteenth century safety systems were in use beyond Greensborough until earlier this year when they were replaced by modern remote controlled signalling. The line thus becomes better equipped to continue to safely serve its community.  

Our speaker, David Watson currently resides in Seymour but has connections with the Heidelberg area. He joined Victorian Railways 1957 as a Clerk in the Timetables Office and subsequently occupied various operating and management positions in local and State Railways.

When: Tuesday, 13th August 2013 at the Uniting Church Community Centre, Seddon Street, Ivanhoe at 8pm. All welcome.

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