Monday, 5 May 2008

The Railways - The Great Southern line


Cranbourne Railway Station
Photo source: The Great Southern Railway : the illustrated history of the building of the line in South Gippsland by Keith Macrae Bowden

In the last post we looked at the Gippsland Railway line, this blog will present a history of the Great Southern line to South Gippsland. The completion of the Gippsland line in 1879 encouraged settlement in the area as new settlers used the stations as jumping off points and would walk to new selections in the hills. Railway Leagues were established to push for more lines. The steep hills of South Gippsland and the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp meant overland travel for South Gippsland was difficult. Residents from Foster had to travel to Sale and then by rail. People living around Port Albert travelled and received supplies by sea. The Great Southern line commenced construction in 1887 and was opened to Korumburra on June 2, 1891. It was then completed in two more sections, Korumburra to Toora and Toora to Port Albert.


A trestle bridge over the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp
Photo source: The Great Southern Railway : the illustrated history of the building of the line in South Gippsland by Keith Macrae Bowden

The Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp had proven to be impediment to the construction. The contractor had to construct bridges within the embankments to allow water to escape. Each bridge was over 100 metres long and there were four separate bridges per mile (1.6 km). The bridges had 72 piles which were initially dragged by bullock, until some bullocks sank in the mud. The contractors, Falkingham and Son, then had to carry the piles on a locomotive on the existing track, so no bridge could be built until they came to the site. Some of these early timber bridges can still be seen around Koo-Wee-Rup and are in the Cardinia Shire Heritage Register.In fact even after the Railway opened the Swamp was still not completely drained and a journalist travelling on a train reported that when traversing the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp, it ‘had the appearance of an inland sea, where water lay deep on either hand and spread far over the land’

Lyndhurst Station
Photo source: The Great Southern Railway : the illustrated history of the building of the line in South Gippsland by Keith Macrae Bowden

The original Stations from Dandenong, in the Casey Cardinia region, were Lyndhurst, Cranbourne, Clyde, Tooradin. This section to Tooradin opened October 1, 1888. Dalmore (originally called Peer’s Lane, then Koo-Wee-Rup West) and Koo-Wee-Rup (originally called Yallock) opened August 191889. Monomeith (originally called Glassock’s), Caldermeade, and Lang Lang (originally called Carrington) opened in February 1890.

The South Gippsland Railway line now stops at Cranbourne.  Passenger services beyond Dandenong ceased in June 1981 but goods services continued to operate. In 1992, the goods trains ceased and this is when the line beyond Leongatha was taken up. The passenger service was reinstated on December 9 1984 and continued to run until July 23 1993. Trains returned between Dandenong and Cranbourne when the line was electrified in March 1995.  Lyndurst Station is no more, although it was apparently used until 2009 for cement. However, Merinda Park Station opened in March 1995 in conjunction with the new electrified line and Lynbrook Station opened April 2012.


Lang Lang Railway Station
Photo source: Public Records Office of Victoria VPRS 12800/P1, item H 4285


The photographs and most of the information in this post comes from The Great Southern Railway : the illustrated history of the building of the line in South Gippsland by Keith Macrae Bowden. Published in 1970 by the Australian Railway Historical Association. Unfortunately it is now out of print.

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