Thursday, 13 November 2014

Railways and their contribution to the developement of the Casey Cardinia region

I have written about railways before in this blog, as I have an interest in railways, because of the influence they had on the growth of towns and settlement patterns. When I was at High School at Koo-Wee-Rup in the 1970s the school bus used to run out to Bayles and followed the path of the old railway line and if I could go back in time I would love to have seen the trains chuffing along this line to Bayles, Catani and beyond.  I wrote this article for the book Pages from the past: snapshot histories of people, places and public life in Casey and Cardinia.

The photographs are from the Public Transport Corporation: Photographic Collection of Railway Negatives available on the Public Records Office of Victoria website www.prov.vic.gov.au. Click here to search this collection.

Railways have been pivotal in the development of the Casey Cardinia Region. The Railways have always been used for personal travel - to go to work, to go into Dandenong or Melbourne for reasons such as shopping or to access medical services - but they have also influenced the location and growth of towns, transported produce to markets and tourists to holiday destinations. We have had four railway lines traversing the region and three are still operating. The earliest line is the Gippsland line to Sale which was opened from Oakleigh to Bunyip in October 1877 and fully opened in 1879. The Great Southern line commenced construction in 1887 and was fully operational from Dandenong to Korumburra by June 1891. It was later extended to Port Albert. It now only goes as far as Cranbourne. The famous Puffing Billy line, officially called the Fern Tree Gully to Gembrook line, opened in December 1900. Finally the Strzelecki line from Koo-Wee-Rup to Strzelecki opened on June 29, 1922 and closed in stages until it was completely closed in February 1959.


Pakenham Up End Level crossing and Signal Bridge
VPRS 12800/P5, item S 1376

The Railways effected settlement patterns in the region. Early towns, such as Cranbourne, Berwick or Pakenham, were established on roads or coach routes. Other towns, such as Gembrook or Emerald, developed around the nucleus of people who stayed in the area after the mining activities ceased. Some towns, such as Iona and Yallock, were part of the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Village Settlement Scheme. When the Railways came they sometimes passed through the existing towns but often by-passed the town so new settlements developed around the Railway Station or Siding. For example, Pakenham East developed around the Railway Station, initially in opposition to the ‘old’ town of Pakenham which had developed around the La Trobe Inn (also known as Bourke’s Hotel) on the Gippsland Road, near the Toomuc Creek. Lang Lang grew around the Railway Station and superceded the original town of Tobin Yallock, on the South Gippsland Highway, to such an extent that by 1894 most of the businesses and public buildings had transferred to the new Lang Lang near the Railway Station. Finally, the Village Settlement of Yallock declined after the establishment of the Railway Station about a kilometre away. The Station was called Bayles and gave its name to the new settlement.


Cranbourne, South Gippsland Highway level Crossing
VPRS 12800/P1, item H 5224


Cranbourne, South Gippsland Highway level crossing, 
R class steam locomotive departing left side including derm and trailer
VPRS 12800/P1, item H 5222A

The Railways also opened up the area to industry. The Sale Line opened up the timber industry from Berwick to Bunyip. Officer’s Wood Siding opened in 1881 to enable firewood to be sent to Melbourne from William Officer’s property. The Cannibal Creek Siding was created in 1885 to accommodate Cannibal Creek Saw Mill Company. The townships which developed around these Sidings became Officer and Garfield. From the 1890s orchards were planted in the hills from Narre Warren North to Garfield and this produce was railed to Melbourne to be exported interstate and overseas.  Milk, livestock, and potatoes grown on the newly drained Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp were sent to market on trains from Catani, Bayles and Koo-Wee-Rup on the Strzelecki line and Garfield, Tynong and Nar Nar Goon on the Gippsland Line.  Timber products and potatoes were loaded at the Gembrook Station on the Puffing Billy line. Carl Nobelius, the founder of the Gembrook Nurseries at Emerald sent his trees sixteen miles to the Narre Warren Station by dray but when the Puffing Billy line was established he had his own Siding erected. At is peak, before the start of World War One; Nobelius had over three millions trees in various stages of cultivation for sale.



Berwick Station, Platform and Goods Shed
VPRS 12903/P1, item Box 027/08

We tend to think of this area as only producing agricultural and horticultural products but the rail had a key role in the expansion of the Wilson Quarry at Berwick as the Quarry supplied the ballast for the Sale line. The trains transported bricks to Melbourne in the 1880s from the five brick works at Officer and Jefferson’s brick works at Garfield. Later on, sand from Sidings near Bayles was also transported by rail in the 1920s and 1930s and in Cranbourne, two spur lines were built to the sand mines around the town.

The third influence of the Railways had on this region was on the Tourist Industry.  An 1899 Guide Book to Upper Beaconsfield tells its readers of 'the reviving and restoring virtues of the Ranges' and talks about the scenic Gullies and Drives.  There is also railway timetable information for trains to the Beaconsfield Railway Station and a note that trains are met daily by coach to transport holiday makers to the Hills.

Tooradin was known as a “Sportsman’s Paradise” in the 1880s due to the fishing, quail shooting on Quail Island, deer shooting and other typical pursuits of the time. Sadly, for Tooradin, the Tooradin Station was built some kilometres out of the town which was on the South Gippsland Highway. But visitors were once again met by a coach at the Station to take them to their “Sportsman’s Paradise” at Tooradin.

Finally, the most obvious connection that Railways had to the Tourist Industry is the Puffing Billy train. The train was popular with the locals from the start and also opened up the area to holiday makers and week-enders. Due to declining revenue the line was recommended for closure in 1936 however a public outcry kept the line open for goods. A landslide near Menzies Creek, in August 1953, blocked the line and it was announced that it would close permanently in mid 1954, but once again the public rallied. The Puffing Billy Preservation Society (P.B.P.S) was formed in 1955 and operated Puffing Billy trains between Upper Ferntree Gully and Belgrave until this part of the line was electrified. Work began to re-open the line beyond Belgrave by by-passing the land slide and laying new track and the Puffing Billy tourist line was officially opened to Menzies Creek in July 1962. Three years later in July 1965 Puffing Billy returned to Emerald, ten years later in 1975 to Lakeside and finally in October 1998 it returned to Gembrook. Puffing Billy has carried 8 million passengers since it re-opened in 1962 and is now a tourist destination in its own right.



Train narrow gauge, to excursion, Paradise , Gembrook
VPRS 12800/P1, item H 3075

The Casey Cardinia region would have developed without the Railways but settlement patterns would have been different, the region may not have been a leading producer of apples or dairy product or potatoes due to the problems in the early days of transporting these goods to market and even tourists would have found it more difficult to visit our natural features such as the hills and the coast without the Railway.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great photos, just a question. When traveling between Dandenong and Berwick why are there rusted electricity poles along the line (citybound track), there's even a wooden structure near the South Gippsland Highway level crossing (next to Iveco truck factory) which seems to have been a siding or terminus. Can you shed some light?

Heather said...

Is it the old General Motors Holden station? It opened in 1956 to service the Factory and closed in 2002. Follow this link to some photos of the station http://www.vicrailstations.com/Orbost/General_Motors/General_Motors.html
Otherwise, I don't know what it is, but you could put it to the forum on this site http://www.railpage.com.au/ and some-one might be able to help you.
Heather