Outer Circle Railway


Outer Circle Railway

The Outer Circle was built during the Melbourne land boom of the 1880s. Money was no object, and greedy capitalists saw the Colony of Victoria as a valuable investment opportunity.

It was originally intended to bring goods trains into Melbourne from Gippsland. But after the State Government purchased the Melbourne & Hobson's Bay United Railway Company there was no longer a need to build the Outer Circle.

Today, the Outer Circle Railway is the Anniversary Bicycle Trail but it began as an ambitious rail line connecting the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne to the city.

Not that I knew it as I was growing up in East Kew, but I had spent a lot of time playing in the remnants of the Outer Circle Railway. I doubt many people would realise the the wood depot still on the corner of High Street and Belmore Road originally served the days of steam trains.

Dates


The first section was opened was on 24 March 1890, from Oakleigh to Waverley Road, and on to Burnley. It was followed by the line from Waverley Road to Camberwell on 24 March 1890, and the Riversdale to Fairfield Park section on 24 March 1891.

Oakleigh to Burnley, change at Waverley Road for,
Waverly Road to Camberwell, change at Riversdale for,
Riversdale to Fairfield Park.

Outer Circle Railway Service


The railway never ran as one entire service from Oakleigh to the city. In fact it didn't go as far as the city. In Fairfield it met a line from Heidelberg which went as far as Collingwood. From there travellers could wait whilst the engine was unhooked and moved to the other end of the train, or take a cable car (tram). Trains were changed at Norwood (Ashburton) and Riversdale. To travel from Oakleigh to the city took 4 hours.

The track was used in its entirety for only 26 months with the Fairfield to Deepdene end closing first. Next to close was the Norwood to Oakleigh section. In fact 5 years after its construction, for a 12 month period, no trains operated on the railway at all. The depression of the 1890's meant that development in the outer areas of Melbourne was delayed.

Eventually the section between Ashburton and Deepdene was reopened for passengers, with a few extra stations operating. Amongst these were Stanley* (Mont Albert Road) renamed Roystead; Hartwell Station renamed Burwood; and Hartwell Hill renamed Hartwell. The station for the latter came from Walhalla. Stations were not manned and passengers bought tickets from the guard. Trains were serviced in Camberwell. This line was very popular with its passengers and continued until 1927. There wouldn't have been much traffic on the roads, but when a main road like Whitehorse Road was reached, the train had to stop, the guard with his red flag would step out onto the road, the train would cross, stop again and wait for the guard to climb back on board.

It must have been a sad day when the 'Deepdene Dasher' did its last run in 1927

Although parts of the Outer Circle line was driven by politics and land speculators, largely the purpose of the line was a route of produce to be brought to Melbourne by connecting the Gippsland Railway to the main government railway terminal at Spencer Street without requiring travel along the privately owned railway from Flinders Street.

The Outer Circle Rail Trail (18km)
Location: Eastern Melbourne suburbs, Fairfield to Hughesdale

The majority of the former Outer Circle Line has now been converted into a bicycle trail called the Anniversary Trail to commemorate 100 years since the opening of the railway. The former rail corridor is almost entirely intact and includes sections in steep cuttings and embankments and several large bridges. The former bridge across the Yarra River at Fairfield is now used by traffic on the Chandler Highway.

Documentary


Melbourne's Forgotten Railway - The Outer Circle

The documentary can be rented online from the documentary's website.




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