Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Altona Rail History

This post covers the rail development in Altona between Newport and Laverton in a chronological order. The stations (current or demolished) in this stretch include Hatherley, Williamstown Racecourse, Mobiltown (Standard Oil Platform), Paisley, Galvin, Altona, Altona Beach, Seaholme and Westona.

In 1854, the first steam train in Australia ran from Melbourne to Sandridge (Port Melbourne). Three years later in 1857, the Geelong and Melbourne Railway Company built the Geelong Line, the first Victorian country line between Geelong and Greenwich (now Newport). As the company lost money on this line, it was taken over by the Victorian Government in 1860 and it became part of Victorian Railways.

Map showing the locations of existing and former train stations.
Click on each train icon to view the detail of the train station.


View Altona Train Stations in a larger map


1860
  • Train services were brought to Altona to service the Williamstown Racecourse (now Altona Coastal Park).
  • The first Williamstown Racecourse Station opened on 26 Dec 1860 on the main Newport - Geelong Line.
  • As with Flemington Racecourse trains, special services ran from Spencer Street (now Southern Cross) to Williamstown Racecourse Station during races until 1935 when they were altered to run from Flinders Street.

1885
  • The racecourse station was relocated south, much closer to the racecourse with the opening of the Altona Line as a 1.1 km branch from Geelong Line on 6 Apr 1885.
  • The Altona Line was described as "the shortest railway line in the Colony, maybe in the world" (Ref 1).

1888-1890
  • The Altona and Laverton Bay Freehold and Investment Company was subdividing land southwest of the racecourse.
  • To attract buyers, the company built a private railway from Williamstown Racecourse station to Altona Station at Pier Street, which started carrying passengers on 8 Sep 1888 (Ref 1).
  • On 9 Nov 1888, the line was extended to a station Altona Beach, 1 km west of the current Altona station and just east of Lilly Street (now Grieve Parade). The line possibly continued to rejoin the Geelong Line between Galvin and Laverton stations where the formation and bridgework were prepared for constructing a station called "Edinborough" (Ref 1).
  • The company provided a twice-daily six days a week passenger service via a self-propelled steam railcar which connected with a Government-operated train at the Racecourse station that ran to Spencer Street (Ref 1).

1890
  • Passenger services ceased on 14 Aug 1890 due to poor property sales.
  • A station called Hatherley near to where the Altona Line branches off (3.2 km from Newport and 0.4 km from the later Paisley) was built in 1890. It opened on 14 Feb 1890 but closed a few years later on 30 Jun 1897.

1895-1896

  • In 1895, the Hosie's syndicate opened a mine just past the "Altona Beach" platform near the present Wren Street. The Company hired a steam locomotive from Victorian Railways for hauling coal between July 1895 and March 1896.

1906
  • In 1906, Victorian Railways reached an agreement with the then owner of the line, Mr. W.H. Croker, to stable trains on the line during race meetings.

1909
  • A loop siding existed beside the Altona platform for a number of years, and in 1909, a siding was extended west towards the site of Westona station, serving the Altona Coal Mine (now Harrington Square), which was operated by the Melbourne and Altona Colliery Company. Trains ran as required from Newport to bring in supplies and take out coal.

1916

  • Trains were used to bring in Army personnel to the camp at Altona.

1917
  • From 17 Nov 1917, the new landowner Altona Beach Estates operated a limited service over the Altona Line on behalf of Victorian Railways, with the line terminus altered to the current Altona station, which is also the location of the first Altona station. This station adopted the name "Altona Beach".

1920
  • Seahome station opened on 26 Jan 1920, between Williamstown Racecourse and Altona Beach. The name came from a winning entry in a competition held by Altona Beach Estates (Ref 1)
  • Electrification of the Altona Line was commissioned on 27 Aug 1920.

1924
  • Altona Beach Estates incurred losses on the Altona Line every year, so by the 1920s sought to dispose of the railway. It handed the line free of charge to Victorian Railways on 1 Oct 1924, in return for waiving of its debts and for the line remaining as part of the suburban system.


Photo from the 4 Oct 1926 issue of The Argus

1926-1929
  • Electrification of the Altona Line was completed on 2 Oct 1926.
  • Galvin station opened on 17 Aug 1927 on the main Geelong Line near the Maidstone Street level crossing to service the residential areas in Altona to its south.
  • Paisley station opened on 14 Oct 1929 on the Geelong Line, besides the Millers Road level crossing.

1938
  • Altona Beach station was renamed to its former name "Altona".

1950
  • The Williamstown Racecourse was closed after World War II but it was not until 22 May 1950 that Williamstown Racecourse station ceased operating with its overhead equipment and sidings removed. Today the remains of a few stanchion bases can be seen beside the current line to Altona.

1953-1958
  • “Standard Oil Platform” opened on 9 Nov 1953 to serve the workers at the adjacent Vacuum Oil Company and the Broun Trans-World Construction company.
  • It was renamed to Mobiltown on 1 Jun 1954 after the Vacuum Oil Company adopted “Mobil' as its trading name.
  • It was made a public platform on 7 Sep 1958 with most trains timetabled to stop there.

1965-1967
  • With the duplication of the Geelong Line, Galvin station was rebuilt in 1965 as an island platform located between 2 tracks, southwest of the Maidstone Street level crossing.
  • Paisley platforms were rebuilt in 1967.

1973
  • An overpass over Millers Road adjacent to Paisley station was built in 1973, with a new pedestrian subway to access the station.
  • A bus interchange and a park and ride car park was built sometime between 1973 and 1983, on the other side of Millers Road.

1980-1982
  • In 1980, the Victorian Transport Study recommended the closure of the Altona branch.
  • In October 1981, all off-peak and weekend services were replaced by buses and some morning peak services were cut.
  • By July 1982, the weekday off-peak services were restored.
  • In December 1982, the Ministry of Transport produced the report "Public Transport Study, Altona/Williamstown", which considered 5 options for the line (no change, reintroduce weekend and evening services, abandon line, extend line to Westona, extend line to Laverton).

1985
  • The last two options were implemented, with the Altona Line extended to a new station named Westona on 21 Jan 1985 and then to Laverton on 11 April 1985.
  • Westona was opened by then Minister for Transport Steve Crabb. Like Seaholme, the name "Westona" came from the winning entry in a council-run naming competition and was suggested by Alan and Betty Angus to mean "West of Altona".
  • The extension was 4.4 km long and provision was made for future duplication. Three routes were considered. The shortest route was chosen over the other two routes which required additional embankments over the retarding basins. Five roads were closed and two new level crossings were constructed at Maidstone Street and Grieve Parade.
  • The under-patronized Mobiltown, Paisley and Galvin stations were closed when all Werribee trains were re-routed along the Altona loop line.
  • Mobiltown station was closed on 18 Jan 1985 and its platform was removed with no remains visible today. Australian singer-songwriter, Broderick Smith sang about the "Last Train From Mobiltown" on his group's 1981 album Broderick Smith's Big Combo.
  • Both Paisley and Galvin stations were closed on 14 Apr 1985.
  • The island platform of Paisley remains today, though overgrown. The subway was filled in at an unknown date, with the remains of the northern ramp being demolished in 1994 when the adjacent Standard Gauge line was built. The bus interchange and car park remain today, though seeing very little use by passengers.
  • The Galvin platform was removed and tracks through the station were realigned for 130km/h running in the early 1990s with the introduction of the Sprinter railcars. Today only a wide gap between the tracks remains of the station.

2011

  • In February 2011, Hobsons Bay City Council lodged an application with Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder to request Altona Station be renamed to Altona Beach Station, in a bid to rebrand Altona as a premier bayside suburb, to attract visitors from outside the western suburbs and to more closely align the station with its beachside location (Ref 2, 3). History has come full circle.
  • In May 2011, Hobsons Bay City Council wrote to Transport Minister Terry Mulder asking him to consider reopening Paisley and Galvin stations to relieve parking pressures at Laverton (read this) and Newport, to reduce local road congestion and to encourage more people, particularly from Altona North near Paisley, to use public transport. This plea was rejected by the State Government in July (Ref 4).


Reference


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