Inner Circle railway line
|Inner Circle railway line, Melbourne|
|Fate||parkland, bicycle & walking track|
|Connections||Upfield and Epping lines|
|Railways in Melbourne|
The Inner Circle was a steam era suburban railway line (later electrified) in Melbourne, Australia. It served the inner-northern suburbs of Parkville, Carlton North, Fitzroy North, and Fitzroy. At its closure, it ran from Royal Park station on the Upfield line (Melway map ref: 29 F11.) to the west, to a three-way intersection with Rushall and Merri stations on today's South Morang line to the east. (Melway map ref: 30 D11.) There was also a branch line to Fitzroy that opened at the same time.
The Inner Circle was opened on 8 May 1888 with three stations: North Carlton station and North Fitzroy station on the main line, and Fitzroy station on a short branch line leading south after North Fitzroy station through the Edinburgh Gardens.
As the main line
When the Inner Circle line first opened, services originated from Spencer Street Station at the western end of the central business district. Trains bound for the then terminus at Heidelberg station (now on the Hurstbridge line) would run to North Fitzroy station, then continue on to Victoria Park station (then known as Collingwood, and now on the Hurstbridge and South Morang lines) to the south. The locomotive would then have to change ends and the train return to Clifton Hill station, where it diverged east on the line to Heidelberg.
A passenger service was also provided from Spencer Street to Fitzroy station, on its branch line. This was relegated to a short shuttle service from North Fitzroy station in October 1889, and the passenger service finally closed in May 1892.
For a short period between March and May 1891, the Inner and Outer Circle routes formed the only link between the eastern and western halves of the Victorian Railways system. Prior to this, the link was via a street-level tramway along the edge of the CBD between Flinders and Spencer Streets, which was generally only used at night. When the new Flinders Street Viaduct, connecting Flinders Street and Spencer Street stations, was in its final stages of construction between December 1888 and May 1891, the two suburban lines allowed freight trains to bypass the construction site.
Replaced by direct line
In 1901 a new direct line to Clifton Hill was built from the central Flinders Street Station at the southern edge of the CBD though the inner eastern suburb of Abbotsford. This removed the need for the reversal manoeuvre for Heidelberg-bound trains, and the Preston suburban service also ran via the new line. However Whittlesea trains continued to use the Inner Circle, albeit only from Spencer Street.
With the loss of the main line services on the Inner Circle, a series of "roundabout" services were experimented with from 1901. By 1906 a regular steam operated service was established from Princes Bridge to North Fitzroy station via Clifton Hill, and by 1919 this service was running every hour off peak.
Electrification of the line between Royal Park and Clifton Hill stations was commissioned on 31 July 1921. Following electrification, passenger services were extended to North Carlton running at 15 minute headways, but from 18 September 1921 they were changed to every 20 minutes. Two trains on weekdays, and a larger number at weekends were extended to Royal Park station to serve patrons of the Melbourne Zoo.
There was a possibility for revitalisation in 1940, the Ashworth Improvement Plan recommended a subway tunnel with five stations be built under the Melbourne CBD from Flinders Street to the Inner Circle, with a proposed future subway from the first station to North Melbourne.
Traffic on the line was discouraged by the circuitous route, and competition with more direct trams to the city. Off-peak services were cut to every 30 minutes from 29 May 1944, but from 4 December 1944 20-minute headways were restored on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The passenger service was finally cancelled on 3 July 1948, and North Carlton and North Fitzroy stations closed to passenger business.
After 1948 the Fitzroy line was used almost exclusively for freight trains. The overhead wiring for electric trains was dismantled in 1961. Only the feeders needed for Epping (now South Morang) line trains, and for shunting at the Royal Park end, were retained. Significant changes occurred in 1965, when the line was singled and both legs of the triangle at the eastern end of the line were closed. This left just a single line from Royal Park to Fitzroy remaining for goods services. The line was officially closed on 31 July 1981.
The rails were removed after the final closure, except for some short sections at former level crossings which can still be seen today. From Rushall to Royal Park stations the rail reserve has become a linear park which provides part of the Capital City Trail for cyclists, connecting the Merri Creek Trail to the Moonee Ponds Creek Trail in the network of shared use bicycle paths for Cycling in Melbourne. Some signals and parts of level crossing gates also survive, with remaining overhead stanchions still carrying railway electrical current between the Upfield and South Morang railway lines.
Of the three former stations, only North Carlton still stands, having been converted into a community centre. North Fitzroy station is now a slight rise in the walking and cycling path east of Nicholson Street. The path was realigned in 2002 to traverse the length of the former platform. The site of Fitzroy station has been redeveloped into a medium-density housing estate.
|Inner Circle railway line|
- City of Yarra: Inner Circle Railway Linear Park
- Victorian Railways signalling diagram: North Fitzroy to Merri in 1932
- Victorian Railways signalling diagram: Macaulay to North Fitzroy in 1913
- Victorian Railways signalling diagram: Macaulay to North Carlton in 1932
- 1920 Morgan's Street Directory Map: Inner circle station locations
- Geographic data related to Inner Circle railway line at OpenStreetMap