Railway Construction Act 1884

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The Victorian Government's Act No. 821, the Railway Construction Act 1884,[1] authorised the construction of 59[2] new railway lines in the colony, plus additional infrastructure.[3][4][5]

Organised by the Minister for Railways, Thomas Bent,[6] and passed on 12 December 1884, it became notorious for the large number of railway lines it authorised, and was dubbed the "Octopus Act". It was accompanied by the Railway Loan Act, No. 760, which permitted the raising of a loan of £600,000 for construction of the various lines.[7]

The act, "to authorize the Construction of certain Lines of Railway by the State and for other purposes", listed 51 "country lines", 8 "suburban lines", 4 short connections and bridges, and 2 "railway[s] or sidings", specifying 65 pieces of new infrastructure in total. It also provided for additional platforms, buildings, sidings, road approaches, drains, bridge widenings and modifications to existing infrastructure as necessary.[1] It allowed for an average expenditure of £3,960 per mile for the country lines, and £14,294 per mile for the suburban lines.

The depression of the 1890s soon rendered many of these lines unviable.

Scheduled lines[edit]

Country lines[edit]

  1. Avoca and Ararat Railway
  2. Bacchus Marsh and Gordons Railway
  3. Bacchus Marsh Junction and New-port Railway
  4. Ballarat East and Buninyong Railway
  5. Ballarat Cattle Yards Branch Railway
  6. Ballarat Eacecourse and Springs Railway
  7. Birregurra and Cape Otway Forest Railway
  8. Camperdown and Curdie's River Railway
  9. Camperdown to Terand and Warrnambool Railway
  10. Coburg and Somerton Railway
  11. Creswick and Daylesford Railway
  12. Dandenong and Leongatha Railway
  13. Dimboola and South Australian Border Railway
  14. Fitzroy and Whittlesea Railway
  15. Frankston and Crib Point Railway 15A: Mornington Railway
  16. Frankston Cemetery Railway
  17. Hamilton and Coleraine Railway
  18. Heyfield and Bairns-dale Railway,
  19. Horsham and Natimuk Railway
  20. Inglewood and Dunolly Railway 20A. Kerang to Swan Hill
  21. Koroit and Belfast Railway
  22. Koroit Railway via Penshurst 22A. Hamilton and Penshurst Railway
  23. Koroit and Warrnambool Railway
  24. Kyneton and Redesdale Railway
  25. Lancefield and Kilmore Railway
  26. Leongatha and Port Albert Railway
  27. Lilydale and Healesville Railway (via Yarra Flats)
  28. Lubeck and Rupanyup Railway
  29. Maffra and Briagolong Railway
  30. Maldon and Laanecoorie Railway
  31. Moe and Narracan Railway
  32. Mount Moriac and Forest Railway
  33. Murchison and Rushworth Rail-way
  34. Murtoa and Warracknabeal Railway
  35. Myrtleford and Bright Railway
  36. Numurkah and Cobram Railway
  37. Numurkah and Nathalia Railway
  38. Ondit and Beeac Railway
  39. Ringwood and Ferntree Gully Railway
  40. Sale and Stratford Railway
  41. Scarsdale and Lintons Railway
  42. Shepparton and Dookie Railway
  43. St. James and Yarrawonga RAilway
  44. Tatura and Echuca Railway
  45. Terang and Mortlake Railway
  46. Wandong Heathcote and Sandhurst Railway
  47. Warragul and Neerim Railway
  48. Wedderburn Road and Wedderburn Railway
  49. Wodonga and Tallangatta Railway
  50. Yackandandah and Beechworth Railway
  51. Yea and Mansfield Railway; Alexandra Branch Railway

Suburban lines[edit]

Schedule numbers are as given.

  • 52. Alphington and Heidelberg Railway
  • 53. Brighton and Picnic Point Railway
  • 54. Burnley to Junction with Outer Circle Railway
  • 55. Fitzroy Branch Railway
  • 56. Hawthorn and Kew Railway
  • 57. Lal Lal Racecourse Railway
  • 58. Outer Circle Railway, Oakleigh, via Camberwell to Richmond and Alphington Railway
  • 59. Royal Park and Clifton Hill Railway

Additional infrastructure[edit]

Schedule numbers are as given, with authorised expenditure from Section 7 where given.

  • 60. Murray-bridge (temporary) (£1,750)
  • 61. Portland Pier
  • 62. Murray-bridge (£25,000)
  • 63. Flinders-street Viaduct (£73,000)
  • 64. Windsor Siding
  • 65. Ballarat siding

Section 4 provided for "Additional sidings etc. on existing lines".

Section 7 also authorised expenditure on the following works:

  • 66. Duplication Hawthorn and Camberwell Line (£8,500)
  • 67. Railway works (£800,000)
  • Rolling-stock (£178,000) and permanent-way (£415,000)


The task of implementing the act fell to Richard Speight, chief railway commissioner at the time,[8] a role created by the Victorian Railways Commissioners Act of 1883.[9]

Beneficiaries of the act included construction engineers such as Andrew O'Keefe, and politicians such as Thomas Bent himself, who reaped the rewards of commissioning construction in their own electorates.

Construction of the lines was complete by April 1890.[10]

By 1892, amid the background of a worsening economic depression, outrage at the excesses of the construction boom, including a number of "white elephants", led to the sacking of Speight, as well as the other commissioners, Richard Ford and A.J. Agg. The Railways Act of 1892 attempted to reverse some of the damage.

See also[edit]


  • "Victorian Parliamentary Chronology: 150 Years of Parliament in Victoria - the 1880s". Archived from the original on 9 July 2009.
  1. ^ a b "The Railway Construction Act 1884". Austlii. 12 December 1884.
  2. ^ Some sources give the figure as 66.
  3. ^ "Outer Circle". vicrailstations.com. Retrieved 24 August 2022.
  4. ^ "VR Maps". vrhistory.com. Retrieved 24 August 2022.
  5. ^ "1889 The Railway". northernbullants.com.au. Retrieved 24 August 2022.
  6. ^ "Railways - Entry - eMelbourne - the Encyclopedia of Melbourne Online".
  7. ^ "Railway Loan Act No. 760 and the Railway Construction Act 1884: Estimate of expenditure which the Railways Commissioners propose to incur during the ensuing twelve months under Loan Act No. 760 and the Railway Construction Act 1884". Government Printer.
  8. ^ Venn, Michael. Speight, Richard (1838–1901). National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 16 April 2023.
  9. ^ "Kibble, William Mcleod Morris". www.brightoncemetery.com. Archived from the original on 15 November 2003.
  10. ^ "Summary of News". Brisbane Courier. 14 April 1890.

External links[edit]