St Kilda – Windsor railway line

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St Kilda - Windsor
Overview
Type Melbourne suburban service
Status Parkland, private ownership
Connecting lines St Kilda and Sandringham lines
Stations None
Operation
Opened 1859
Closed 24 November 1860
Number of tracks Single track

The St Kilda-Windsor railway line was a short-lived section of railway that linked the isolated Windsor to Brighton (Bay Street) section of the Melbourne railway network to the city. The branch line fell into disuse when an alternative route was built between Windsor and Richmond stations.

Reasoning[edit]

Windsor Station was originally called "Chapel Street Station", and was the terminus for northbound trains from the Brighton Beach line. It was run by the St Kilda and Brighton Railway Company, who built the loop branch line connecting the Brighton line to the now defunct St Kilda line to connect the isolated line to the city. Trains from the city travelled south to St Kilda terminus, and then "backed out" onto the line to Windsor. The loop line was constructed on wooden trestles across the swamp now known as the Albert Park Lake, and had a raised embankment with a bridge [1] over St Kilda Road.

A possible reason for the construction of the loop line connecting through to St Kilda was the difficulty experienced by contractors in constructing a rail crossing over the Yarra River at Cremorne, known in the early 19th century as "Forrest Hill". Although today the area is noted for the imposing Melbourne High School to the east of the railway embankment and exclusive houses of South Yarra to the west, in the mid-19th century, the railway bisected a vast swamp. Cooper (1924; p. 181) reports that when the rail embankment was first being constructed it subsided, burying ballast trucks in the swamp. The cost of recovering the trucks was deemed to be uneconomic, so a second embankment was constructed over them.

Operation[edit]

The first train on the loop line from St Kilda was on 3 December 1859, and opened to the public ten days later. There were no trains after 7 pm on the branch line; patrons simply walked to their homes in Prahran from St Kilda station in Fitzroy Street.

A short time after the loop line was constructed a competing connection was built between Windsor and Richmond stations, the first train arriving at Windsor directly from Melbourne on 24 November 1860. The loop line to St Kilda soon fell into disuse, and track duplication, a condition of the original Crown lease, was never completed.

Demise[edit]

The alignment of the line at Windsor station today, current main line to city at right

The St Kilda and Brighton Railway Company experienced financial difficulties and was bought by the Melbourne and Suburban Railway company in 1862, no doubt exacerbated by the direct link to Melbourne through Prahran and Windsor. The track, bridge and trestles between St Kilda Station and Punt Road were dismantled probably less than five years after original construction; however, a siding from Windsor to Hoddle Street remained. Due to the track alignments there were now two level crossings within 100 metres (330 ft) on Union Street, as the siding continued to be used for shunting trains from the Brighton line, and to carry screenings from the Richmond quarries to a commercial depot on Punt Road (then known as Hoddle Street).

Perversely, it was due to local annoyance at the siding level crossing near the station, that trains won the legal right-of-way at road-rail intersections in Victoria. Indignant at the delays to horse-drawn traffic caused by trains, and in particular the perpetually closed and unmanned crossing of the siding, one morning in 1869, local councillors from Prahran marched to the level crossing in question with a group of workers who then began to rip up the tracks on the siding. The matter was later brought to court on 17 April 1869, although the railways won the right-of-way case, the siding was not reconstructed.

No evidence of the bridge over St Kilda Road or embankments remain, although the alignment of the loop can be traced by the residual parkland and in some cases, oddly shaped property boundaries. A small park to the west of Windsor Station is called "Windsor Siding".

References[edit]

Closed station navigation
St Kilda - Windsor link
← Previous station Windsor | St Kilda Next station →