Victorian Railways


Victorian Railways

The Victorian Railways operated railways in the Australian state of Victoria from 1859 to 1983. The first railways in Victoria were private companies, but when these companies failed or defaulted, the Victorian Railways was established to take over their operations. Most of the lines operated by the Victorian Railways were of the 5' 3" (1600 mm) broad gauge, however the railways also operated up to five 2'6" (762 mm) narrow gauge lines between 1898 and 1977, and a standard gauge line between Albury and Melbourne from 1961.

History

Formation

The Victorian Railways were initially known as the "Department of Railways", from the first appointment of staff in 1856. On 1 November 1883 assent was given to the Victorian Railways Commissioners Act 1883, 47 Vic.,No.767, to construct, maintain and manage the state's railways. The staff of the Department of Railways became subject to the authority of the Railway Commissioners and became commonly known as the Victorian Railways. The elaborate headquarters at 67 Spencer Street were opened in 1893. [cite journal | year = 1993 | month = February | title = 67 Spencer Street | author = Geoff Peterson | journal = Newsrail | publisher = Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division) | pages = pages 44–45 ]

Growth

Victorian Railways grew to service all parts of the state, even extending some lines into New South Wales under the 1922 Border Railways Act. In the late 19th century the railways became something of a political football with politicians demanding new lines to be built in places where traffic levels never justified it. In 1864 there was just 254 miles (409 km) of railway. The system expanded rapidly to reach 2,900 route miles (4,670 km) by 1891 and to its greatest extent of 4,755 route miles (7652 km) in 1939. The result was that by the beginning of the 20th century, no Victorian (apart from those in the mountain regions) were more than 25 miles (42km) from a railway line. The period from the end of the 1930's saw a slow decline in route mileage as unprofitable branches were closed.

Conversion of the Melbourne suburban system to electrical operation commenced in 1919 and was completed by 1930, creating what was claimed at the time to be the world's largest electric suburban rail system. 1937 saw the introduction of the streamlined "Spirit of Progress" passenger train, with air conditioning and all steel carriage construction. Diesel power was introduced in 1951 with ten F-class diesel-electric shunting locomotives, followed by B-class mainline diesel-electric locomotives in 1952-3. A standard gauge line connecting to the New South Wales system was constructed in 1961 allowing through trains to operate between Melbourne and Sydney, Australia's two largest cities, for the first time. The last steam locomotive was withdrawn in 1972.

Demise

In May 1973 the Railways (Amendment) Act 1972 passed the management of the Railways from the Victorian Railways Commissioners to a Victorian Railways Board. In 1974 the Victorian Railways was rebranded as VicRail, but the royal blue and gold livery used on rolling stock was retained until 1981. [cite book
author = Railmac Publications
title = Australian Fleetbooks: V/Line locomotives
publisher = Kitchner Press
year = 1992
isbn = 0 949817 76 7
pages = page 5
]

A second change occurred in 1983, when VicRail was divided into two - the State Transport Authority taking responsibility for the provision of country rail and road, passenger and freight services; while the Metropolitan Transit Authority taking over suburban passenger operations.

The State Transport Authority traded under the V/Line name, while the Metropolitan Transit Authority used that name until the Public Transport Corporation ("The Met") was formed in 1989. Between 1996 and 1999 "V/Line" and "The Met" were privatised. "V/Line Passenger" was franchised to the National Express Group, who withdrew in 2002. The former "V/Line Freight" division was sold to Freight Victoria and is now owned by Pacific National, V/Line's former interstate rail freight infrastructure is controlled by the Australian Rail Track Corporation, and Connex Melbourne now operates the suburban railway network in Melbourne.

Other functions

From 1888 the Victorian Railways began to take on a role in tourism, operating the Victorian Government Tourist Bureaux. In 1911 the Victorian Railways Commissioners assumed responsibility for the State Coal Mine at Wonthaggi from the Mines Department.

The railways also operated the Newport Power Stations A and B, railway refreshment services, the Mount Buffalo Chalet guesthouse, road motor services for passengers, and motor transport services for goods. The railways also operated two tram routes in Melbourne - the 'Electric Street Railways'.

References

* [http://access.prov.vic.gov.au/public/component/daPublicBaseContainer?component=daViewAgency&breadcrumbPath=Home/Access%20the%20Collection/Browse%20The%20Collection/Agency%20Details&entityId=2876 Public Record Office Victoria - Victorian Railways]


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