Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Geelong to Ballarat: All Aboard!

It's exactly 150 years today since the railway reached the Victorian gold mining town of Ballarat, on 10 April 1862.

Those were heady days for Ballarat: only 11 years since gold was discovered, creating a bustling settlement from nothing; and only eight years since the Eureka Stockade armed rebellion against the colonial authorities.

Nowadays there's a line directly linking Ballarat to Melbourne, but in 1862 the Ballarat route ran through Geelong, itself a busy port made busier by the gold rush.

It's many years since passenger services ran along the Geelong-Ballarat line, which still carries freight. But today, to mark the historic occasion, a special heritage train carried assorted local dignitaries, toffs and bigwigs (along with your humble correspondent) between the two regional cities to mark the occasion.

Here's a glimpse of what I saw on the way:

1. Here's our special train waiting at Geelong station, diesel-hauled but with early 20th century carriages:


2. Here's the interior of one of the second-class compartments. As attractive as it is, it struck me that there must have been a hell of a lot of maintenance required in those days for all the timber, both inside and outside the carriages:


3. There were a number of stations along the line in its passenger days, all solid constructions made of bluestone. Here's a glimpse of the station at Bannockburn, which I caught as the train sped past:


4. At a couple of stations along the way, the local government dignitaries disembarked in order to cut a ceremonial ribbon. Here they are using the Good Scissors at Lethbridge Station:


5. At our next stop, Lal Lal Station, I spotted this gent trying to influence the 19th century planning process. The inhabitants of Buninyong agitated for a station on the line, but to no avail:


6. Also at Lal Lal was this rather convincing 19th century couple. Station ghosts, perhaps?


7. Finally, about two hours after our departure from Geelong, we pulled into the impressive Ballarat Station. The grand tower dates from 1891:


8. Alighting, we were greeted by much pomp and ceremony, including catering, speeches, the unveiling of a commemorative plaque and the repertoire of this brass band. I caught a spot of Rule Britannia in there at one point...


If you're interested in taking this journey yourself, the Australian Railway Historical Society is operating a similar train from Melbourne via Geelong to Ballarat on Saturday 14 April 2012. More information is available at this link.

Disclosure time... On this trip I travelled courtesy of V/Line.