Australia’s First Steam Railway
As a member of the building industry, I would like to show our respect, even if just for a few moments, by remembering those that came before us.
On 12 September 1854, Australia’s first steam railway line was opened in Melbourne. Built by Hobsons Bay Railway Company, the 4km track went from Flinders Street Station to Sandridge, now known as Port Melbourne. With a new engine made especially for this route-it would be seen as one of many outstanding engineering achievements built in Australia upon its release. After the first rail line was built, many other rail networks quickly spread across Australia.
How did Melbourne get the first steam rail line?
In 1853, the Mayor of Melbourne’s hosted an event to plan Australia’s first steam rail line. The meeting attracted more than 300 people who were interested in investing £50 towards the project at its start and witnessed plans being laid for both stations as well as tracks along which these would be built- all within one year. The construction of this rail line was a life-changing event for many people in Melbourne. Not only did it provide faster transport between ports and cities, but also enabled more efficient shipping routes that are still used today.
Who Built The Trains?
An English factory was engaged to produce the steam engines required for the line. However, progress on the line moved so quickly the English trains were not ready in time. A local company was asked at short notice and an engine was built in just 10 weeks. The English engines eventually arrived in 1855 and were named the Melbourne, Sandridge, Yarra and Victoria.
The line’s original engineer and designer, Englishman William Snell Chauncy had to resign in March 1854 after producing substandard work on this railway pier at Sandridge. He was replaced by another Englishman named James Moore who completed it just before opening day of 12 September 1855.
Opening of the line
The Australian rail line that became the first ever to open in Australia was an occasion of much pomp and circumstance. The event saw hundreds flock for its 12pm departure from Flinders Street Station, with many waiting hours before hand so they could be among those lucky enough get on board!
It is incredible to think that 300 people were issued with invitations and had the opportunity for a once-in -a life time experience. To attend an event like this was truly special.
The many well known Melburnians who attended include: The Mayor of Victoria Sir Charles Hotham and other notable personalities.
Although the Flinders Street to Sandridge line was the first steam railway in Australia, the Goolwa to Pt. Elliot railway in South Australia was the first passenger line in the country when it opened on 1 May 1854, however it was a horse-drawn service.
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