Tuesday 10 April, 2012
Two of regional Victoria’s biggest cities, Geelong and Ballarat, today recognised a major milestone in their history, with their joining by rail 150 years ago.
On the 10th of April 1862, a train with 150 guests travelled from Melbourne, via Geelong, to Ballarat for the opening celebrations which were to ultimately transform the two gold rush towns into major cities.
Exactly 150 years later, almost 100 guests repeated the journey today with a special train leaving Geelong Station at 10.20am, arriving in Ballarat at about 12.25pm.
Ceremonies at both Geelong and Ballarat saw the unveiling of commemorative heritage panels by the city’s mayors and Parliamentary Secretary for Transport, Edward O’Donohue.
V/Line CEO Rob Barnett said that while both the Geelong and Ballarat lines struggled for patronage in their early days, both were now booming as Victoria enters a new era of rail travel.
"More than 13 million journeys are made on V/Line trains every year," he said.
"And while it’s been 1800 months since the opening of the Geelong to Ballarat line, the most recent of those months (March 2012), has been the busiest ever across the regional network, with almost 1.3 million passenger trips on V/Line trains," Mr Barnett said.
City of Ballarat Mayor Cr Mark Harris said trains played just as an important role in Ballarat’s future as it did to its past.
"The arrival of rail played a crucial role in the development of our city. To this day, the Ballarat railway station continues to provide an important transport link for the Ballarat community," Cr Harris said.
Originally known as Ballarat West Station, the building on platform two was the main station building until the later construction of the tower and platform one station master’s office that now serves as the main passenger area.
Ballarat Station, and the Geelong to Ballarat railway line, were today also added to the Engineers Australia Heritage Recognition Program, joining 158 other sites of engineering significance around Australia.
National Council of Engineers Australia councillor, Madeleine McManus FIE Aust, praised the early railway engineers.
"These inspiring community leaders were engineers who dreamt of a future where Victoria’s great cities would be connected by a rail network," Ms McManus said. “They surveyed the countryside, raised funds, and ultimately created some of the infrastructure still used today.”
Ms McManus said the impressive 436.5 metre Moorabool Viaduct, 12 kilometres north-west of Geelong, which still carries freight trains travelling between the two cities; and Ballarat Station, were two examples of 1860s engineering excellence.
While Ballarat trains today have a fast, direct route into Melbourne and no longer travel via Geelong, Mr O’Donohue said the Victorian Government has allocated $2 million to examine the feasibility of returning passenger trains between Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo (via Meredith, Maryborough & Castlemaine).
"The Government is delivering on its commitment to investigate the feasibility of passenger trains once again running cross-country between Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo – Victoria’s second, third and fourth biggest cities," Mr O’Donohue said.
Today’s special train also picked up dignitaries from Golden Plains Shire at Lethbridge Station and Moorabool Shire at Lal Lal Station as it travelled between Geelong and Ballarat.
Several towns along the line will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Geelong-Ballarat railway line this weekend (14-15 April), with events planned at Moorabool, Gheringhap, Bannockburn, Lethbridge, Meredith, Elaine, Lal Lal, Yendon, Navigators and Buninyong.
Mr Barnett invited residents to V/Line’s special Community Day at Ballarat Station this Saturday 14 April (10.30am-2pm) with activities for the whole family, including face painting, music, showbags, sausage sizzle and a jumping castle. Heritage tours of the station and a historical display will also be a feature of the day.