Something I was not aware of and learnt about on the day was that construction of the railway line did not begin in Melbourne and slowly extend out as it was built. It was constructed in disconnected sections with the very last section completed being through to South Yarra and the city.
1879 - April 2nd Gippsland railway completed. This line was opened in sections, Morwell to Sale [June 1877], Oakleigh to Bunyip [October 1877], Moe to Morwell [December 1877], Bunyip to Moe [March 1878] South Yarra to Oakleigh [April 1879].
The long metal rod is a staff for single track railway working. When there is only a single track, you don't want trains crashing head on into each other, so therefore the metal rod is placed in a holder by one train crew at a point along the way. Until it is placed in the holder, no other train can enter that section of track. The next train in the opposite direction will collect the staff and place it in holder at the other end of the section to allow the next train to pass by. It works well if train crews follow the rules. Because this staff is notched and fits into something that prevents train movements if it is not in position, it is pretty well fool proof. An alternative is for a staff to be handed over from one train driver to another before they enter the single track section. It sounds foolproof, but it was not.
Wil Anderson, back then you could get a train to Maffra. I remember seeing the train shunting and goods yard area at Maffra. Trains still ran on those lines when I lived in Gippsland. I have heard that the Melbourne to Geelong modern diesel electric train now takes longer than it did when it was as steam train. I have made a careful examination of the Gippsland train table, and believe me, the Gippsland train is much quicker now than years ago. Much much quicker. I can't understand why the old one so many years ago was so slow.
The Gippsland line might have the honour of being the only Australian train line to be converted from electric to diesel. It was once a busy train line when briquettes were hauled from the Latrobe Valley coal mines to Melbourne for households and industry. As polluting briquettes were phased out, the line became much quieter and with the electric locomotives at the end of their lives and needing replacement, a decision was made to use diesel electric engines, so during the 1980s, the line was de-electrified. There should have been howls of protests, but I recall none.
A dated post on the South Gippsland line, http://highriser.blogspot.com.au/2010/02/buffalo-train-station-and-south.html