Sunday, November 10, 2013

Walking the Outer Circle Day 1

Yes, I recall most of you wanted me to walk Merri Creek, but I will leave that for when I have more time, like a few weeks off work. Instead I have began to walk the old Outer Circle Railway Line.

The Outer Circle opened in 1891 but low passenger numbers had the first part closing in 1894, just a mere two years later. Sections were closed and re-opened over the years. The length of the line was nearly 17 kilometres (I am going to walk that far? Not in one day, let me tell you). Let's have a look at the map.

This line began at Fairfield Park, now Fairfield and for this post I walked from Fairfield to East Kew, about 4km. The section from East Camberwell to just past Norwood, now Ashburton, is still in use and is connected to the city lines at Camberwell.

The line ends at Alamein Station, just south of Norwood (Ashburton) with nothing remaining between there and the Pakenham Cranbourne lines where the line joined near Hughesdale Station a little to the west of Oakleigh Station.

Golf Links Station is now Willison Station, Hartwell Hill just Hartwell, Hartwell is now Burwood Station and Waverley Road now East Malvern.

 This dog at Fairfield Station may or may not be called Fido. More on him later.

Here is where the Outer Circle line branched off what is now the Hurstbridge line. There is plenty of bluestone track bedding material around.

It is not too often where trees branches meet in the middle of a street. This looked to be a lovely street, probably Hanslope Avenue.

I think the train ran along the lower section here, as there was ballast there but it could have fallen there from the the banked area.

A decision had to made, cross the using the path or walk along a narrow path through long grass. I grew up in the country so I am used to snakes, and damn well scared of them. I wrongly chose the main path.

I realised my error crossed back to the other side and, treading heavily to scare any Joe Blakes away and staying very alert, I marched along the narrow foot track through the long grass.

You can see the towers of Willsmere in the distance. It is now part of a residential development but was once the Kew Mental Assylum. I am roughly where Fullham Grange Station was located. No evidence here.

Sorry about a bit of my hand and I am only including this to have a go at idiots on the road. He stopped over the pedestrian crossing at the red turn arrow in Grange Road and was texting on his phone, quite oblivious to me glaring at him as I am manoeuvred around his car, but his female companion wasn't and just to scare them a bit, I turned back around and snapped their car. Where the back of his car is, is about where the front of his car should be. The car behind had to give him a blast to alert him to the green arrow.

Now, how I wish I had reread this post of mine before I began the walk. I could have taken a photo from the same spot and shown you that the rail line has been removed from the intersection and as you can see comparing the photos the gateway is more overgrown now but the railway staunchion is still there at the old Amcor paper manufacturing site which will become smart apartments soon. The paper factory, back then called Australia Paper Mills I think, built the factory in this location to make use of a remain section of the Outer Circle line, using it as freight siding. The rails were only removed in about 2005 as per Ben's comment on the old post. Also Ben made reference to Fido watching over the Fairfield signal box, and I guess he was referring to the dog sculpture in my first photo. Some years later, his comment makes sense.

This road with a lane in each direction is absurdly named Chandler Highway. Believe me, it is no highway and I can't believe I used my usual avoidance of people in photos skill, to do the same for cars. It is nearly a constant stream in both directions.

The paper mill is on the right and the train line would have left there about where the tree is above the dark car to head towards the bridge.

The mighty Yarra River. Sorry about the colour, but we like it that way. Well, we are used to it anyway. The water quality is not too bad but the Yarra carries a lot of sediment. I think back to watching the Tyne River in the north of England, and what a contrast between two rivers of similar width. The Tyne is a very fast flowing river, while the Yarra lazes along.

Cars, trucks, semi trailers, concrete mixers all use this bridge, the only river crossing for about two kms to the west and three kms to the east. There is one lane in each direction. The Chandler Highway Bridge was built for the Outer Circle train but once the railway line closed, it was converted for cars and Chandler Highway was constructed. The cry for a new and wider bridge to replace this congestion point is often heard, but in my experience, it will only move the congestion point to somewhere else.

The bridge had a walkway added at some point. I looked over the edge of the bridge and suffered a very sharp stab of acrophobia. (Grace is clutching her pearls at this point)

I tried to rest the camera on the edge of the safety railing but the vibration from cars and trucks was making it a most unsteady platform. I am really not enjoying my walk at this point.

Once over the bridge, might this be evidence of the railway line? Probably not.

Cars were flying past me to the right and cars flying under me on the Eastern Freeway. I am hot and the traffic noise is annoying me. This is not a pleasant walk.

After a little indecision as there were two directions I could have gone, I sat down for a rest and a drink of water and checked google maps on my phone. I am going in the correct direction. Most of the traffic had turned into Princess Street and I am now in the much quieter Earl Street. It's a bit of steep slope for a train, but who knows what earthworks have been done since the line closed.

Onwards and upwards. There were many magpies around. I hope I don't get swooped but I think it is too late in the breeding season.

I've only ever seen Willsmere from a distance. I don't think it is a place that welcomes the great unwashed, in spite of its history as a mental assylum.

I forgot to mention earlier that most of where the disused part of the Outer Circle line is now a linear park, similar to the way the Inner Circle line was mostly turned into parkland.

The parkland is wide here, at the site of Willsmere Station.

 Look, evidence, lots of bluestone track ballast.

This is clearly a railway embankment.

There was not much more to see until I arrived at East Kew, or as some call it Far Kew (local joke for local people). This is clearly a train bridge, where the train goes underneath. Might this old building be something to do with the train?

I found a cafe and although I was hungry, must remember to take nibbles with me on walks as well as water, I sat down at an outdoor table in the shade for an iced coffee. That was enough for the day and I caught the North Balwyn tram back to town and then another home. On the corner of Harp Road is the Harp of Erin Hotel, hence the harp sculpture.

I think the building behind the big P was the Kew East Post Office.

As the hill rises in the distance to the left, our friend from St Kilda, Dame M, lies in the family crypt at Kew Cemetery. She would have turned 88 this year, had she lived. Hard to believe she died 6 years ago. Although she wanted to go into the family crypt, I am not sure that a party girl such as she was should really be among the staid and good burghers of Kew.

Well, there was very little evidence of the old railway line in this section. I wonder how much local people know about it. They probably don't give it much thought.


  1. Would there be a case for having a line there now?

    1. Not really Victor. The line goes through very middle class areas with large houses on big blocks. The population density isn't there. I will keep this in mind as I continue the walk.

  2. Interesting. I work near Camberwell station at the moment and often walk down to the old track near East Camberwell station at lunchtime - there is a photo board about the old bridge at Canterbury Road. And the trail goes through some deep cuts. Will be interested to see the rest of the walk.

    1. Katya, I have actually done that part of the walk too now, to East Camberwell. Not much time this week, so not sure when I will get to post it. Posts like that take time with lots of detail checking.

  3. " very little evidence of the old railway line in this section. I wonder how much local people know about it."

    Firstly I think people really do forget, and quickly. If a home is pulled down and villa units or flats built instead, I guarantee within a year you won't be able to describe the old house any more.

    Secondly there were vested interests in ruining the public transport system. No-one is going to be reminded of what the community lost.

    1. Hels, I know. Half a block of buildings has just been pulled down in Hawksburn and I can't remember what was there. I checked Street View to be reminded.

      The line was built when private companies owned the railways. It was speculative and it was hoped it would aid developers of housing estates.

  4. I learn bits about Melbourne that I would have never known reading your blog.

    1. Don't worry Merle, I am learning things I never knew about.

  5. "...not a pleasant walk...", but your photos are worth the trip, so thanks for that. I love that big dog, is he wood or metal? Looks like wood.
    I think the Yarra should be renamed Cocoa River.

    1. River, it improved once I was away from the traffic. Yes, Fido is wood and is huge.

      The Yarra does look pretty bad. I don't think it is always that bad.

  6. The Murray is pretty murky too! Great history lesson Andrew, loving it.

    1. More of a grey colour isn't it Fen. Where is there a river that is blue?

  7. You wouldn't have wanted to walk 4 kms here today Andrew..37.2C not pleasant. I did enjoy your walk apart from from the obvious spot :)) can't believe you were balancing your camera on the railing!!

    1. You are right Grace. I simply would not have walked in such heat.

  8. I love that picture of the Harp of Erin Hotel. How awesome. I've never seen anything like that before.

    1. Keith, I had seen the harp before and it was long time ago. I was a bit surprised to see it was still there.