Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sounds like a plan

It started with a photo, just a simple photo of Moonee Ponds Junction and two hours later, I was almost late for work.

I used to often get lost when looking at something on the web. Now I am inclined to bookmark a link that looks interesting, and go there later.......weeks later sometimes, usually when I am cleaning up the bookmarks.

But this morning I went way out of control and went from the Moonee Ponds Junction photo to the history of trains to Sydney and Adelaide, to deb balls, to bloggers, to a morning out. Some questions arose. Answer them if you can. Of course I never do proper research and rely very much on my knowledgeable readers.

The Moonee Ponds Junction photo showed a tram and a single tram track through the junction. I can recall driving through there myself a while ago and being very puzzled about the single track and where the Moonee Ponds tram terminated. I remember thinking how does this all work, but of course no time to look when you are in a motor. Thankfully it is less complicated than it would have otherwise been if the Puckle Street tram was still runnning.

I pressed the Google and Street Directory street camera services into action. Ok, I am getting the idea now, but I need to go there and have a proper look. I like Puckle Street, so no doubt I will have a cup of coffee in the street too when I am there.

But wait, I need to buy a new shirt for niece's deb ball (Tradie's brother's daughter) on my day off this week. Poor niece, she has just been dumped by her boyfriend and her she has put on weight since her deb dress was first measured and it won't fit now. I digress. Might there be a place in MP that sells modern shirts for young people cheaply? I found a very nice and appropriate shirt last week elsewhere. I tried on the M size and it was too small. What? I tried on the L size and it was boderline, but I know if it is boderline in the shop, it won't be right. I examined the shirt. It had darts up the back, which pulled its width in where my width went out. Surely the XL will fit. Well it did, but it sat very badly and the sleeves were too long. Ok, give up. I am past wearing fitted shirts. I must drape.

Righto, I am going to Moonee Ponds Junction on my day off for coffee, to see how the trams work at the Junction and look for a shirt and I will have my camera in case any old signs or other photographic opportunities abound.

How do I get there? Tram? Tram? No, far to slow. I have other stuff to do on that day. I will get the train to Moonee Ponds. Now what line is that on? Broadmeadows, correctly now Cragieburn I think. I am scared already. Twenty minute service, fifteen minute trip. Fine.

Ah, while looking at a map. There is the Upfield line and later, past its terminus, it continues on to join the Cragieburn line. I like flexibility within the train system. But question one arises. Why does the Upfield line continue on and rejoin the main line north? Critically, is it a double track and could it be used as alternative for a north bound country train.

Actually, thinking about that line, is that the one the train to Sydney uses? The Cragieburn line? Better check. Yes. Why is there nothing on a Victorian website that tells me about the train to Sydney? Question two arises and please confirm what I found out. The train to Sydney is named the XPT and it is run by New South Wales Country Link service? While the train could perform to the specified standards of a Fast Train, the track does not permit the such speeds. The absurdity of not have a Very Fast Train from Melbourne Sydney goes on and on.

Hmmm, what about the train to Adelaide. Which way does that go? I didn't know. I can now tell you now it goes via Geelong and Ararat and onto Adelaide. It is a run by a private company. I did not know this! Great Southern Railway. Ah, this is the very smart modern railway that we see when we drive to see our friend in the Western District. It in fact goes through his town but does not stop. Nothing else stops there either. But I do recall seeing a bit of railway station there.

Now I am remembering some names. Southern Aurora to Sydney. Vinelander to Mildura. But what was the Adelaide train called? Ah yeah, The Overland. The romantic names have all gone and we are left with XPT for the train to Sydney, there isn't a passenger service to Mildura and Great Southern Railway rather overates the trip. Well, some states have good names for trains, but not Victoria.

Question three arises. Why does the train to Adelaide head south west to Geelong when it needs to head north west to Ballarat to go in the direction of Adelaide? Am I stupid? Have I misread something? Are my map skills so bad? But wait. I am seeing the train go nor north east at one point. No wonder everyone drives or flies to Adelaide.

Now, I best be on the wary of any bearded blokes hanging around Moonee Ponds, especially if they have a sketch pad and a pencil.


  1. You're still using logic from back in the day when trains ran on train lines and every town had a station.

  2. Upfield line north of Gowrie is single track. I don't think it's ever used to divert trains off the Craigieburn line.

    The trains to Sydney use a separate standard gauge line via Sunshine, Albion, then from Jacana northwards parallel to the Craigieburn/Seymour broad gauge line. The same reason the Adelaide train goes via Geelong; that's the way the standard gauge tracks go to Adelaide.

    XPT is not VFT. Regional Fast Rail (V/Locity) is also not VFT. The VFT concept was more like a much faster TGV or bullet-type train.

    I have a feeling the XPT is sometimes called the Sydney Express/Melbourne Express.

  3. Back in 1968 to 1972 I used to have travel on the Southern Aurora regularly for work departing Sydney Central around 8.30pm, from memory, and disembarking at Albury around 6am the next morning. I used to fly back to Sydney from Wodonga Airport mid morning and go straight back to the office.

  4. In answer to all three questions, I've no idea. However, I've noticed that medium sized shirts are no longer as large as they used to be when I was younger too. Must be the manufacturers skimping on the material.

  5. Yep, that's a sketch pad I'm toting Shirl, but on the other hand that's not a pencil in my pocket, I'm just pleased to see you.

    (And if you're a pedestrian trying to get through the M. Ponds junction relying on the lights, you'll need to take a cut lunch and a copy of 'War and Peace'.)

  6. Q1. As far as I know the portion of the line between Upfield and Somerton on the main North East line has mostly been for goods trains, most notably the Ford train that used to run between Campbelfield and Geelong, (the ford plant is right next to Upfield station). Again as far as I know the only time passenger trains have used this connection is when there have been disruptions to the line via Essendon and Broadmeadows.

    Q2. The XPT is run by Countrylink the NSW government regional public transport operator. As to how it came to run in Victoria, back in the early 90's the Victorian government was no longer interested in maintaining the joint service with NSW of the then current trains the Sydney/Melbourne Express and inter capital daylight(the former being the remnant and direct descendant of the Southern Aurora and Spirit of Progress since the mid 80's), but still desired to maintain a rail service between the two states. In order to do this the Victorian Government actually paid for an extra pair of locomotives and set of carriages for the service, and continues to pay a subsidy for the extension of the XPT service south of Albury.

    Q3. You are not stupid, although the line goes from Geelong to Ararat, and not Ballarat(The Geelong - Ballarat line is mostly used by grain trains unloading grain at Geelong from the north west of the state and the container train to/from Mildura). When the Adelaide - Melbourne line was converted from broad gauge to standard gauge in the mid 90s this route was chosen for two main reasons. The first was that the line avoided the steep grades between Bacchus Marsh and Ballarat, the second is that it reduced interaction with the broad gauge services to Ballarat. The standard gauge line runs from Tottenham through Brooklyn to Newport and then runs parallel to the existing broad gauge tracks to North Geelong.

  7. I should mention that the line beyond Upfield is no longer in use. And any diversions of V/Line trains would go via the Albion and Jacana line which has both broad and standard gauge tracks.

  8. I'm a dinosaur Jayne. But I don't really think every little town has to have a train. But anything to beat up the gov with about public transport, I will jump on. Gotta keep the pressure happening.

    Oh no Daniel. It is still all about gauges. What a total screw up those colonialists made. It certainly isn't a VFT when the trip takes longer than it does to drive in a car. Mostly old steam train alignments it would seem. If the track was improved, up to a couple of hours could be knocked off the trip I understand. There is a ranty post in this gauge thingie.

    Train one way, plane back Victor. I guess I can see why. You would travel at night and (try to)sleep and then be back for work in the morning.

    Quite so Brian. Although I do make an allowance for the skimping by manufacturers.

    No witty repartee comes immediately to my mind LS. When we took Little Jo to Albert Park Lake last week, we crossed Kingsway/Queens Road in a legal manner. It took four and half minutes. We walked home via Albert Road, much less waiting. Victor Rhodes is not very pedestrian friendly. People on foot muck up the flow of cars.

  9. Ah, you are back Ben. Or maybe you have a laptop with you.

    Q1 Ok.

    Q2 Makes sense really for one company to operate it. Nice bit of history there. Early nineties would mean Kennett year I guess.

    Q3 Yes, train to Adelaide goes via Ararat, not Ballarat. I worked that out. Steep grades are an impediment to modern trains? I am thinking cost. If it was a separate line for the Adelaide train to go via Ballarat, they would not have interact. Cost again I suppose. It really must add considerable time to the trip to go via Geelong. It just seems so indirect.

    Additional comment Ben, I hope they keep the reservation at least.

  10. Anonymous2:12 am

    Hi Andrew

    Channel Ten News Sydney had a special on Sydney's Transport Woes which featured old footage of the Sydney trams, i thought you might like to look at. Go to and do a search on Sydney Transport Special to watch the video the old trams start at 3.49 to 5.10.

  11. Hi Anon. What a nice comment and I found the story easily because of your precise directions and the footage was great. The whole story was interesting enough, but the footage especially good. Thanks heaps.