As the terminus of the first passenger railway
constructed in Victoria,
St Kilda Railway Station is the oldest surviving railway station in Victoria.
In fact, of the three station buildings surviving from this very early period of
rail travel in Victoria,
and Werribee are the others), it is the most complete. It also has a train
hall, one of only three in Victoria
and Ballarat). The rail link to the centre of Melbourne
stimulated St Kilda’s status and development from
the 1850s as a salubrious and fashionable resort and suburb.
The colonial gentry and business class, who
had settled at St Kilda from the first CrownLand
sale of 1842, had sought relief from the city with St
Kilda’s fresh air, sea baths and pleasant vistas, only a comfortable
carriage journey away.
From 1844 there were daily coach services to
in the morning, returning to St Kilda in the evening, but reversed on Sundays
for day trippers. In July 1851, the publican of the Royal Hotel (10)
initiated the first frequent public horse-drawn omnibus service to St Kilda from
the city. In 1845, each resident of St Kilda and of the Melbourne Corporation
had donated £25 towards the making of the St Kilda Road.
But the St Kilda Road
had problems. The Illustrated Journal of Australasia,
declared: that the
road “gives accommodation to comparatively few persons, has involved long
delays, cost immense sums for cutting and occasioned no end of disputes beside
the evil of a thronged road”. William Strutt’s
remarkable and famous picture Bushrangers on the St Kilda Road depicts
his impression only a few hours after he visited the scene of a bushranger
hold-up in October 1852.
In August 1852, the Melbourne and Hobson’s Bay
Railway Company was formed to construct a line from Melbourne
to Sandridge (Port Melbourne), replacing Wilbraham
Frederick Evelyn Liardet’s first carriage service
which had operated from December 1840. The company’s healthy eight per cent
dividend in its first year encouraged it to also construct a branch line to St
James Kearney’s map of 1855 already shows the
proposed station beside a spectacular housing estate to be built on the southern
end of Albert Park. Streets radiate from Park Crescent,
in the Regency manner, like a spider’s web. Fitzroy Street
is depicted in its full 60 metre proposed width, as a true extension of St Kilda Road
to the sea.
Tenders were called for earthworks and
buildings on 3 November 1856
and the line opened on 13 May 1857
with a banquet in the station. Engine house and carriage shed were built later
that year. The designer of the station building is not known. James Blackburn
architect and engineer was the company’s designer, but on his death in 1854, he
was replaced by less known William Eldon.
James Kearney’s plan for area around St Kilda Station, 1855
The new station did not impress the
Illustrated Journal of Australasia
:’...( it) has little to recommend it on
architectural grounds. It is chiefly interesting as one of the principle
vomitories of the city of Melbourne’.
Its western embankment (now Canterbury Road)
was contained by a bluestone retaining wall some three metres high. It housed
booking office, refreshment rooms, station master’s residence, store,
staff-rooms and toilets.
These first railways were an expensive form of
transport and so the line confirmed the prestige of St Kilda, Gillian Upton
observes. The line was planned for these affluent local commuters, but floods
of weekend tourists descended to the beach by train; about 100,000 travelled
each month. The platform was doubled in length within the year. The station was
a link to the Brighton
omnibus, which left from its forecourt. This faced the sea, as its destination,
rather than commercial Fitzroy Street.
St Kilda Railway Station, c.1864
Original Plans and Elevations for St Kilda Railway Station, 1856
The line’s Enabling Act planned it to extend
to the Barkly and Grey Streets corner, but once locals noticed construction
extending right into Fitzroy Street,
and cutting at Grey Street,
they protested. The line already extended 20 metres into Fitzroy Street,
causing the Council to reduce the width of Fitzroy Street
to 40 metres. In 1858, the Victorian parliament again considered extending the
line south to the corner of Grey and Barkly Streets through a tunnel. The
Council view that this would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the town’
prevailed and the proposal was abandoned. It was revived in 1883, when a
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways recommended extension of the line
through Elwood to Middle Brighton.
Gillian Upton recounts that one train did
attempt to climb to Barkly Street
in the 1920s, jumping the tracks into mid-Fitzroy Street. To the north of the
train shed was the coal yard, necessary to fuel the locomotives. Fred Wimpole,
licensee of the GeorgeHotel
opposite, also secured the licence for the large refreshment room at the station
in 1874, within a year of him buying the hotel.
In 1859, shareholders of the Melbourne &
Hobson’s Bay Railway Company voted to pay £5,000 to the Brighton & St Kilda
Railway Company to construct a loop line extension around to Windsor
station. This line was constructed over the Albert Park swamp, past the end of
the lake, on an embankment and timber viaduct then parallel to Union Street,
by the end of the year. By the end of 1861, it had extended to BrightonBeach.
It is depicted on Cox’s map of 1866. The loop, such an ambitious, costly folly
for a private enterprise, was closed 11 months later, when the Richmond
line was extended to Windsor
by another company, and it was dismantled in 1867.
Cox's plan for extension of railway line to
The Fitzroy Street
scene which met the eager tourists is described by the Victorian Tourists’
Guide of 1895:
from this fashionable resort trains - over 60 on every week day - run at
frequent intervals from .
The service is slightly altered on Saturdays and on Sundays 39 trains travel
each way..... On leaving the St Kilda station, turn to the right down a wide
thoroughfare flanked with pleasant residences, most of which are to be
approached through well kept gardens, leads direct to the sea-beach. Here on
any fine day, and particularly on any fine Sunday, may be witnessed all those
agreeable sights associated with a fashionable watering place, and whilst on
shady balconies, individuals may be seen reclining in all the lazy
luxuriousness of dolce far
In July 1878 the private railways including
the (then) Hobson’s Bay United Railway were acquired by the Victorian
government. Passenger numbers declined by 23 percent when
electric tramways opened to Brighton Road
(1888) and to the Esplanade (1891). The
Victorian Railways Department fought back by installing its own electric tramway
between St Kilda Station and Brighton
(via Grey Street,
Barkley, Ormond Esplanade and St Kilda Street)
in 1906, duplicated in 1913. In 1907, the station was substantially renovated.
The portico was demolished and a verandah and new refreshment room built facing
The Station Master’s residence was commandeered as a post and telegraph office.
The railway line was electrified in 1919. In
the 1920s it was the second busiest station in Victoria
after Flinders Street.
Over 1957-59, the Railways tram was closed due to competition from motor traffic
(68% increase between 1947-51), leading to the decline of the station and of St
Kilda itself: “... a sort of Aussie Cannes, with a better beach, has become
tawdry, its one guinea now cheap at half the price,” explained the novelist Hal
Porter from his vantage point as manager of the George.
Gradually the station facilities closed: the
refreshment rooms (1969), the post office (1972), the booking hall and ladies
waiting room (1976), and in 1981 services on the line were reduced. Sunday
trains ended. In January 1983, the St Kilda line was converted to a tram route,
initially known as ‘light rail’. In 1989, several fires damaged the
timber station building and by December, the roof had been destroyed.
In 1996, Donleavy
Fitzpatrick envisaged a tiny vineyard with a cheese store on the ‘station site’.
By 2002, Metropol Apartments at 60 & 64 Fitzroy Street
architects) rose from the station forecourt site, terminating the successful
series of townhouses (22). Both projects were shepherded through the
development process by SJB Planners. An insulting attempt by the developers to
name the tram stop at the station ‘Metropol’ was
former chair of Heritage Victoria
declared that the Metropol is ‘not only right for
the current market, but points the way to the sort of developments we’ll be
seeing more of in the future. It is built around a public transport hub, it has
a community focus and it injects interest and liveliness into the area and it
combines living and retail’.
Judith Raphael. Melbourne’s
Grand Boulevard.The Story of St Kilda Road.State Library of Victoria.Melbourne 2000, pp1-15.
J.B..The History of St Kilda
from its Settlement to a City and After.1840 to 1980.The
1931. pp 43, 66-70 & 78.
Cox.Plan of Melbourne
Journal of Australasia.
January-June 1857. Vol 2, p 281.
Railways to’62. Victorian Railways Public Relations and
1962, pp 3 & 47.
Plan of Melbourne
Hal.The Paper Chase. Angus
& Robertson. Melbourne1966. p232.
Pty.Ltd.St Kilda Railway Station.
Conservation Analysis.South Yarra,
The Argus.21 November
The George.St Kilda
Life and Times.VenusBay
Richmond 2001. pp 12, 18, 19, 42 & 124.
Strutt. Bushrangers on the
St Kilda Road.
1852. Held: The
of Art. The