Monday, 16 November 2015

Southern Cross: Melbourne's modern railway masterpiece

Southern Cross Station stands on the corner of Collins and Spencer Streets in Victoria's capital of Melbourne and was opened in time for the city's hosting of the 2006 Commonwealth Games. To a seasoned railway traveller that is more accustomed to exploring historic station buildings dating back to the early 1900's, stepping into Southern Cross Station at first feels like I've made a wrong turn and arrived at the airport, that is until I see the all trains lined up beneath the imposing glass canopy.

Southern Cross Station as seen from Spencer Street on a chilly July morning in 2015.

Southern Cross Station stands alongside Spencer Street and occupies an entire city block between Collins Street and LaTrobe Street. It also stands on the site of the former Spencer Street Station that first opened in 1859, and just as in the olden days, this is still Melbourne's terminal for all country and interstate train services.

The large booking office has an entire floor of shops and eateries above it. Photo July 2015.

Inside the impressive steel and glass structure, a large concourse surrounds the many platforms that are served by Metro Trains suburban services and V/Line country services to every corner of the state. Collecting my ticket from the ticket counter on what was a cold winter's morning, I made my way up the escalators to the food court that overlooks the concourse for a hot breakfast and quite possibly the best train watching seat in Australia.

The food court on the mezzanine floor overlooking Southern Cross is possibly the best train watching location in the country!

The platforms at Southern Cross Station are unique to most other railway stations in Australia in that they each have an A and B designation, meaning that two trains can be stationed at the one platform. As such, the 8 main platforms are quite long, stretching beyond the overpass that can be seen in the distance of the above photo that leads to nearby Etihad Stadium.

A Velocity train to the left stands beside a V/Line locomotive hauled passenger train that has just arrived. July 2015.

V/Line is Australia's largest regional transport operator and still maintain a fleet of locomotive hauled passenger carriages for trains headed to Bairnsdale, Shepparton, Albury, Swan Hill and the destination that I was headed to, Warrnambool. For many shorter routes to major regional cities in the state such as Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and Echuca, high speed Velocity diesel railcar sets have revolutionized train travel within the state. Along with XPT trains running interstate between Melbourne and Sydney, and Great Southern Rail's The Overland train between Melbourne and Adelaide, Southern Cross Station is a veritable train traveller's paradise.

The 7.20 am Warrnambool service ready to depart Southern Cross Station, Tues 7th July, 2015.

Reminding myself that I had a train to catch, I made my way to platform 4B to board the 7.20 am to Warrnambool, some 267 km south west of Melbourne and about as far south as I could travel by train in Victoria without crossing the border into South Australia. Southern Cross Station may be as historic as the hoverboard from Back To The Future, but it is spacious, clean and packed with that sense of excitement you get when you're about to embark on a train journey. As far as railway stations are concerned, it is the equal of Europe's finest. It is also the starting point for day two of my 3 day railway adventure around greater Melbourne. If you enjoyed reading this post, then my book Train Tripping Around Melbourne is filled with more interesting facts, figures and funny stories I collected while spending 3 days riding trains around Melbourne that are waiting to guide you on a real life railway adventure of your own.

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