Tuesday, 10 November 2015

St Kilda: Once was a station

St Kilda Railway Station closed in 1987, and like the Port Melbourne Line was converted to light rail and absorbed into Melbourne's tram network. So what became of the former railway station? Well, I made it my mission to find out.

St Kilda Station today is part of Yarra Trams Route 96 line to St Kilda Beach. Photo 2015.

Opened in 1857 as the terminal for both the Melbourne and Hobson's Bay Railway and the St Kilda and Brighton Railway companies, St Kilda was at one time the second busiest railway station in Melbourne. Being the oldest surviving railway station in Victoria, and clearly marked as stop 132 on Yarra Trams Route 96, it should be pretty easy to find.

This is what St Kilda Railway Station looks like in 2015, so heavily redeveloped it doesn't look like a station at all.

Stepping off the tram at stop 132 on the corner of Canterbury Road and Fitzroy Street however, finding the railway station isn't as easy as I'd imagined. The former railway station terminal has been so heavily redeveloped since closing in 1987, that it's hard to discern what it must have looked like back in the day that this was Melbourne's second busiest railway station. With no signage, apart from the tram stop where the tram line emerges from the former railway right-of-way to join Fitzroy Street, it takes a bit of detective work to piece together the clues that prove that this was once a railway station.

The former station building turned out to be the most disappointing feature of St Kilda's foreshore, photo 2015.

Apart from a section of former platform awning that has been painted black to blend in with a cafe shopfront, there is really nothing 'rail-roady' about the former station at all, and I couldn't help but feel disappointed that I'd made my family hop off the tram to take a closer look. So as they trudged back towards the tram stop, I tried to remind myself that the building actually held some significant historical significance. In 1859, the St Kilda and Brighton Railway Company built a cross country line from here to Chapel Street Station, (later renamed Windsor), that by 1861 had reached Brighton Beach on the shores of Port Phillip Bay. However, when the competing Melbourne and Suburban Railway Company extended their line across the Yarra River to connect with Chapel Street Station in 1860, the new line to the city proved more popular. By 1862 the St Kilda to Brighton Line had fallen into disuse, and the rails between St Kilda Station and Chapel Street were finally removed in 1867. Today Windsor and Brighton Beach stations are part of Metro Trains Sandringham Line.

As far as railway adventures go, St Kilda Station turned out to be a disappointment. Not even the cafe was open at the time for a cup of coffee. Fortunately, what the former station lacked in appeal, the bayside suburb of St Kilda more than made up for. St Kilda Pier, the historic St Kilda Sea Baths, the Art Deco Palais Theatre and Melbourne's Luna Park are all just a short walk along the boulevard.

St Kilda Pier is just one of the many highlights of the St Kilda Foreshore. Photo taken July 2015.

St Kilda is just one of the many places I visit in my book Train Tripping Around Melbourne. Over 3 days in July 2015 I travelled a total of 365 km by train and tram in search of some of the city's most attractive locations, and St Kilda's foreshore turned out to be one of the absolute highlights. My window-seat guide to exploring Melbourne from the window of a train will turn your visit into a real railway adventure of your own.

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