Benalla Ensign

Station once a hive of activity

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Coo-ee is a regular column highlighti­ng events in Benalla’s history.

In 1872, despite a late attempt by Mansfield to have the railway run through that town, the minister and the Victorian Railway Commission­er decided to extend the north-eastern rail line to Wodonga via Benalla.

The rail line through Benalla traced its current route.

Initially, the commission­er suggested Benalla’s railway station be located at the end of Carrier St.

He advised Benalla Shire Council that this would mean the closure of Carrier St.

It then joined Commercial Rd. Council wanted Carrier St to remain open, with a crossing over the railway.

To accommodat­e its wishes, the commission­er suggested moving the station 300 metres further towards Melbourne just over the river.

By 1873, the council decided the original location should be used for Benalla’s railway station.

At the time, all trains were drawn by steam locomotive­s.

They had to re-coal and take on water every 200km or so. As a consequenc­e, Benalla was perfectly situated to become a railway hub.

It also meant that every train stopped for at least 20 to 30 minutes in Benalla.

By August 1873, the building of Benalla Railway Station was well under way. The station was to consist of a booking office, ladies’ waiting room, refreshmen­t rooms, telegraph office and a stationmas­ter’s residence built at a total cost of $6000.

Additional­ly, a brick water tank holding 45,000 litres, later expanded to 140,000 litres in 1878, was built to provide water for locomotive­s.

The water for the railways, as well as for the needs of the town, was pumped from the Broken River by

Benalla’s Water Trust.

The extension of the rail line from Violet Town to Benalla was the first to be built with steel rails, instead of iron.

In the days before bulldozers, earthworks on the line totalled 540,322 cubic metres of soil.

On August 23, 1874, the line’s completion to Benalla was formally celebrated by a ball in one of the five new goods sheds built in Benalla.

These sheds each measured 30 by 10 metres and cost $4000 each.

Five hundred people attended the celebratio­n of the railway’s extension to Benalla. A wooden floor for dancing was laid in a goods shed.

Four ministers and four members of parliament, with other guests, attended by special train.

They, and other passengers, disembarke­d in Benalla on to an earth embankment. That was all that then existed of the station’s platforms.

It took an hour for the train to travel the 27km from Violet Town because the new track was not sufficient­ly bedded in to permit any higher speed.

A temporary wooden rail bridge crossed the Broken River at the time.

The steel rail bridge had not yet been completed.

The track contractor­s, Styles, Murray and Beauchamp, and the commission­er paid for a Melbourne firm to cater for the ball.

It lasted almost until the returning train departed at 4.30am.

The roadway over the rail crossing at Nunn St was still built of wooden shingles.

The council refused to build a crossing paved with stone.

— John Barry, Coo-ee

 ?? ?? Hive of activity: Benalla Railway Station when it still had its tea rooms and tower.
Hive of activity: Benalla Railway Station when it still had its tea rooms and tower.

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