Crowes railway line (Victoria)
The line opened between Colac and Beech Forest in March 1902, and was extended to Crowes in June 1911.
This brought the length of the line to 44 miles70.811 km
3,520.007 chains, making it the longest of the narrow gauge lines.
Ferguson to Crowes closed in December 1954, although Ferguson to Weeaproinah was reopened the following month. The remainder of the line closed in June 1962, it being the last of the narrow gauge lines to close. However, it was not the end of the narrow gauge, with part of the Gembrook line, Puffing Billy, being reopened as a preserved railway the following month.
The line started at Colac station, at 440'0.134 km
134.112 metres above sea level, heading south across flat land for for the first mile before starting to climb the Otway Ranges on grades of around 1 in 40 for four miles, reaching 891'271.577 metres
13.5 chains at Coram. From there it dropped down to Barongarook at 739'225.247 metres
11.197 chains, before another climb of about a mile1.609 km
80 chains, then a 9 mile mostly downhill run to the lowest point on the line at the Gellibrand River. A short rise took the line to Gellibrand station at 247 ft0.0753 km
75.286 metres. From there began an almost-continuous rise, mostly at 1 in 30, for three miles4.828 km
240 chains, then some level stretches for another two miles3.219 km
160 chains to Wimba, before another almost-continuous climb at 1 in 30 for the six miles9.656 km
480.001 chains to the top of the range at Beech Forest;, which as at 1747'0.532 km
532.486 metres above sea level was the highest station on the original lines.
The extension to Crowes ran roughly west from Beech Forest, along the ridge.
It first climbed to 1823'0.556 km
555.65 metres at Buchanan, but after that generally dropped more than climbed, until it arrived at Crowes at 1358'0.414 km
Locomotives and rolling stock
The line mostly shared locomotives and rolling stock with the other narrow gauge lines, but in 1926 the Crowes line was one of two lines (the other being the Walhalla line) to receive a Garratt locomotive. This locomotive was G41, and this locomotive spent its entire working life on this line. After closure of the truncated Walhalla line, its sister, G42, was transferred to the Crowes line also.
One of the main commodities carried on the Crowes line was timber from the Otway forests. In later years some of this traffic was in the form of pulpwood logs, and in the 1950s the Victorian Railways converted one of the NQR wagons into a specialised pulpwood wagon by removing the sides and installing upright bars to hold the timber. (This vehicle has been preserved on the Puffing Billy Railway.)
The Gembrook line closed in 1954, but was reopened as far as Belgrave for the Puffing Billy Preservation Society, until 1958 when this section was permanently closed for conversion to a broad gauge line.
The Society set about restoring the line beyond Belgrave, the first section of which reopened in July 1962. During this closure period, the Crowes line attracted many rail enthusiasts wanting to travel on the only remaining narrow gauge line, and to cater for this increase in passenger traffic, some of the open-sided NBH carriages built specially to cater for tourists on the Gembrook line were transferred to the Crowes line, this being the only time these carriages operated off the Gembrook line.
After closure, the locomotives and rolling stock were taken to Newport Workshops for storage, or in the case of the NBH carriages, for transfer back to the restored Puffing Billy Railway. G41, which was in very poor condition, was cut up for scrap. G42 was sold to the Puffing Billy Preservation Society in 1964, and was later restored to operating condition, reentering service in 2004. The last NA locomotive on the Crowes line was 14A. It was returned to service on the Puffing Billy Railway in 1965.
In May 1911, just prior to the opening of the Crowes extension, services comprised one service each way each day except Sunday. On Wednesdays and Fridays a mixed train departed Colac at 11 a.m. and arrived at Beech Forest at 2:15 p.m., departing there exactly an hour later and arriving back at Colac at 6:25 p.m. On Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays a mixed train departed Beech Forest at 6:20 a.m. and arrived at Colac at 9:59 a.m., leaving on the return journey from Colac at 1:30 p.m. and arriving at Beech Forest at 5:08 p.m. The Wednesday and Friday trains would stop at all stations (in some cases only if required) for passengers, but handled goods vehicles only at Gellibrand and the two ends of the line whereas the trains on other days would also handle goods vehicles at other stations, hence the longer journey time on those days.
In June 1911, with the opening of the extension, the 3:15 p.m. train from Beech Forest on Wednesdays and Fridays became a daily train, departing Crowes at 12:45 p.m., and the 1:30 p.m. train from Colac was altered to depart there at 3 p.m. and arrive at Beech Forest at 6:45 p.m. The available timetables don't show the down services, but likely the 11 a.m. train from Colac ran daily and continued through to Crowes, arriving there around 6 p.m. The Crowes locomotive and crew would take the train to Beech Forest, then take the down train back to Crowes, while a Colac locomotive and crew would run the daily train from Colac to Beech Forest then take the train from Crowes from Beech Forest to Colac. A locomotive and crew based at Beech Forest would run the 6:20 a.m. from Beech Forest to Colac and the 3 p.m. train from Colac to Beech Forest.
With the arrival of the must more powerful Garratt locomotive in 1926, services were cut back to trains starting from Colac and running through to Crowes, the crew staying there overnight, then bringing the train back from Crowes to Colac the next day.
From 1946, this two-day round trip ran weekly, although extra services were run as needed when potatoes were harvested.
In 1954, after closure of the line beyond Weeaproinah, the weekly round trip was completed in a day.
Colac was the end of the line from Melbourne when it opened in 1877, until the line was extended to Camperdown six years later. The broad-gauge passenger platform was on the up (north) side of the station, and, like Moe, the narrow gauge trains left from the goods yard area of the station on the down (south) side of the broad gauge yard.
Facilities included a shed and gantry crane covering both a narrow gauge and broad gauge siding to provide for transfer of good between trains of the two gauges. The narrow gauge had a siding serving a butter factory, and another serving a cattle yard.
Elliminyt, which was opened sometime after 1927, was a passenger-only stop on the outskirts of Colac, comprising nothing more than a nameboard to mark where trains would stop.
Like Elliminyt, Tulloh was a passenger-only stop comprising nothing more than a nameboard to mark where trains would stop.
Coram was a passenger-only stop comprising a nameboard and probably a passenger shelter. It was also at the summit of a four-mile-long climb averaging about 1 in 40 from Elliminyt.
Barongarook had a loop siding and a crossing loop, and could be used for crossing trains between 1913 and 1939.
It was near the foot of the downhill drop from Coram, and the line also climbed towards Crowes for a mile, before a downhill run to near Gellibrand.
Watson & Facey's Siding
Despite the name, Watson & Facey's Siding didn't have a siding, just a nameboard. However, there were other cases where the Victorian Railways declared a particular location to be a loading point for goods without an actual siding existing. This station served a timber mill, and it closed when the mill closed.
Birnam was another station that comprised nothing but a nameboard. It opened after the closure of Watson and Facey's Siding, as a replacement of that stop.
Kawarren opened as Love's River, but the name was changed three months after opening, with the original name being given to the next station. It had a single loop siding, which served a horse-operated tramway to a lime pit.
Lovat opened three months after the line, being called Love's River until the start of 1906, when it was renamed Lovat. The following year a loop siding was provided.
Gellibrand was the largest station between Colac and Beech Forest, being provided with a crossing loop and two loop sidings. It was also the lowest station on the line, being just south of the bridge over the Gellibrand River, which was the lowest point on the railway. From Gellibrand towards Beech Forest the line climbed at 1 in 30 for most of the next three miles.
Banool opened as Moorbanool, and the name was shortened in 1904. The station had a loop siding and a crossing road, although the latter was removed in 1923.
Wimba opened as Bunding, but was renamed before the end of 1902. It had no sidings, but did have a stock race and water tank, as well as a waiting shed and a staff house.
McDevitt had a nameboard and a passenger shelter.
Dinmont contained a passing loop and a water tank, with the latter surviving to modern times. It was originally named Weeaproinah, until that name was taken for the new station on the Crowes extension.
Ditchley was a passenger-only station in Beech Forest comprising a nameboard and perhaps a passenger shelter.
Beech Forest was the original terminus of the line. It is at the top of a 6⅓-mile climb at 1 in 30 from Wimba. Soon after opening, a balloon loop was built at the down end of the station (see diagram below), which allowed for turning an entire train around.
In 1911 the extension to Crowes was opened.
Buchanan was another passenger-only station in Beech Forest comprising a nameboard and perhaps a passenger shelter.
Ferguson had a loop siding and, from 1913, a second siding at the up end that went behind the passenger shelter. Ferguson was the end of the line after the section from Ferguson to Crowes was closed in December 1954, but just over a month later, the section to the next station, Weeaproinah, was reopened.
Weeaproinah was opened as McInnes. It had a single loop siding. It was closed in December 1954, but reopened the following month, making it the terminus until the line closed.
Kincaid had a single loop siding, apparently being opened originally for goods only, but in May 1912 was opened for passengers also. The siding was abolished in 1942.
Wyelangta had a loop siding or crossing loop, with dead-end sidings running off each end of the loop. These dead-end sidings were removed in April 1941
Stalker had a single loop siding.
Lavers Hill had a loop siding with a dead-end siding to a cattle race running off the up end of that. This siding was extended in 1945.
Crowes comprised a runaround loop and a loop siding serving a loading stage and a pig race. There was also a dead-end siding running off the main line at the up end that originally had an engine shed. The runaround loop was removed in 1941.
Crowes was the southernmost railway terminus on mainland Australia, but there was no town there.
The buffer stop at the end of the track was destroyed by a locomotive, and replaced in 1942. In 1988 this buffer stop was discovered to still exist, and in 1994 it was restored and a length of track laid to it, with an old NQ wagon placed on the track.
- Beech Forest layout
- ↑ Western District Working Timetable?, p.110, Victorian Railways, May 1911.
- ↑ Circular S.2779/11, Victorian Railways, Fri. 16th June, 1911Fri. June 16th, 1911
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Norman Houghton, Colac-Beech Forest-Crowes Railway Conservation Management Plan, Colac-Otway Shire, June 2003.
- ↑ Lucinda Ormonde, Celebrating railway’s centenary, The Colac Herald, Fri. 17th June, 2011Fri. June 17th, 2011.