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Crowes railway line (Victoria)

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Colac

Elliminyt

Tulloh

Coram

Barongarook

Watson and Facey's Siding

Birnam

Kawarren

Lovat

Gellibrand

Banool

Wimba

McDevitt

Dinmont

Ditchley

Beech Forest

Buchanan

Ferguson

Weeaproinah

Wyelangta

Stalker

Lavers Hill

Crowes

The Crowes railway line was a narrow-gauge railway line in the Otway Ranges in Victoria, one of four narrow gauge lines built and operated by the Victorian Railways

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.

Contents

Line description

The line started at Colac station, at 440'0.134 km
0.0833 miles
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
296.999 yards
594.001 cubits
13.5 chains
at Coram. From there it dropped down to Barongarook at 739'225.247 metres
246.333 yards
492.667 cubits
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
0.0468 miles
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
0.331 miles
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
0.345 miles
555.65 metres
at Buchanan, but after that generally dropped more than climbed, until it arrived at Crowes at 1358'0.414 km
0.257 miles
413.918 metres
.

Locomotives and rolling stock

The Garratt locomotive in Jan. 2013

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.

The pulpwood wagon

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.

14A in Jan. 2007

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.

Services

In May 1911,[1] 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,[2] 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.[3]

From 1946, this two-day round trip ran weekly, although extra services were run as needed when potatoes were harvested.[3]

In 1954, after closure of the line beyond Weeaproinah, the weekly round trip was completed in a day.[3]

Stations

Colac

Colac
Opened 1877
Closed
Distance 45¼ miles153.29 km
7,620.015 chains
Elevation 440 ft0.134 km
0.0833 miles
134.112 metres

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

Elliminyt
Opened ?
Closed 1962
Distance 96⅓ miles155.302 km
7,720.015 chains

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.

Tulloh

Tulloh
Opened 1902?
Closed 1962
Distance 99 miles159.325 km
7,920.015 chains
Elevation 819 ft0.25 km
0.155 miles
249.631 metres

Like Elliminyt, Tulloh was a passenger-only stop comprising nothing more than a nameboard to mark where trains would stop.

Coram

Coram
Opened 1902?
Closed 1962
Distance 100¼ miles161.337 km
8,020.015 chains
Elevation 891 ft0.272 km
0.169 miles
271.577 metres

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

Barongarook
Opened 1902
Closed 1962
Distance 102¼ miles164.556 km
8,180.016 chains
Elevation 739 ft0.225 km
0.14 miles
225.247 metres

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

Watson & Facey's Siding
Opened 1924
Closed 1925
Distance 105½ miles169.786 km
8,440.016 chains
Elevation 467 ft0.142 km
0.0884 miles
142.342 metres

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

Birnam
Opened 1924?
Closed 1962?
Distance 106¼ miles170.993 km
8,500.016 chains
Elevation 467 ft0.142 km
0.0884 miles
142.342 metres

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

Kawarren
Opened 1902
Closed 1962
Distance 108¼ miles174.212 km
8,660.017 chains
Elevation 392 ft0.119 km
0.0742 miles
119.482 metres

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

Lovat
Opened 1902
Closed 1960
Distance 111 miles178.638 km
8,880.017 chains
Elevation 267 ft0.0814 km
0.0506 miles
81.382 metres

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

Gellibrand
Opened 1902
Closed 1962
Distance 112½ miles181.052 km
9,000.017 chains
Elevation 247 ft0.0753 km
0.0468 miles
75.286 metres

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

Banool
Opened 1902
Closed 1962
Distance 116¼ miles187.087 km
9,300.018 chains
Elevation 631 ft0.192 km
0.12 miles
192.329 metres

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

Wimba
Opened 1902
Closed 1962
Distance 118¼ miles190.305 km
9,460.018 chains
Elevation 701 ft0.214 km
0.133 miles
213.665 metres

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 (2nd)

McDevitt
Opened 1930
Closed 1962
Distance 120 miles193.122 km
9,600.018 chains
Elevation 1045 ft0.319 km
0.198 miles
318.516 metres

McDevitt had a nameboard and a passenger shelter.

McDevitt (1st)

McDevitt
Opened 1902
Closed 1930
Distance 120¼ miles193.524 km
9,620.018 chains
Elevation 1014 ft0.309 km
0.192 miles
309.067 metres

Dinmont

Dinmont
Opened 1902?
Closed 1962
Distance 121¾ miles195.938 km
9,740.019 chains
Elevation 1272 ft0.388 km
0.241 miles
387.706 metres

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

Ditchley
Opened 1902?
Closed 1962?
Distance 124¼ miles199.961 km
9,940.019 chains
Elevation 1676 ft0.511 km
0.317 miles
510.845 metres

Ditchley was a passenger-only station in Beech Forest comprising a nameboard and perhaps a passenger shelter.

Beech Forest

Beech Forest
Opened 1902
Closed 1962
Distance 124¾ miles200.766 km
9,980.019 chains
Elevation 1747 ft0.532 km
0.331 miles
532.486 metres

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

Buchanan
Opened 1911?
Closed 1962
Distance 126 miles202.778 km
10,080.019 chains
Elevation 1823 ft0.556 km
0.345 miles
555.65 metres

Buchanan was another passenger-only station in Beech Forest comprising a nameboard and perhaps a passenger shelter.

Ferguson

Ferguson
Opened 1911
Closed 1962
Distance 127⅓ miles205.192 km
10,200.019 chains
Elevation 1722 ft0.525 km
0.326 miles
524.866 metres

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

Weeeaproinah
Opened 1911
Closed 1962
Distance 129⅓ miles208.41 km
10,360.02 chains
Elevation 1708 ft0.521 km
0.323 miles
520.598 metres

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

Kincaid
Opened 1911
Closed 1954
Distance 129⅓ miles208.41 km
10,360.02 chains
Elevation 1547 ft0.472 km
0.293 miles
471.526 metres

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

Wyelangta
Opened 1911
Closed 1954
Distance 133 miles214.043 km
10,640.02 chains
Elevation 1757 ft0.536 km
0.333 miles
535.534 metres

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

Stalker
Opened 1911
Closed 1954
Distance 134¾ miles216.86 km
10,780.021 chains
Elevation 1697 ft0.517 km
0.321 miles
517.246 metres

Stalker had a single loop siding.

Lavers Hill

Lavers Hill
Opened 1911
Closed 1954
Distance 137¼ miles220.883 km
10,980.021 chains
Elevation 1510 ft0.46 km
0.286 miles
460.248 metres

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

Crowes
Opened 1911
Closed 1954
Distance 139 miles223.699 km
11,120.021 chains
Elevation 1358 ft0.414 km
0.257 miles
413.918 metres

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.[3] In 1988 this buffer stop was discovered to still exist, and in 1994 it was restored[4] and a length of track laid to it, with an old NQ wagon placed on the track.

Beech Forest layout

To Colac

To Crowes


References

  1. Western District Working Timetable?, p.110, Victorian Railways, May 1911.
  2. Circular S.2779/11, Victorian Railways, Fri. 16th June, 1911Fri. June 16th, 1911
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Norman Houghton, Colac-Beech Forest-Crowes Railway Conservation Management Plan, Colac-Otway Shire, June 2003.
  4. Lucinda Ormonde, Celebrating railway’s centenary, The Colac Herald, Fri. 17th June, 2011Fri. June 17th, 2011.
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