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Outer Circle railway (Melbourne)

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Fairfield to Oakleigh
Outer Circle railway

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Opened March 1890 to March 1891
Closed See article
Gauge 5'3"1,600.199 mm
Tracks Single, except Camberwell to Ashburton double
Electrification 1500 VDC Overhead Camberwell to Alamein
Safeworking Automatic block signalling
Tunnels None
Original operator Victorian Railways
Current operator Metro Trains Melbourne

The Outer Circle railway in Melbourne was a short-lived orbital line in the eastern suburbs. Although it survived only a short time as a through route, parts survived longer and one section is still in use as part of the Melbourne suburban railway network. Most of the rest has been turned into a linear park and walking and bike path.



The Outer Circle railway was originally planned as part of the route of the Gippsland line. At the time, the government railway terminus was Spencer Street station, on the west of the city. A direct line to Gippsland would require a connection to the privately-owned Melbourne and Hobson's Bay United Railway Company's lines, which operated out of Flinders Street and Princes Bridge stations on the south side. Further, there was no connection between the two railways, so government-operated Gippsland trains could not arrive and depart from the government station unless a connection between the two was also provided.

So the Outer Circle line was one of seven proposals offered by the Victorian Railways' Engineer-in-Chief, Thomas Higinbotham, to bring the Gippsland line into Melbourne. Higinbotham's plan was for the line to start from North Melbourne and head east a little north of Melbourne, before heading southeast and south to Oakleigh, where the Gippsland line was to start from.

In the end, the government bought the Hobson's Bay company (in 1878), and later built the connection between Spencer Street and Flinders Street stations (in 1894[note 1])

Railways were subsequently built roughly following the route of the first part of the proposed Outer Circle line,[note 2] but were never known by that name, although one of the sections of line was subsequently known as the Inner Circle line.

The rest of the proposal, the part to which the term "Outer Circle" was subsequently attached, was built with the stated advantage of diverting goods traffic from Gippsland off the suburban railway to Oakleigh, and allowing firewood traffic from Lilydale to be delivered to the northern suburbs.[1] It was opened in three sections in 1890 and 1891 (see below). However, it never had much use, and starting two years later some sections were put out of use, and although some parts subsequently reopened, it never existed again as a through line.

Openings and closures

Fairfield (Hurstbridge line)

Fulham Grange

A.P.M. Siding

Yarra River


North Balwyn tram line

East Kew


Box Hill tram line



Camberwell, East Camberwell, and Canterbury

(Lilydale line)


Wattle Park tram line



Vermont South tram line




Darling and East Malvern

(Glen Waverley line)

Waverley Road

Hughesdale and Oakleigh (Dandenong railway line)

The Outer Circle railway has a complex history of openings, closures, and reopenings.

The first section to open was the southern end, from Waverley Road to Oakleigh, as part of the line opening from Burnley to Oakleigh. This occurred on 24 March 1890.[1]

This was quickly followed by the section from Camberwell to Waverley Road, on 30th May the same year, with the remaining section, from Fairfield Park to Riversdale and Canterbury opening exactly twelve months after the Burnley to Oakleigh line.

However, an economic depression and lack of real demand in the area led to the line closing in a very short time. The first section to go was between Fairfield Park and Deepdene, on 12 April 1893, followed by Deepdene to Riversdale on 14 December 1893, Ashburton to Oakleigh on 8 December 1895, and finally Camberwell to Ashburton on 1 May 1897 The entire line had been closed after just over seven years.

However, the following year, Camberwell to Ashburton was reopened, on 4 July 1898, followed by Riversdale to Deepdene on 14 May 1900. On 11 February 1925 Deepdene to East Kew reopened for goods services only. Riversdale to East Kew closed again in 1943, on 7th September.

The line from Camberwell to Ashburton was electrified on 30 October 1924. On 28 June 1948, the Ashburton line was extended to a new station at Alamein.

Connections with other lines

At it's northern end, the Outer Circle railway joined the Hurstbridge line at Fairfield Park (now Fairfield). At the time it was built, the line between Collingwood (now Victoria Park) and Flinders Street had not been constructed, so trains to the city used the Inner circle railway.

The Outer Circle crossed the line to Ringwood and beyond at East Camberwell station, passing under that line at the end of the Ringwood-line platforms. The Outer Circle line had it's own platform there, allowing connections to Ringwood-line trains. There was also a short-lived connection between Shenley and Canterbury, and another connection between Camberwell and Riversdale. This last connection is still in use as part of the Alamein railway line.

At the same time the Outer Circle was built, the line from Burnley to Darling was also opened, and this line joined the Outer Circle line at Waverley Road station. Well after the Outer Circle closed and the line from Burnley truncated at Darling, the Darling line was extended to Glen Waverley, crossing the route of the Outer Circle line, and with a new station (East Malvern) at the point where the original line had curved away towards Waverley Road.

The southern end of the Outer Circle line joined the line to Dandenong near Oakleigh, although well after the Outer Circle closed, another station, Hughesdale, was built near the site of the former junction.

Tram routes

Four tram lines cross the route of the Outer Circle railway. The line to North Balwyn reached the railway after the section that it crossed had closed. Just south of Deepdene station the tram line along Whitehorse Road crossed the railway on the level, as does the Wattle Park tramline south of Riversdale. The latter is one of four remaining places in Melbourne where tram and railway tracks cross on the level.

Present and future

The only part of the Outer Circle railway still operating is the line from Camberwell and Riversdale to Alamein. Between approximately the site of Willsmere to East Camberwell, and Alamein to Hughesdale, most of the route is now a linear park and cycle path, although a few small sections have been given over to other uses, including a golf course south of Alamein and a residential development on the short section between East Camberwell and where the Outer Circle joined the curve from Camberwell.

Four road bridges over the line still exist between East Camberwell and Deepdene. The bridge over the railway between East Kew and Willsmere has been filled in. The railway bridge over the Yarra River is still in use for road traffic.

At various times people have called for the Outer Circle line to be rebuilt, but there are no current plans to do so.


Fulham Grange

Fulham Grange
Opened 24 March 1891
Closed 12 April 1893
Distance 6.25 miles10.058 km
500.001 chains
Elevation 106'0.0323 km
0.0201 miles
32.309 metres

Fulham Grange existed just after the line curved away from the junction at Fairfield, and before the line crossed the intersection of Heidelberg Road and Grange Road. In later years when this part of the line served a paper mill, there was a run-around loop here.


Opened 24 March 1891
Closed 12 April 1893
Distance 7.75 miles12.472 km
620.001 chains
Elevation 107'0.0326 km
0.0203 miles
32.614 metres

No evidence of Willsmere remains, with the station site being returned to it natural contours.

East Kew

East Kew
Opened 24 March 1891
Closed 7 September 1943
Distance 8.75 miles14.082 km
700.001 chains
Elevation 173'0.0527 km
0.0328 miles
52.73 metres

East Kew, like other stations in this section, closed in April 1893. However, it reopened in February 1925 for goods traffic, with trains operating from the Riversdale end, before finally closing in 1943.


Opened 24 March 1891
Closed 7 September 1943
Distance 9.5 miles15.289 km
760.001 chains
Elevation 203'0.0619 km
0.0384 miles
61.874 metres

Like other stations in this section, Deepdene closed in April 1893. However, it reopened in May 1900, as the terminus of a service from Riversdale. The passenger service ceased in October 1927, although the station finally closed in 1943 with the withdrawal of the goods service.


Opened 14 May 1900
Closed 9 October 1927
Distance 10 miles16.093 km
800.002 chains
Elevation 249'0.0759 km
0.0472 miles
75.895 metres

Roystead opened when the line from Riversdale to Deepdene was reopened after its first closure. The station was originally named Stanley, was renamed Balwyn in September 1902, and given the name Roystead in May 1923, only four years before it closed with the cessation of passenger services.


Opened 24 March 1891
Closed 9 October 1927
Distance 9.5 miles15.289 km
760.001 chains
Elevation 203'0.0619 km
0.0384 miles
61.874 metres

Shenley, like other stations in this section, closed in April 1893. However, it reopened in May 1900, and closed again in 1927 with the cessation of passenger services.

East Camberwell

East Camberwell (lower level)
Opened 4 May 1900
Distance 7 miles11.265 km
560.001 chains
Elevation 224'0.0683 km
0.0424 miles
68.275 metres

The Outer Circle line passed underneath the Lilydale line at East Camberwell, and with the reopening of the line between Riversdale and Deepdene in 1900, a platform was built on the Outer Circle line directly below the Lilydale line.

The lower-level platform was effectively put out of use in 1927 when the Deepdene passenger service was withdrawn, but the station itself is still open for Lilydale-line trains.

Waverley Road

Waverley Road
Opened 24 March 1890
Closed 9 December 1895
Elevation 122'0.0372 km
0.0231 miles
37.186 metres

Waverley Road opened with the line from Burnley to Oakleigh, then became a junction with the opening of the line from Camberwell. When it opened, it was named Waverley, but got the name Waverley Road three months later. It closed in 1895 along with the sections of line between Darling and Ashburton and Oakleigh.


  1. 1894 is when passenger services started using the connection, although it had opened three years earlier for goods services, and this had replaced a night-time-only goods connection opened in 1879.
  2. Part of the Coburg line, and much of the line from Royal Park to Heidelberg.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Leo J. Harrigan, Victorian Railways to '62, Victorian Railways, 1962, p. 102,103.

External links

  • Outer Circle Line Recent photographs of stations and station sites of the Outer Circle railway.
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