Outer Circle railway (Melbourne)
Fairfield to Oakleigh
|Opened||March 1890 to March 1891|
|Tracks||Single, except Camberwell to Ashburton double|
|Electrification||1500 VDC Overhead Camberwell to Alamein|
|Safeworking||Automatic block signalling|
|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. 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
The Outer Circle railway has a complex history of openings, closures, and reopenings.
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.
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.
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 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.
No evidence of Willsmere remains, with the station site being returned to it natural contours.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
- Outer Circle Line Recent photographs of stations and station sites of the Outer Circle railway.