Talk to mark 160 years of Geelong-Ballarat rail

March 25, 2022 BY

An illustration of the opening of the railway on April 11, 1862. Photo: SUPPLIED

The Geelong and Ballarat Railway is nearing its 160th birthday, and the Geelong Museum Association will mark the occasion with a public talk this weekend.

On April 11, 1862, the well-engineered railway was officially opened for passenger trains.

Completion of construction of the second track and its opening for goods traffic occurred by early October that year. It provided a much-needed transport link between Melbourne, Geelong and the thriving goldfields.

It remained the only rail link from Melbourne to Ballarat and beyond until a direct line via Bacchus March and Ballan was completed and opened in 1889.

Construction was authorised by parliament in November 1857. Tenders were called soon after but difficulties arose in awarding a contract and it was not until July 1878 that the tender of Evans Merry and Company was accepted and a contract signed.

Work started soon after and official turning of the first sod took place on August 26, 1858.

Although good progress was made for some time, difficulties arose and in March 1860, the contract was transferred to Williams and Little.

They completed construction, but for several decades, legal disputes continued between the government and the contractors until final payments were made to the surviving contractors and their children 49 years after the line was opened.

At Sunday’s talk, Norman Houghton will speak about history of this fine railway. Most of its bluestone station buildings are still standing and the solid bridges and culverts are carrying trains far larger than their designers could ever have envisaged.

The event is part of the Geelong Museum Association’s monthly “Sunday Series” of talks – for more details, see the association’s Facebook page.

The talk will take place at the National Wool Museum, corner of Brougham and Moorabool streets, Geelong, on Sunday, March 27 from 1.30-3pm.

Afternoon tea will be provided and a gold coin donation would be appreciated.