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Melbourne to Heidelberg Trains 1890

In 1890, suburban trains did not run directly from the City (Melbourne) to Heidelberg. They took a circuitous route, starting from Spencer Street (we currently call Southern Cross) travelling north towards Royal Park, then taking the old inner circle line through North Carlton, North Fitzroy, Clifton Hill and south to Collingwood.

This can be seen in the excerpt from a timetable above, published in the Mercury and Weekly Courier, on 23 October, 1890. The timetable also appeared in other editions of this periodical around that time. Thanks to TROVE for making the publication available on line.

Notice the stopping and starting at North Fitzroy, Clifton Hill, Collingwood, then Clifton Hill again. Passengers must have thought they would never get to Heidelberg.

Also of interest are the fares, single and return, first and second class. A first class return between Melbourne and Heidelberg was one shilling and four pence halfpenny.

Train via Inner Circle

This was all before there was a direct railway line from the City via Jolimont, West Richmond etc, to Clifton Hill.

"Collingwood" was on the site of the modern Victoria Park station. After arriving at Collingwood, the train would then have to go back the other way, through Clifton Hill again, to Northcote South (Westgarth), and on to Heidelberg. The change of direction at Collingwood could be a slow process, with shunting and repositioning of the engine.

As the timetables in the newspaper were rather difficult to read in detail, they have been transcribed for this purpose. It's now a bit easier see exactly how long the journeys were planned to take for travellers to Heidelberg, for all the services Monday to Saturday. (Repeat, planned to take.)

Spencer Street to Heidelberg
via Collingwood

On a good run, the train from Melbourne to Heidelberg was scheduled to take under an hour. For example, train No. 4, the 7.50am from Melbourne to Heidelberg was scheduled to arrive at Heidelberg at 8.39am, taking 49 minutes.

The 10.35am was a little slower, arriving at Heidelberg 56 minutes later at 11.21am.

A number of trains took about 1 hour 15 minutes.

Then there were trains that went to Collingwood and terminated there; for example, train number 6 on the timetable was shown as leaving Melbourne at 8.57am and terminating at Collingwood at 9.26 am. It didn't go on to Heidelberg.

Those wanting to go to Heidelberg had to wait at Collingwood for train number 8, which appears to have been a service from Collingwood to Heidelberg only.

It departed Collingwood at 10.08am, meaning a wait of more than 40 minutes. The whole trip took Heidelberg passengers 1 hour and 30 minutes. (In theory.) There were a number of other journeys from Melbourne that terminated at Collingwood, and others that commenced at Collingwood, going directly to Heidelberg.

Many of the times given appear to be over optomistic. Trains such as number 11, which left Collingwood at 12.58pm and left Clifton Hill at 1.00pm were only given 2 minutes for this process, which included travelling between the stations, stopping at Clifton Hill and allowing passengers to get on and off, and starting up again. The same time of 2 minutes was allowed for trains to leave Clifton Hill, cross the Merri Creek bridge, arrive at Northcote South, embark and disembark passengers, and get rolling again. This seems unlikely with the trains of 1890.

By 2016 it was much better. (Or was it?). In 2016, the 8.01am from Southern Cross reaches Heidelberg at 8.32am according to the timetable. It has more stations to stop at, and it has to go around the City Loop. Total travel time is 8 minutes quicker than the 7.50am from Melbourne to Heidelberg in 1890. Of course, that is only one train, and there are far more services today.

1890 Timetables AM and PM

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Heidelberg Historical Society (Inc. No. A0042118P)