Citizerns, Cargo & Coal
by Marc Fiddian
This book, by former newspaper journalist and now prolific author, Marc Fidden is sub-titled; “A History of the Gippsland Railway.” It is an easy-to-read paperback that commences with the original interest in and construction of the railway, from Melbourne to Orbost. The railway was originally approved by government to link Melbourne to Sale in 1874 and constructed in three separate sections, some twenty years after trains commenced running in Victoria.
It relates the story of the various construction issues faced by the three contractors, including the subsequent division of the Bunyip-Morwell contract, introducing a fourth contractor. All sections were completed allowing official opening at Sale on 1 March 1878. The author then describes the efforts to extend the railway to Bairnsdale, (opened in 1888,) and subsequently Orbost, (opened in 1916.)
Of interest is the selection of the Melbourne terminal at Oakleigh! This resulted in the need to undertake a horse-drawn coach connection to reach the city for several years. The book includes the branch lines; Sale Wharf, Maffra, Mirboo North, Yallourn, Walhalla, (narrow gauge,) Thorpdale, Springvale Cemetery and the Outer Circle. However, there is no mention of the South Gippsland railway and associated branches.
The author relates many anecdotes about the operation of the lines and describes many of the accidents and incidents over the years, as well as some statistics of passenger numbers. It includes dates of closure of various sections, for installation and removal of electric traction, the new Sale station and the re-opening of the Sale-Bairnsdale section.
It includes several photos, many of station buildings, but only four (plus the book cover) in colour. The book does not include any maps or station diagrams. This affects the quality of the publication. The author does not include recent events affecting the line, such as the regional fast rail project, the introduction of Velocity railcars or the RTL log trains, although it has just been published.
The book is well researched, is a very interesting read and an excellent resource to those interested in railways in Gippsland.