Last Train from Mornington - Oral History
Narrator: Val Wilson
Other voices: Joan Burch, Malcolm Swain
Co-ordination: Diane White, Mornington and District Historical Society
Production: Lavender Hill Multimedia, 2014
Mornington & District Historical Society
A history of the Mornington railway narrated by Val Wilson, with memories of soldiers using the railway from Joan Burch and a comment on the future of the track by Malcolm Swain.
When the Victorian Government started planning to expand the railway system in the 1870s, Councils on the Mornington Peninsula petitioned to have the railway extended from the planned line to Frankston. The Hastings line was to be constructed first to satisfy the perceived defence needs of the colony with Mornington to become a spur line.
The Mornington spur line was opened with great fanfare on 10th September, 1889.
The railway opened up the possibilities for tourism on the Mornington Peninsula. Guesthouses, hotels and tearooms selling cold drinks and icecreams in Mornington and Mt. Martha were to benefit from the influx of summer visitors. Mornington Park was a mecca for picnics.
Other commercial activities could now flourish. Summerland’s timber business was adjacent to the line. The Council’s Gasworks relied on the train for coal, the Tanti Saleyards depended on the railway.
In 1917 a mob of ostriches was brought to Mornington on the train, they were to provide feathers for the slouch hats of the Australian Lighthorsemen. The venture was not successful.
Two Bays Nursery at Moorooduc which was the largest in the southern hemisphere was able to use the railway to transport young fruit trees to buyers from all around the world.
Horses and racegoers alike travelled to Mornington by train, often on a special raceday train. They would alight or be unloaded on the platform mound at Racecourse Platform and then walk across the paddocks to the Mornington Racetrack.
Balcombe Army Camp used the rail system to transport troops - they would march from the railway station to the camp. The American troops on rest and recuperation leave in 1941/2 were transported by train, arriving at Mornington weary and hungry.
“When the trains would arrive in the middle of the night with American marines, and also Australian soldiers, my grandmother would have been up all day and all night. She would have scones, jam and cream on big trays, tea and coffee in milk buckets, and we got out of bed to go and feed the troops when they arrived.”
In the second World War, a shortage of coal curtailed services. About this time, some influential townsfolk started agitating for restoration of at least a daily passenger service and electrification of the line, or even a direct link through Mt. Eliza.
A Vintage Train service in the summer of 1966 was established to try to stimulate interest in rail travel so that a regular passenger service could be reconstituted. This was started the following September but as Leslie Moorhead says in her history of Mornington: “A case of too little, too late” as the information gathered showed that the average passenger numbers per trip was only twelve.
Special services for picnics, the occasional racegoer train and the odd goods train kept the line open until the final service was conducted in 1981.
A shopping centre now occupies the site of the old railway station.
A tourist line between Moorooduc Station and a platform in the industrial estate operated by the Mornington Railway Preservation Society is now the only service which operates on the tracks.
Even today many people feel that the closure of the train service was short sighted. Perhaps in years to come something will happen as the population continues to grow . . .
“In terms of the big picture, we aim to ultimately get across to Baxter, at least to transfer standard track. The museum to be established here, and in the mean time we will continue to market and develop that section of track that we have going between Mornington and here. That I would say is sort of the big picture.”