Looking back at the ‘Cavalcade of Transport’ mural

For decades the ‘Cavalcade of Transport’ mural was a landmark of the otherwise unremarkable main concourse at Spencer Street Station. So how did it come to be?

Cavalcade of Transport mural (photo by Rennie Ellis dated 1983, SLV H2011.150-2517)
Rennie Ellis 1983, SLV image H2011.150/2517

The dreary Spencer Street Station building that we all remember dated back to the 1960s.

Melbourne Spencer St 045-315 CAD sheet 03 10
Photo by Graeme Butler, part of the 1985 Melbourne Central Activities District (CAD) Conservation Study

But the Cavalcade of Transport mural wasn’t added until a decade later – the Victorian Heritage Database listing gives some background.

The 36.6 metre long and 7.32 metre high History of Transport mural featured across the main concourse of the Spencer Street railway station, depicting the first century of transport in Victoria (1835-1935), was commissioned by the State Government in 1973.

Painted by State Artist, Harold Freedman (1915-99), and two assistants, the work was completed in January 1978. The mural, a realist oil painting on canvas mounted on plywood, was painted in five main sections at the East Camberwell railway substation, and erected in stages above the Spencer Street station concourse

Putting the mural into place at Spencer Street Station was quite the task.

Hanging the first pieces of the mural in the great hall at Spencer Street Station 18-6-1974 (PROV image VPRS 12800/P1, item H 4218)
PROV image VPRS 12800/P1, item H 4218, dated 18-6-1974

An entire wall of scaffolding was required to give access to the wall where the mural was hung.

Hanging the first pieces of the mural in the great hall at Spencer Street Station 18-6-1974 (PROV image VPRS 12800/P1, item H 4219)
PROV image VPRS 12800/P1, item H 4219, dated 18-6-1974

Once in place, the mural could be viewed from the maun station concourse.

Cavalcade of Transport mural (photo by Rennie Ellis dated 1983, SLV H2011.150-2537)
Rennie Ellis 1983, SLV image H2011.150/2537

Or from the mezzanine level cafe.

Cavalcade of Transport mural (photo by Rennie Ellis dated 1983, SLV H2011.150-2517)
Rennie Ellis 1983, SLV image H2011.150/2517

Cavalcade of Transport mural (photo by Rennie Ellis dated 1983, SLV H2011.150-2518)
Rennie Ellis 1983, SLV image H2011.150/2518

The mural stayed untouched until 2000, when the right hand end of the mural to be repositioned perpendicular to its original location, to allow the construction of the Bourke Street Bridge at the north end of the station building.

Further changes came in 2004, when the redevelopment of Spencer Street Station saw the mural put into storage while the new Southern Cross Station was built.

View south along Spencer Street

There it stayed until being re-erected in April 2007. Finding the mural was quite the ordeal – the new location was the north wall of the new Direct Factory Outlet shopping centre that formed part of the new station.

'Cavalcade of Transport' mural now relocated to the shopping centre

But unfortunately this wasn’t the end of this undignified story – in 2014 the shopping centre was redeveloped and the former viewing platform being demolished, leaving the mural hidden from view at the back of a discount shop, behind a forest of light fittings and air conditioning ducts.

'Cavalcade of Transport' mural sitting above a new factory outlet store

A sad end to something at used to take pride of place at Spencer Street Station.

Tigerair flights to Canberra

In August 2016 it was announced that Tigerair would commence daily flights between Canberra and Melbourne, breaking the current Qantas / Virgin Australia duopoly on the route. However this isn’t the first time that the airline has flown into the national capital.

On the apron at Canberra Airport, Tiger Airways A320 VH-VNB

Under their previous name of Tiger Airways they previously served the route, with the first flight on 14 February 2008 marking the start of one return flight daily seven days a week, until the grounding of the airline in 2011 resulted in the route being dropped.

I travelled on one of these early flights, and boarding the plane at Canberra was what I expected from a low cost carrier – walking out onto the tarmac then climbing a set of airstairs.

Tiger Airways A320 VH-VNB loading passengers at Canberra Airport

At least the weather was fine, and both legs of my journey were on time.

Three airlines at Canberra Airport: Virgin Blue, Qantas and Tiger

Photos from ten years ago – August 2006

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – August 2006 was a month filled with trains.

First off, here we see a failed V/Line service being assisted by a freight locomotive.

On the morning of August 2 the locomotive due to lead the Melbourne-bound V/Line service out of Warrnambool developed a fault, so some quick thinking saw the otherwise idle locomotive from the Warrnambool container freight service attached to the front of the train and rescue the stranded train.

Freight Australia liveried A81 leads a failed N452 on the up Warnambool service at Newport

On arrival at Southern Cross Station the failed V/Line locomotive was replaced by a working unit to take the train back to Warrnambool, along with a freshly refuelled freight locomotive to replace the unit ‘borrowed’ that morning.

A79 and N453 ready to depart on the down Warrnambool service from Southern Cross
A79 and N453 ready to depart on the down Warrnambool service from Southern Cross

Another odd sight in August was a special charter train operated by V/Line for the members-only Kelvin Club.

N452 departs Southern Cross Station with Kelvin Club charter to Bendigo

The train included heritage dining car ‘Avoca’ for a sit down lunch, and Club Car ‘Victoria’ so club members could prop up the bar afterwards.

N452 departs Southern Cross Station with Kelvin Club charter to Bendigo

Dining car ‘Avoca’ was in the custody of Seymour Railway Heritage Centre, so V/Line attached it to the rear of a normal passenger service to get the carriage back home following the charter.

A66 bound for Seymour with a H set, with dining car 'Avoca' on the rear

Over on the suburban network, 3-car ‘half length’ trains were still a common sight a decade ago – such as this citybound Watergardens service passing through South Kensington.

3-car Siemens train 722M leads an up Watergardens service at South Kensington

A less common sight were Hitachi trains – but six sets were still in regular service, wearing the green and gold ‘The Met’ livery that dated back to the 1990s. This set was departing the train wash at North Melbourne, with the Docklands skyline in the background still on the rise.

Hitachi train departs the train wash at Melbourne Yard

Retirement of the rest of the Hitachi fleet had commenced back in 2003, with the carriages being sold to new owners for reuse. An exception was four 3-car Hitachi trains that were transferred to the Bendigo North Workshops in 2004 and placed into open storage pending possible reuse.

Left unsecured, vandals soon stripped the trains of parts, smashed the windows and covered the bodies with graffiti. There the trains remained until August 2006, when it was decided to drag the now useless body shells back to Melbourne, where there were stored at Newport Workshops pending sale to private owners.

Damaged Hitachis arrived back at Newport

Newport Workshops was also a dumping ground for other damaged suburban trains, such as Comeng carriage 500M.

Burnt out 500M stored at Newport Workshops

Burnt out in 2002 by vandals on the Sandringham line, the remains were stored at Newport until there were eventually scrapped.

Burnt out 500M stored at Newport Workshops


Here you can find the rest of my ‘photos from ten years ago‘ series.

Napthine’s train crashes Daniel Andrews’ party

Politicians have been influencing the direction of Melbourne’s rail network for decades, but down on the Frankston line the removal of the North Road, McKinnon Road and Centre Road level crossings has seen the decisions of two former political foes collide, with no acknowledgement from either side.

X'Trapolis 183M approaches the newly rebuilt low level station at McKinnon with a down Frankston service

The story starts in May 2013, when then-Premier Denis Napthine announced the $100 million ‘Bayside Rail Project’ to appease voters along the Frankston line, home of a number of marginal seats. The headline:

$100 million Bayside rail upgrade brings newest trains to Frankston line

Then elaborated further:

“Since the November 2010 election, the Coalition Government has announced orders for 15 new X’Trapolis trains, but these trains could only carry passengers on the Alamein, Glen Waverley, Belgrave, Lilydale, Hurstbridge and South Morang lines due to the different position in which the driver sits in the cab, affecting the ability to see some signals.

“This $100 million will mean the Frankston line will also be able to accommodate the X’Trapolis trains, giving passengers the fastest, most reliable and most comfortable commute to and from the city,” Dr Napthine said.

A year later in May 2014 another story starts, when the same Liberal government announced a $457 million package of works to remove level crossings at Burke Road in Glen Iris, Blackburn Road in Blackburn and North Road in Ormond.

We now move to the leadup to the 2014 State Election, and both sides of politics pulling out all stops to wow voters.

'Moving Victoria' propaganda among the advertisements on the big screen at Flinders Street Station

The Labor Party promised to remove 50 level crossings across Melbourne if they won the election, while the incumbent Liberal Government pushed Metro Trains and PTV to introduce a token X’Trapolis train to the Frankston line before infrastructure works were completed, requiring special speed restrictions to be put in place due to level crossing issues.

Labor came out in front on election day and Daniel Andrews took the reins as Premier of Victoria. He didn’t spare any time in putting his level crossing plan into action, and wasn’t afraid to revisit existing projects – in May 2015 the scope of the North Road works was expanded to include the neighbouring Centre Road, Bentleigh and McKinnon Road, McKinnon level crossings.

July 2016 saw work on the Frankston line kick up a gear, with train services being shut down for a month to allow all three stations to be demolished and the new railway cutting to be dug.

North Rd crossing at Ormond station - Herald Sun photo by Chris Eastman
North Rd crossing at Ormond station – Herald Sun photo by Chris Eastman

Rail services returned on August 1st, with Premier Daniel Andrews’ office releasing a media statement:

The crossings are gone, the track has been lowered and tomorrow the trains are back, completing one of the biggest construction efforts in Victorian history. We said we would get rid of these dangerous and congested level crossings – and we have got it done.

With the work completed, trains now pass beneath the former level crossings.

Alstom Comeng arrives into the newly rebuilt low level station at McKinnon on a down Frankston service

Among them is Denis Napthine’s election train – despite his loss at the 2014 State Election, the token X’Trapolis service continues to run.

X'Trapolis 183M on a down Frankston service stops for passengers at the newly rebuilt low level station at McKinnon

Each weekday morning the dedicated X’Trapolis train to makes two return trips to Frankston, then returns to the city to stable until next day’s junket.

X'Trapolis 183M departs the newly rebuilt low level station at McKinnon on a down Frankston service

I wonder what will come first – the completion of 50 level crossings removals projects across Melbourne, or the rollout of X’Trapolis trains to the Frankston line?


Freshly shotcreted walls were the main sight on my recent trip along the Frankston line.

Fresh shotcrete covered walls at Ormond station

But vandals haven’t wasted any time – trains been back for just a week, and the trench walls at McKinnon station have already been graffitied.

Trains been back for just a week, and the trench walls at McKinnon station have already been graffitied

Fact check on the Frankston line

On August 1st trains returned to the Frankston line after a five week long shutdown that allowed the tracks to be lowered beneath Centre, McKinnon and North Roads, eliminating three level crossings. A media release was released by the State Government to celebrate the completed works, but the ‘facts’ included within deserve further examination.

'Service to Frankston stopping all stations' displayed on the PIDS of a X'Trapolis train

You can find the media release here:

Crossings Gone, Tracks Lowered, Trains Returned
Premier of Victoria
31 July 2016

Trains return to the Frankston line tomorrow after three level crossings were removed during the longest rail line closure since construction of the City Loop more than 30 years ago.

To enable these works to occur, the Frankston line was closed between Caulfield and Moorabbin for more than five weeks, and replacement buses moved thousands of passengers every day.

This is the first time in Victoria’s history that three level crossings have been removed concurrently and means the Andrews Labor Government has now removed four level crossings in less than 18 months.

Longest rail line closure since the City Loop?

Five weeks is a long time to shut down a railway line, so one can be forgiven to think that it is a record breaker. So what other projects was it up against?

My first thought was the Mitcham level crossing removal project – in 2014 it removed two level crossings and delivered a new railway station at Mitcham, with a long concrete trench being built along a constrained rail corridor.

X'Trapolis 58M passes beneath Rooks Road, Mitcham with an up service

Close, but no cigar – the longest shutdown stopped trains for three weeks:

The major cut over construction phase occurred in January 2014 (Phase Two). The plan being a 3 week closure of the railway between Ringwood and Blackburn to cut over from the high level tracks and old railway station to the new low level tracks and railway station. The extensive construction during this period will be lowering the railway through Rooks Road on the same alignment.

My next thought was the Middleborough Road project – in 2007 it removed one level crossing and delivered a new railway station at Laburnum.

Citybound X'Trapolis train emerges from the Middleborough Road cutting at Box Hill

Getting a little closer, but trains only stopped for four weeks.

The major construction phase was completed in January 2007 (Phase Two). This included a 4 week closure of the railway line between Blackburn and Box Hill and the closure of Middleborough Road to through traffic.

I then drew a blank, until I was reminded that the city end of the Upfield line was closed for an extended period in the late 1990s to allow for the construction of the CityLink viaduct over the top.

EDI Comeng on a down Upfield service at Macaulay

The plan was announced in 1997:

Rail line closure for freeway construction
February 19, 1997
Sean Lennon

Victoria’s new transport minister, Robin Cooper, caused outrage in the northern suburbs on February 4, when he announced that the Upfield line, long a battleground between the authorities and residents, would close for six months to allow construction of the City Link freeway project.

This flies in the face of a public statement by the head of the Public Transport Corporation that the line would remain open during construction.

Under the government’s plan, the line would be closed between Flemington Bridge and North Melbourne stations, with buses ferrying people to Newmarket station, on the Broadmeadows line. From there, passengers would catch another train to the city.

Originally a six months closure was approved:

Having regard to construction and safety requirements, the State, the Company and the Trustee may agree that the section of the Upfield railway line between Racecourse Road and Arden Street be closed from 1 May 1997 to 31 October 1997 (or such other period as agreed), and on such terms and conditions as may be agreed.

But it took until May 1 1997 for the line south of Flemington Bridge to be closed to passengers, with it eventually reopening in February 1998 – nine months without trains!

But the real slowpoke was rebuilding the V/Line service to Albury in the late 2000s.

N464 ready to lead the train back south from Albury

The last broad gauge train ran to Albury on November 8 2008, to allow the railway to be converted to standard gauge. Work took an eternity, with many ride quality issues, with V/Line services not returning to Albury until 26 June 2011 – 2 years, 7 months, and 16 days without trains.

Frankston line passengers – consider yourself lucky!

What about the City Loop?

Another point to examine is the comparison with the City Loop – construction of which was a massive project, but how did it disrupt rail services?

Siemens train emerges from the Caulfield Loop portal at Southern Cross

For a start, much of the City Loop was constructed beneath the streets of Melbourne’s CBD, with the only visible impact being the diversion of La Trobe Street between Swanston and Elizabeth Street to make way for the construction of Museum Station.

La Trobe St and its tram tracks were re-routed during construction of Museum Station, now known as Melbourne Central Station. This photo was taken on 1 October 1975 (Public Record Office Victoria)
Public Record Office Victoria image (via ABC News)

It was where the tunnels connected into the existing rail network that more disruption occurred.

Construction in the Jolimont rail yard on 28 May 1973 (Public Record Office Victoria)
Public Record Office Victoria image (via ABC News)

But aerial views show that the impact was minor – existing trackage was slewed away from the work sites, allowing trains to continue to run.

Construction of the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop's Jolimont access tunnel, as viewed from the Reserve Bank building on 6 October 1972 (Public Record Office Victoria)
Public Record Office Victoria image (via ABC News)

So were multiple week shutdowns required to build the City Loop? I doubt it.

Most concurrent level crossings removals?

The final fact to check is the “first time in Victoria’s history that three level crossings have been removed concurrently”.

Main Road at St Albans closed for grade separation works

The Mitcham level crossing removal project came close – it removed the Mitcham Road and Rooks Road level crossings as part of a single works package.

But we need to go much further back in time to blow that number out of the water – the first being the regrading and duplication of the railway between South Yarra and Caulfield in 19121915, the construction of five new stations at Malvern, Armadale, Toorak, Hawksburn and South Yarra, and the removal of seven level crossings.

Metro liveried EDI Comeng 440M on the up at Hawksburn

But there was another project that removed even more level crossings – the regrading of the railway between Hawthorn and Camberwell in 19151920, the construction of three new stations at Glenferrie, Auburn and Camberwell, and the removal of eight level crossings – Glenferrie Road, William Street, John Street, Henry Street, Auburn Road, Albert Street, Burwood Road, and Burke Road.

D1.3515 on Glenferrie Road below Glenferrie Station

So the sum up the Franskton line media release – other railway lines have been closed for longer periods for upgrade works, the City Loop is irrelevant when making these kinds of comparisons, and there have been much larger level crossing removal projects in the past that delivered far greater improvements to the rail network.

My verdict – nice try, but you’re going to need more than just a PR flack to pull the wool over my eyes!