Each morning on William Street in the CBD, there are a handful of route 55 trams that display a destination of ‘Moonee Vale’. There are a number of Melbourne suburbs with similar sounding names, along with a racecourse and local government area called ‘Moonee Valley’ – but is Moonee Vale a real place, or just a typo?
The suburbs of Moonee Ponds and Ascot Vale are located next door to each other, but are located on the route 59 tram so an amalgam of those two place names can be set aside. The same applies for Moonee Valley, so a truncated name can’t explain it either. Pascoe Vale is a suburb closer to the route 55 tram, but is too far north to be served by it.
My next port of call was the Victorian Register of Geographic Names – it contains more than 200,000 place names including cities, towns, suburbs, regions, roads, landscape features, recreational reserves, transport stations, schools, hospitals, national parks, forests, reserves and tracks!
Unfortunately it came up blank.
Going back to the destination board of the tram, there is a further clue: “Daly & Dawson Streets”.
That intersection is located in Brunswick West, with Daly Street being a residential street that parallels the much better known Melville Road.
As for the Moonee Vale name, a check of the locality listing at the back of the Melways brings it up – Map 29 B8, see Brunswick West.
It also gets namechecked in The Age as an example of ‘secret suburbs’ in Melbourne.
If you’re coming from Tally Ho you travel west – likewise from Bennettswood – and go via Willison, vaguely in the Macaulay or Batmans Hill direction. Pass through Rushall then Sumner and Anstey.
Westbreen is too far. Look just north of Moonee Vale and you’re there: Coonans Hill.
Directions from Burwood to Pascoe Vale South via Fitzroy have never sounded so confusing. But touring via Melbourne’s secret suburbs gives the route a quaint, village feel. Little-known place names have gained favour in recent years, according to those who make it their business to know where Westgarth is.
Beyond that, I had to start digging through the Trove archives from the National Library of Australia.
In 1907 The Argus writes of a new ‘Moonee Vale Settlement’ in Brunswick West.
In 1910 development must not have taken off as the developers wanted, as The Argus reported that Brunswick Council had removed 70 kerosene lanterns from the streets in a cost cutting exercise.
And finally in 1914, the Brunswick and Coburg Leader led local agitation for the construction of a railway to Moonee Vale, via Royal Park.
Construction of a railway never happened, but what is now the route 55 tramway was progressively opened between 1925 and 1927 to the current terminus at Bell Street, West Coburg.
These days the only organisation beside Yarra Trams still using the ‘Moonee Vale’ name is a licensed post office on the corner of Albion Street and Melville Road.
Public transport should be clear and concise wherever possibly, and not rely on layers of historical anachronism – for this reason I reckon Yarra Trams should get with the times and drop the misleading name of ‘Moonee Vale’, and use the accepted name for where their route 55 shortworkings terminate – ‘Brunswick West’.
A check of the public timetable reveals there are two route 55 trams that terminate at Daly and Dawson Streets each weekday – both at the tail end of morning peak.
Timetables at tram stops also have a note drawing attention to these short terminating services.
When I paid a visit to Daly Street when the terminating services are due, I found the tram driver stopped in the middle of the road, dodging traffic to change the tracks that allow trams to cross between the tracks.
Traffic in both directions then comes to a halt, as the tram trundles over the crossover and onto the citybound track.
The logic behind these two shortworking services is that it provides much needed capacity on route 55 for passengers boarding closer to the city, as the trams in question can race back into the CBD on the tail end of morning peak. If the trams continued all the way to the end of the line, by the time they made it back to the inner suburbs, the passengers would have already crammed onboard other trams.
With tram patronage increasing at a rate faster than new trams are being acquired, there isn’t much else Yarra Trams can do.