V/Line trains and antimacassars

The word for today is ‘antimacassar‘ – a piece of cloth placed on the back of a chair to protect the seat fabric from dirt. A decade ago they were a common sight onboard V/Line trains.

BTN263 looking to the east end

They were fitted to the seats onboard the Sprinter trains.

Sprinter train interior, November 2007 (photo by Jb17kx, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by Jb17kx, via Wikimedia Commons

As well as the newest VLocity trains.

Sprinter train interior, April 2006 (photo by Mcbridematt, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by Mcbridematt, via Wikimedia Commons

As you might expect, antimacassars on a V/Line train would get dirty quite quickly, as well as being a target for vandalism.

Good thing they came in boxes of 2000!

2000 count of new headrest covers

But by 2008 they disappeared from VLocity trains used on commuter services.

New style interior onboard VL00: yellow poles and the same fabric as all of the other refurbished V/Line trains

And by April 2009 they had started to disappear from the locomotive hauled carriages used on long distance services.

No more antimacassars, economy section of a N car

The word at the time was that the manufacturer went bust, and V/Line couldn’t find a new supplier.

In the years since nothing has changed – V/Line seats are still bare, the layers of head grease increasing day by day.


V/Line antimacassar supplier was Merino Pty Ltd in Queensland, which entered administration in 2007.

February 25, 2008

A failed punt on recycled paper and a million-dollar-plus water compliance bill helped quicken the collapse of Australia’s oldest tissue manufacturer.

More than 100 staff at Logan City-based Merino were made redundant earlier this month as the bulk of the business and its assets were sold to a Victorian rival for $29.4 million.

Merino, whose brands include SAFE, Bouquets and Earthwise toilet paper, had lost more than $21 million since 2005 before entering voluntary administration last December.

The ‘Headrex’ trademark was lodged back in 1973 under class 24 “covers of all kinds including antimacassar, formed of non-woven fabric or other material”, and last updated in 2008 by Encore Tissue Pty Ltd.

Metro Tunnel to deliver almost nothing to Melbourne’s west

‘More trains more often’ is one of the line being used by the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority to spruik the benefits of the new rail tunnel being built under the Melbourne CBD – but in reality it is a half-truth.

Site clearance works continue at City Square

With the tunnel linking the Sunbury line in Melbourne’s north-west to the Pakenham and Cranbourne lines in the south-east, the two additional tracks and five new stations will free up space in the existing City Loop tunnels, providing benefits to rail users all across Melbourne.

'More trains in and out of the city' poster outside the City Square construction site

Government media releases are using language such as:

“This project will create space to run more trains, more often, right across Melbourne. We’re getting it done.” said Premier Daniel Andrews.

As well as:

“We know these changes will be disruptive but we need to get on and build the Metro Tunnel – so we can deliver the frequent, reliable, turn-up-and-go transport system passengers need.” said Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan.

But if the Melbourne Metro Program “Business Case Baseline” document dated February 2016 is anything to go by, it appears that the full benefits of the new rail tunnel won’t be taken advantage of. It starts explaining why the document was created:

This document summarises the service plan expectations for lines affected by the Melbourne Metro program:

– immediately after completion of the Melbourne Metro program; and,
– subsequent to completion of an extended program of works designed to demonstrate benefits enabled by future provisions being made as part of the Melbourne Metro design.

These proposed service plans are the baseline that should be adopted to underpin development and evaluation of the Melbourne Metro Rail Project (including preparation of the business case and associated scope for the project).

As well as what the plan will deliver to rail passengers.

The service plan should:

> establish the Sunshine – Dandenong line operation via the new tunnel alignment, including:
• commencing passenger services to the new stations at Arden, Parkville, CBD North, CBD South and Domain;
• providing service increases appropriate to meet the demands forecast for the corridor; and,
• operating all services on the line with HCMT rolling stock.

> re-establishing a consistent Frankston line routing through the inner core:
• with all services operating via the city loop (Caulfield underground loop); and
• providing service increases appropriate to meet the demands forecast for the corridor.

> re-establishing a consistent routing of Craigieburn and Upfield lines within the inner core:
• with all services operating via the city loop (Northern underground loop); and
• providing service increases appropriate to meet the demands forecast for each corridor.

> establishing a consistent through operation from the Sandringham line via Richmond, Flinders Street and Southern Cross and North Melbourne stations as part of the Cross City group:
• including provision of additional peak period services from South Yarra to Flinders Street; and
• providing service increases appropriate to meet the demands forecast for the corridor.

> modify service operation on the Werribee, Williamstown and Laverton lines as part of changes to the Cross City group, to provide service increases appropriate to the demands forecast for the corridor.

Then gives a real kick in the guts for anyone living west of Footscray.

Services – Melbourne Metro Day 1 (Day 1 = Modelled 2026) AM Peak Hour (peak direction) AM Peak 2-hours (peak direction) Inter-peak and counter-peak (tphpd)
Typical other off-peak (tphpd)
Sunbury services 6 9 3 3
Watergardens services 9 15
West Footscray turn-back services) 3 7 3 3
Sunshine/Dandenong line from west (suburban services – total separates turn-back services) 15 (+3) 24 (+7) 3 (+3) 3 (+3)
Bendigo Line (V/Line diesel service) Total, inclusive services originating from Swan Hill, Echuca, Epsom, Eaglehawk, Bendigo and Kyneton 3 5 1 1

Yes, you read that correctly – under this plan only three trains off-peak per hour will head west to Sunshine, St Albans and Watergardens – with 50% of services from the city terminating at an expensive turnback siding at West Footscray!

Can you imagine such a poor service being provided to the likes of Camberwell or Caulfield?

PIDS at Camberwell - three lines on the screen dedicated to citybound trains, and one line for outbound service

Living with a train every 20 minutes

Three trains per hour is the current level of service provided off-peak on the Sunbury line.

Watergardens station displays the next three up services, and the down service

Resulting in grossly overcrowded Sunbury line trains as soon as the clock strikes 9am.

Crash loaded Comeng train on a citybound off-peak Sunbury line service at Footscray

Running trains 10 minutes apart off-peak isn’t a new idea – way back in 2009 it was tested on the Werribee line, then permanently introduced to the Frankston line in 2011, and the line as far as Dandenong in 2014.

So why is the Metro Tunnel business plan aiming so low? They do state that their assumptions aren’t a limit on services to be provided.

The proposed service plans do not represent a recommendation to limit development of the future network and should not constrain Government from making further improvements to the Public Transport Network.

Implementation of the proposed service plans is subject to the discretion and influence of the stakeholders in Victoria’s public transport network, in the context of information available closer to the time of implementation – including growth rates and policy changes.

By it does give some oxygen to a theory Daniel Bowen came up with back in 2016 – Labor seems to be better at building new public transport infrastructure, while the the Coalition seems to be better are funding additional services to take advantage of them.

Remember the promises of Regional Rail Link?

Back in the early-2010s Melbourne’s west was promised that the Regional Rail Link project would enable additional suburban rail services to operate, by building new tracks to be used by V/Line services to regional Victoria.

VLocity train finally on the move after delays at the North Melbourne flyover

But the extra track capacity yet to be fully taken advantage of – with the Victorian Auditor‐General’s stating in May 2018:

The project has not yet fully realised some specific benefits articulated in the Victorian Government’s 2013 booklet Regional Rail Link Benefits for Victorians, particularly the creation of capacity for an additional 10 metropolitan services in the two‐hour morning peak period at the RRL’s opening, with only five new metropolitan services delivered to date.

Will Melbourne Metro follow the same path?

And the ‘Extended Program’ service proposal

The Metro Tunnel business case also includes an ‘Extended Program’ service proposal – described as:

The Melbourne Metro program business case identified a series of subsequent investments with benefits substantially relying on ‘future-proofing’ elements on the Melbourne Metro design.

An ‘Extended Program’ including a range of these investments to enable the operations and passenger catchment of the Sunshine-Dandenong line to be expanded was therefore included in the business case to demonstrate the longer-term benefits of the Melbourne Metro investment. These subsequent investments, and associated benefits expected, include:

> substantial increase in capacity and service provision to the growth area west of Sunshine through amplification and electrification of the rail line to Melton, to enable:

• a high-frequency, high-capacity suburban service to be provided to this growth area; and
• improved and maintained separation of suburban and regional trains operating on the Regional Rail Link corridor to improve capacity and reliability of regional services on the Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong corridors.

> introduction of Extended HCMT (10-car) across the corridor to accommodate rapid growth forecast for the growth areas east of Dandenong and west along the Sunbury and Melton corridors.

It provides a long list of other yet-to-be funded infrastructure upgrades:

To support this outcome, the following subsequent investments are expected to be required:

> Provision of an additional track pair between Sunshine and Deer Park for dedicated use by regional services operating on the RRL trunk.
> Electrification of a track pair between Sunshine and Deer Park, providing platforms suitable for Extended HCMT operation at all existing stations in this section.
> Provision of a grade-separated junction enabling electric services to operate on the newly electrified track pair west from Sunshine to merge into the Sunshine Dandenong line on the Down side of Sunshine station (continuing to/from the CBD) without facing conflicts with any other services.
> Duplication and electrification of the track pair between Deer Park and Melton, with provision of Extended HCMT stabling and a turn-back facility at Melton for electric services.
> Provision of an at-grade junction between the RRL and electrified track pair on the Down side of Deer Park, to enable regional services operating on the Ballarat line to merge with suburban services to Melton.
> Expansion of the number of HCMT trains dedicated to operation of the corridor and lengthening of some trains to provide a mix of Standard and Extended HCMT trains.
> Upgrade to any surface stations, stabling, maintenance or traction power systems on the Sunshine-Dandenong line not already supporting Extended HCMT operation at MM Day-1.
> Upgrades in the regional area to accommodate growth and changes to regional paths.

And the level of service possible once it is built.

Services – Extended Proposal (2031) AM Peak Hour (peak direction) AM Peak 2-hours (peak direction) Inter-peak and counter-peak (tphpd)
Typical other off-peak (tphpd)
Sunbury services 6 9 3 3
Watergardens services 8 14
Melton services 9 15 3 3
Total suburban from West 23 38 6 6
V/Line express services to/from beyond Sunbury (share corridor Sunbury – Sunshine only) 3 6 1 1 1/2 1 1/2
V/Line express services to/from beyond Melton (share corridor Melton – Deer Park only) 3 6 1 1 1/2 1 1/2

Note that despite the amount of upgrade works required to support this ‘Extended Program’ an off-peak service of three trains per hour still applies for passengers beyond Sunshine – both the Sunbury and Melton lines will see a train every 20 minutes, providing a train every 10 minutes to stations between Sunshine and Footscray.

Can you imagine such a poor service being provided to Melbourne’s east?

Photos from ten years ago: June 2018

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is June 2018, and I’m running a little behind schedule!

We start down in Geelong, where construction of the Geelong Ring Road was now moving up the Barrabool Hills towards Ceres.

Barrabool Road looking south

I also found a late running freight train bound for Warrnambool. Due to the lack of passing locations on the single track railway, the train had to wait at North Geelong until the train in front had made it to Camperdown – 120 kilometres away!

Warrnambool freight stuck at Geelong, waiting for the pass to clear through to Camperdown (!)

Thankfully today such delays aren’t as frequent – a new crossing loop opened in 2014 at Warncoort, a mere 68 kilometres from Geelong, giving trains on the Warrnambool line another place to pass each other. However the line south from Geelong is still single track, limiting the number of V/Line trains that can serve the growing station of Waurn Ponds.

Something new and shiny was the first of the newly imported ‘Bumblebee’ trams, which I spotted on a test run along on La Trobe Street, before entering revenue service.

C2.5123 'Bumblebee 1' heads west along Spencer Street on a test run before entering revenue service

Originally built for the tram network in Mulhouse, France but surplus to their requirements, five of these were leased by Yarra Trams in 2008 as part of a a desperate attempt to cater for growing tram patronage in Melbourne. Originally leased for four years, they were purchaeed by the government in 2012/13, and lost their bright yellow colour scheme in 2014.

Another more successful attempt at addressing growing public transport patronage was the introduction of the first three-car VLocity trains.

VLocity centre car 1341 at Newport

Originally delivered as 2-car long sets, the introduction of 3-car sets allowed the creation of trains of any length from two cars up to seven cars – something once used on services to Geelong, until the final VLocity set was expanded from 2 to 3-cars in June 2016.

But the biggest change can be found at Footscray station.

The massive ‘colander’ footbridge was nowhere to be seen.

Platforms 2/3 and 4 viewed from the north

The footbridge was out in the open.

Comeng on the up at Footscray

With passengers using steep and rickety timber ramps to change platforms.

Ramp from the footbridge down to the Irving / Leeds Street intersection

Shops lined the south side of Irving Street.

Shops along the western side of the station, along Irving Street

And the route 82 tram terminus was just a fence beside the tracks, with pedestrians having to fight their way past traffic to get there.

Safety zone tram stop at the route 82 terminus in Footscray

The scene today is far different – the shops are all gone, with the station footbridge replaced in 2009/10 by a modern structure with lifts and stairs, which was then rebuilt in 2012/13 when Footscray was expanded to six platforms as part of the Regional Rail Link project.

Back in 2008 level crossings were still in the news, thanks to the Kerang train crash a year earlier, that saw a truck plough into the side of a V/Line train and kill 11 passengers.

As a result rumble strips were rolled out at level crossings across country Victoria.

Rumble strip warning sign

Giving drivers advance warning.

Rumble stripes themselves

Of the upcoming crossing.

And the crossing

A decade later unprotected level crossings in country Victoria are still a common sight, despite an ongoing program of rail crossing upgrades by VicTrack.

June 2008 also saw the last steam train run to Albury, before the line was closed for conversion to standard gauge.

The crowds were out in force at every station stop, like here at Benalla.

The crowds out in force at Benalla

I followed the train north by road with a group of friends.

Photo line waits for the train

But a northbound freight train was also giving chase.

The freight continues the chase

It arrived over the border late in the day, with steam locomotives R761 heading over to the turntable at Wodonga to be prepared for the trip back south.

Heave ho, no electric motor here...

Taking on plenty of coal and water to fuel the trip.

On to the coal stage, or a crane with a bucket

With the return trip in the dark.

Waiting in the loop at Wangaratta

But the train never made it back to Melbourne – it came to a halt outside Seymour, eventually crawling into the station at 2 am.

By this point unable to proceed due to the signallers further along the line already having gone home for the night, so the tired passengers were loaded onto buses, while the steam engines were stabled at the Seymour Railway Heritage Centre depot to try again another day.

Between 2008 and 2011, all V/Line services to Albury were operated as road coaches north of Seymour, with the first service on the standard gauge line running on 26 June 2011.

But unfortunately for passengers, the dramas are yet to end – V/Line services along the line are chronically late, with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau asked to investigate the status of the track, and track manager Australian Rail Track Corporation forced to complete remediation work.


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

Then and now at North Melbourne station

Today we take a step back to the 1920s and take a walk around North Melbourne railway station, comparing it to what exists today.

At the north end of the platforms little has changed.

VPRS 12800/P3, item ADV 1607

The only difference I can spot is the removal of the sheltered timber platform seats, replaced by cold steel benches.

Looking across the platforms at North Melbourne station from platform 1

The entrance to platform 4 and 5 has changed a little more. Still used by trains headed west to Footscray, Sunshine and St Albans – these trains now head further north to Sydenham and Sunbury.

VPRS 12800/P3, item ADV 1606

The timber gates used by ticket checking staff are gone, replaced by fare gates on the main station concourse, and the pull down ‘bathgate’ train indicators have been replaced by LCD screens.

Entrance to platforms 4 and 5 at the north end of North Melbourne station

A much bigger change is visible outside the station, at what was once the main entrance for passengers.

VPRS 12800/P3, item ADV 0624

Dynon Road once crossed the railway tracks via the north side of North Melbourne station, until the current bridge was opened in 1968.

This spartan brick station building replaced the original 1886 station building in 1974, until it was made redundant in 2009 with the completion of the current southern entrance to the station.

1970s station building at North Melbourne station, now closed to passengers

Another contrast can be seen this eastwards view from platform 6.

VPRS 12800/P3, item ADV 0705

The only constant is the bluestone faced platforms – static billboards are now motorised advertising panels, towering apartment buildings have replaced terraced houses, and the gardens along the Railway Place have given way for a concrete retaining wall.

Looking across the platforms at North Melbourne station from platform 6

The city end of the platforms have seen similar changes.

VPRS 12800/P3, item ADV 1185

Neatly tended gardens haven given way to a weed covered slope, a brown brick bunker has been erected to house modern signalling equipment, and the bluestone platform face has given way to concrete.

City end of platforms 1, 2 and 3 at North Melbourne station

At first glance little has changed north of the station, where the Upfield line branches off from the Werribee, Sunbury and Craigieburn bound tracks.

VPRS 12903 P1 Box 164/05

The same number of tracks remain in place today, the only difference being the lineside signals and gantries supporting the overhead wires.

Six pairs of tracks at North Melbourne Junction

But this view from the December 1935 edition of National Geographic Magazine titled ‘Flashes of Colour in the Fifth Continent’ tell a different story.

From ‘Melbourne as featured in National Geographic Magazine 1935’

The “blossums and foliage between the rail lines on the embankments provide a colourful approach to the capital of Victoria” are long gone, replaced by weeds and gravel.

EDI Comeng arrives into North Melbourne on the up

The same contrast can be seen at the city end of the station, where a carefully manicured garden occupied the space between Railway Place and the tracks.

VPRS 12903/P1, item Box 164/07

The garden was demolished in the 1960s when the North Melbourne flyover was constructed as part of the North East standard gauge project, the area taking on the current look following the completion of the Regional Rail Link project in 2015.

VLocity VL56 and classmate on a down service head over the North Melbourne flyover

A short history lesson

  • 1859: station opened
  • 1886: six platform station complex completed
  • 1919: electric trains introduced
  • 1962: North Melbourne flyover completed
  • 1968: Dynon Road moved onto new bridge
  • 1970s: track rearrangement to cater for City Loop
  • 1974: new entrance replaced 1886 building
  • 2009: current southern station entrance opened, northern entrance closed
  • 2015: North Melbourne flyover rebuilt for Regional Rail Link


A 1979 photo of North Melbourne station by Len Johnston.

Hiding the garage behind a false front

As cities sprawl outwards, cars have become an essential part of suburban life, resulting in the humble garage been pushed front and centre of modern house designs, standing out like a sore thumb. But this doesn’t have to be, as these oddball examples of garage design show.

The garage hidden under San Francisco house did the rounds back in 2011:

This video shows the garage door in operation.

With Curbed San Francisco giving the backstory.

Can You Spot the Hidden Parking Garage on This San Francisco House?
Sally Kuchar
April 20, 2011

The problem, you see, is that the city planning department had recently started enforcing its mandate to limit changes to the character of historic building’s front facades– especially when it came to converting bay windows into garage doors.

Corey McMills, who’s got a background in mechanical engineering, thought of an idea to covert the walls of the bay window into door panels that would fold into the garage space to allow cars to enter. The planning department accepted it. McMills Construction teamed up with Beausoleil Architects to help with the details.

This house reminded me of a similar looking garage conversion in the Melbourne suburb of Ascot Vale.

As well as this example from Auckland.

Innovative Garage for Historical Home in Auckland
Louise O’Bryan
24 January 2018

The front aspect of this stunning heritage home looks completely untouched, aside from a fresh lick of paint. But on closer inspection, there’s something ultra-modern lying beneath the period bull-nose verandah. At the touch of a button the hinged weatherboard door opens to reveal a drive-in garage, complete with a car stacker.

“We wanted to retain the strong aesthetic and heritage of Ponsonby homes, while also combating the issue of parking,” says Jonathan Smith, founder of Matter architects and owner of the property. “Garaging provision in the traditional sense was impossible on this cramped site.”

To achieve the faux facade, Smith explains how portions of the villa were carved out, while masonry retaining-wall structures were constructed inside to facilitate the car stacker installation. “We cut through the joinery and lined up the boards so that from the front, the facade is seamless,” says Smith.

But this house really takes the cake – the entire front facades hinges upwards.

Exposing a shed large enough to park a light aircraft! The owner writes:

Our home sits on a grass runway on the shore of Lake Harney in Florida. The lawn in front of the home is actually the taxiway. Our home was included on HGTV Extreme Homes episode 201. Our goal was to take what could have been an ugly facade and make it more “neighbor friendly” and appealing.

The other side of the home enters directly into the living areas. On the left side you can just see three small aircraft, two gyroplanes and a powered parachute. Although the door size is larger than needed for these aircraft, when we sell the home it is likely that a person with a full size aircraft would need the door size to accommodate his aircraft.

The full video is here.

And the reverse?

How about using a garage to hide an illegal addition to your house?

It worked for a while, until the local council paid a visit.

Couple fined for using fake garage door to hide house in Leicester
Press Association
13 February 2018

A couple have been fined after using a fake garage door and high fence to hide a residential property from a council.

Planning permission was granted for a development in 2007, with conditions stating that car-parking facilities, including the garage, should remain available permanently.

The garage will be restored to its former use after follow-up visits by the council resulted in the discovery of a series of planning breaches.