Waurn Ponds trains skipping Marshall station

With the opening of the new Waurn Ponds railway station back in October 2014, V/Line had to modify their Geelong line timetable so that trains could actually serve the new station. It is on this new timetable that I found an oddity – two early morning trains bound for Waurn Ponds that stop at every station except for Marshall. So what is the reason for this move?

V/Line Geelong line timetable - Waurn Ponds train runs express through Marshall station

The reason for these services train skipping Marshall station is infrastructure – beyond Geelong station trains in both directions have to share a single track.

Single track on the Geelong line

After Geelong station the line passes through a 422 metre long tunnel, which emerges at McKillop Street.

Sprinter 7009 exiting the Geelong Tunnel

The first station is South Geelong, where only a single platform is available for trains to stop at.

3VL40 arrives into South Geelong, school holiday crowds filling the platform

The railway then passes over the Barwon River on a long bridge.

3VL23 and classmate crosses the Barwon River bound for Marshall

Then over a second bridge over Waurn Ponds Creek.

N474 leads the up Warrnambool over Waurn Ponds Creek

A single platform awaits passengers at Marshall station.

VL14 and two classmates await departure time from Marshall

With the same at Waurn Ponds station.

VLocity 3VL44 and classmate awaiting departure time from Waurn Ponds station

Trains in two directions

If the line beyond Geelong was a single track, then it would make running more than one train at a time extremely difficult. However, V/Line does manage to do this, through the use of additional track provided at selected stations.

At South Geelong there is a second track running opposite the platform, allowing the locomotive to shunt around the carriages, ready to lead the train back towards Melbourne.

Trains pass at South Geelong

There are also two dead end sidings located beyond the platform, allowing additional trains to be parked clear of the main line, ready to form a Melbourne-bound service.

N452 departs South Geelong and the finally opened platform extension

At the former terminus of Marshall, there is also has a second track opposite the platform – provided to allow locomotives to run around their carriages, ready to form a train in the opposite direction.

The shunter looks on during the run around at Marshall with N460 and a SN set

So what are V/Line doing?

Given the rail infrastructure that exists beyond Geelong station, running an intensive service on the line is difficult – empty trains can’t miraculously appear at Waurn Ponds station each morning, ready to take intending passengers to work in Melbourne.

Instead each morning trains have to make their way out to Waurn Ponds, but due to the single track, they cannot pass citybound services between stations. While South Geelong has a passing track, but it only allows trains from Melbourne to head back the way they came, or into a dead end siding, so that is out.

Which brings us back to the two trains each morning to skip Marshall. With a second track located opposite the platform, trains in an opposing direction can pass each other, but with a major complication – there is no platform on the second track!

With the majority of commuters each morning being bound for Melbourne, the counter-peak trains headed to Waurn Ponds have drawn the short straw, and are sent into the second track at Marshall to allow the citybound train to pick up passengers from the platform.

3VL33 stabled in the loop at Marshall, to form the next up

Back in the old days

Allowing two trains to both pick up passengers at a single platform station used to be done differently in the old days – there were two ways to do it:

  • The first train to arrive would stop at the platform, pick up passengers, reverse back and into the passing track, clearing the platform for the second train
  • The first train would stop in the platform, and the second train would stop in the passing track, with passengers for the first train walking through the first train!

The last time either trick was used in Victoria was in the early 2000s when West Coast Rail operated the rail service between Melbourne and Warrnambool – their trains used to cross paths at the single platform Winchelsea station, south of Geelong.

Into the future

In April 2015 (update – make that June) a new V/Line timetable is due to be introduced for the Geelong line – with all services running via the new Regional Rail Link, it includes trains every 20 minutes off peak as far as South Geelong, with every second train stopping all stations to Waurn Ponds (one train every 40 minutes).

Again, the reason for the limited service beyond South Geelong is due to infrastructure constraints – every second train has to use the siding at South Geelong station to clear the tracks, allowing a train every 40 minutes to head all the way to the end of the single track line.

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11 Responses to “Waurn Ponds trains skipping Marshall station”

  1. Paul Jerome O'CONNOR says:

    Marcus,
    very interesting article on the railway south of Geelong. I noticed on Google Maps that the former station at Breakwater(Geelong racecourse) has an overtaking loop. Is this still the case? This could be an alternative place for trains to pass each other. Also, where is the actual site of the original Marshall station? I presume it was in Station St? When was the new station built?

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Good pickup regarding Geelong Racecourse station – the second track was lifted back in 2011:

      http://www.railgeelong.com/location/geelong-racecourse

      The platform still remains today, but separated from the remaining track.

      3VL27 and classmate pass the remains of Geelong Racecourse station, the loop siding recently straight railed

      As for the original Marshall station, it was located on the opposite side of the Marshalltown Road level crossing:

      http://www.railgeelong.com/location/marshall

    • Michael Menzies says:

      Paul, The loop track at Geelong Racecourse(near Breakwater)was not normally used to cross trains. It was provided so that race trains could pull into the siding and stop at the platform for passengers to alight. In earlier times, horses also traveled to the course in horse boxes attached to the trains and were then unloaded onto the platform and walked across to the racecourse. Between 1918 and 1956, facilities were provided so that once a train was secured in the siding, other train could run past it. From 1956 onwards, the race train had to return to South Geelong (or Geelong) to clear the section so that other trains could operate between South Geelong and Moriac (and further afield). The relatively quick and cheap option to provide extra train capacity beyond Geelong is to relay the current dead end siding at South Geelong starting near Swanston Street and extending almost to Wood Street to become a long double track crossing loop extending past the former Racecourse platform site to almost the Barwon River. That way, train heading in opposite directions could depart from both South Geelong and Marshal at similar times and cross each other at around the Racecourse platform site.

  2. Alan says:

    There’s a third “trick” to working two trains through a single-platform station, a minor variation on the first: The second train arrives into the passing loop, then the first train stops at the platform as usual, clearing the way for the second train to shunt into the platform.

    This is what I suspect happens at Marshall for the weekday 8:04pm departure from Waurn Ponds. It pulls into the Marshall loop at 8:09, the evening Warrnambool train runs through it at 8:11, and then it has about 10 minutes to shunt into the platform to pick up passengers.

  3. andrew waugh says:

    I’ve never heard of passengers climbing through the train at the platform to reach a train in the passing loop. The distance between tracks would seem to make this approach impracticable.

    The VR devoted about 10 pages in the General Appendix to the correct methods of crossing various types of trains carrying passengers at single platform crossing loops.

    The default method was your method 1. A good example was at Diamond Creek right up until the provision of the second platform. This was, of course, slow, and there were a range of exceptions. At a few stations, the second train was permitted to run through No 2 Road into the forward section and then set back into the platform – even with the first train in the platform or departing. At a small number of other locations the passengers joined the train in the loop using step ladders.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      My reference to “climbing through the train” was a third-hand story about West Coast Rail – a late running passenger arrived at Winchelsea with their train sitting in number 2 road, so they jumped through the train at platform in order to gain access.

      • Michael Menzies says:

        Marcus, rather rash to state as a fact a method of crossing trains that you subsequently admit you heard about third hand and that I strongly doubt ever happened, particularly at Winchelsea. Track centres were such that it is a hell of a jump from one train to another, let alone lining both trains up with doorways exactly opposite each other. I suspect that what may have happened was to enter the train standing at the platfrom, walk to the other side, climb down to the ballast and then climb up into the train standing in No. 2 Road. But why bother, when it was easier and safer to access the track at the end of the platform and walk to the second train and climb up to enter it. Andrew is correct about the VR documenting in great detail the safe method to be used when crossing two trains and I doubt that what you stated to be the second method of doing so occurred. Operating staff may have changed from one train to another in that fashion, but normally would wait for the train standing at the platform to depart (which would normally be the first to depart)then descend and cross the track to join the train standing in No. 2 Road, prior to the turnout being operated to permit it to depart directly from No.2 Road. Walking through the train standing at the Platform would only needlessly delay it as it could not depart until the person had descended on the “pit” side and preferably also had boarded the other train.

        • Marcus Wong says:

          Michael – I know that you know a lot more about WCR operations at Winchelsea that I ever will, so I’ll take your word on that front.

          (getting both trains with doorways exactly lining up would be tricky!)

  4. Rob Barnett says:

    Current arrangements at Marshall will not happen once the RRL opens and a new TT is introduced

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