Do you know the way to Moonee Vale?

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?

Z3.122 on a route 55a shortworking to 'Moonee Vale'

Time to go digging

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.

’Moonee Vale’ not found in the Victorian Register of Geographic Names

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.

Z3.200 on route 55 heads outbound along Melville Road with the CBD skyline behind

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.

’Moonee Vale’ in the Melway locality listing

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.

The early years

Beyond that, I had to start digging through the Trove archives from the National Library of Australia.

Back in 1891 the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways conditionally recommended the construction of a railway from Flemington Bridge to Pascoe Vale, via Moonee Vale:

The Committee have decided that the proposed line should be constructed at a cost not exceeding £30,000, and that the whole of the land required for railway purposes should be given to the Government free of cost, and without compensation for damage by severance.

In 1907 The Argus writes of a new ‘Moonee Vale Settlement’ in Brunswick West.

Moonee Vale settlement. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), Monday 19 August 1907, page 6

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.

Moonee Vale in darkness. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), Tuesday 25 January 1910, page 6

With the proposed railway also getting kiboshed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways.

The Committee is of opinion that it is inexpedient to construct either a steam or electric railway to connect Moonee Vale and West Brunswick with the existing railway system, because of the large annual loss which would be involved.

However local residents weren’t happy – in 1914 the Brunswick and Coburg Leader led local agitation for the construction of a railway to Moonee Vale, via Royal Park.

Railway to Moonee Vale village settlement. Brunswick and Coburg Leader (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), Friday 10 July 1914, page 1

Instead, in 1923 the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways examined a proposal for an electric tramway to West Coburg, recommending the construction.

Now known as route 55, the tramway was progressively opened between 1925 and 1927 to the current terminus at Bell Street, West Coburg.

And today

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.

’Moonee Vale’ Licensed Post Office details

Which I eventually got around the visiting.

'Moonee Vale Post Office' signage on the Albion Street frontage

It looks the worse for wear.

Moonee Vale Post Office at Melville Road and Albion Street

With faded signs.

Faded 'Moonee Vale Post Office' signage on the Melville Road frontage

And rather interestingly, one of the signs spelling Moonee Vale as ‘Mooneevale’.

'Mooneevale Post Office' in the window facing Albion Street

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’.

Footnote: the Moonee Vale shortworking

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.

Route 55 tram timetable, featuring ’Moonee Vale’ shortworkings

Timetables at tram stops also have a note drawing attention to these short terminating services.

Daly Street / Dawson Street shortworking notice at the bottom of a route 55 timetable

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.

Driver of B2.2072 throws the points at the Daly Street crossover

Traffic in both directions then comes to a halt, as the tram trundles over the crossover and onto the citybound track.

B2.2072 heads back to the city on route 55 after shunting at the Daly Street crossover

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.

Z3.175 picks up route 55 passengers at Brunswick Road and Grantham Street in Brunswick West

With tram patronage increasing at a rate faster than new trams are being acquired, there isn’t much else Yarra Trams can do.

Further reading

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13 Responses to “Do you know the way to Moonee Vale?”

  1. John R Butterworth says:

    Hi Marcus
    Moonee Vale, who knew! I lived in Park St, West Brunswick for eight years (1968-1974) and used the 55 tram in both directions going to various employment. I had never heard the name used even by older long term residents. As you suggest Brunswick West would now be more applicable.

  2. Julian Calaby says:

    I find the reaction to “secret” route numbers amusing too. I used to catch the #7 tram home fairly regularly when I lived in Prahran because it was usually empty as nobody could figure out where it actually went. (Corner High and Glenferrie Roads)

  3. Tom the first and best. says:

    Maybe West Brunswick is the destination name for the crossover just north of Moreland Rd (Moreland Rd is the northern boundary of West Brunswick). West Coburg is not even an actual suburb or sub-suburb, as far as I can tell. The 55 terminates in Pascoe Vale South. However Calling the route West Coburg, rather than Pascoe Vale South, gives a better indication that the route goes though West Brunswick, rather than Essendon.

    The 55 Should be extended, as envisaged in the 1969 Melbourne Transport Plan from “West Coburg” to Hadfield.

    The most ridiculous tram destination name, compared to tram destination location, has got to the Prahran destination of the 78. Balaclava would be far more accurate. It is however a hangover of the cable tram days. It is made even more ridiculous by the fact that the crossover just south of the Dandenong Rd/Queensway intersection is called Windsor (Windsor being just the other side of the intersection).

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Over on the ‘Trams DownUnder’ email group, they seem to think that the Moreland Road crossover is the ‘West Brunswick’ destination:

      That makes choosing a name for the Daly Street crossover a difficult one – the current street that it is named for isn’t one that many people would know about. Perhaps ‘Melville Road / Dawson Street’ is a better one?

  4. Tim says:

    I love how obsessed you can be! I live in the Brickworks development just down from where the 55 turns into Dawson. Never knew about my neighboring suburb. Thanks.

  5. john says:

    Before the Closer Settlement area of Moonee Vale was established, the area (but not the entire area of West Brunswick) was called Mona Vale after the property of one of the first land purchasers.

  6. Anthony says:

    I honestly thought, when YT decided to extend the 55 and then ‘renumber’ it as the 58, that the use of the ‘Moonee Vale’ name for shortworkings would cease.

    It has not, the ‘Moonee Vale’ descriptor is still used on the 58. I did know of its history though beforehand…

  7. Yasmin says:

    Hi Marcus, we realised around a month ago that we live in Moonee Vale (or just on the cusp of it) via taking reguar long walks around the district – and spied it on our TravelSmart map. And had supposed it to be part of an historical housing estate, just as you’ve discovered. We just came back from a walk to Pascoe Vale South via Coonans Hill – one of the Age references and I’m doing some follow-up research. It’s always amazing how many cool new things there are to discover. Love your research!

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