Then and now at ‘E’ Gate

Once upon a time the land between the Melbourne CBD and the water was occupied by a sea of railway sidings, not windswept streets and poky apartments. The bulk of this past life has been demolished with the development of Melbourne Docklands, but some traces still remain today at ‘E’ Gate.

South end of the Melbourne Steel Terminal

‘West Tower’ was constructed in the 1960s as the modern control room for the complex of sidings that made up the ‘Hump Yard’.

PROV image VPRS 12903/P1, item Box 688/20

Today ‘Hump Yard’ is gone, replaced by the Docklands Stadium, but the tower itself still remains, looking over an empty car park.

The western side of West Tower

Nearby were the North Melbourne wagon workshops, icehouse and goods loading sheds.

PROV image VPRS 12903/P1, item Box 692/10

The sign remains today, but everything listed on the sign is gone – the land earmarked for the new ‘E’ Gate development.

Sign outside the former South Yard, now the Melbourne Steel Terminal

The only thing left to be removed is former wagon workshops, now the home of Metro Trains and Yarra Trams maintenance depots.

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14 Responses to “Then and now at ‘E’ Gate”

  1. Sean Kellly says:

    Hi Marcus,

    Thanks for your posts. I found this one particularly special as I started as a Fireman with V/Line in August 1985…..the 2nd last class on 10 Firemen “off the street” before an embargo was placed on external hiring for several years.

    Back then most of Yard Pilots were still operating except the “special additional pilots” in busy times. The Hump had been reduced to just 2 shifts per day (night and day with no afternoon) and traffic was in rapid decline.

    By late 1986 the Shunting Operations Review had “killed” the traditional yard pilots in the Melbourne Yard and replaced them all with just 4 x “Roustabout” Pilots that worked around different yards as required.

    As you know the “new Melbourne Yard” was completed and opened in 1970 at a cost of $15M. Essentially in just 15 years it was totally redundant. I have several “mint” V/Line era copies of the Melbourne Yard brochure/booklet (same as the VR print) if you would like one? I am happy to mail to you for free.

    As you know all freight shunting was carried out at Batman’s Hill/Spencer Street until about 1903? Then the VR started to reclaim the “West Melbourne Swamp”……the Melbourne Yard now known as Docklands. Somewhere Trevor Penn or I have drawings of the original goods yard if you are interested?

    Marcus, I don’t often reply to your posts but I do read them all. You have some very GOOD comments and observation that you make on the Victorian Rail industry…………sad as the freight side has become.

    You are welcome to contact me if you wish or if you’d like further information on:- [SNIP].

    As a last bit of trivia……I moved my very last loaded stock car in the Centre Yard in 1986 (I’d give you an exact date but I have to “find” my 1986 diary!). It was a bogie S.A.R./A.N. cattle wagon loaded with cows. That was the LAST livestock I EVER saw on the Victorian Railways!

    Sincere best wishes,

    Sean Kelly.
    Locomotive Driver – retired.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Hi Sean,

      Glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for the extra info, especially around the final days of Melbourne Yard.

      It’s hard to believe how behind the times the VR was, finally getting their system in order to remarshall tiny trains, just as the move towards the first ‘block’ trains commenced.

      • Sean Kelly says:

        Hi Marcus,


        By the time the VR built Australia’s first automated hump sorting yard, “general manifest” trains were already in their death throws in Australia (although they survive in North America).

        Unlike nearly EVERY Hump Yard in the world, the VR’s one was VERY unusual in that it was a “dead-end” at Flinders Street and NOT a “through” yard.

        Hence, all of the sorting “balloons” had to be pulled out by shunting engines into dead-ends up to the buffers by Flinders Street Extension and then pushed back (and sometimes “double re-marshalled”) into the West, Centre and East Yards for goods trains to be able to depart for around the State.

        In other parts of the world the freight trains would have departed DIRECTLY from the balloon track itself – simple!

        I’ll get back to you re the Harold Freedman mural as soon as I can catch my old teacher.

        Sean. šŸ™‚

  2. Leigh says:

    From what I’ve heard, Metro and Yarra Trams lease to E Gate will run out soon and they will have to move so the E Gate development can take place, just like the Steel terminal.

  3. Jordan says:

    Why doesn’t metro have their control centre at the west tower? Rail disruptions caused by incidents at their current location by surrounding buildings would greatly decrease.[e.g fire alarms going off in recent years not caused by metro]

  4. Jordan says:


    Is the Melbourne yard west tower connected to any rail lines, or was it’s use just for the ‘Hump’ yard?

    • Sean Kelly says:

      Hi Jordan,

      Sorry for the late reply.

      As far as I know there is still one Signaller only at the West Tower.

      The West Tower used to control all goods lines from the east end of the Bunbury Street tunnel, South Ken and Kensington in the west to the home signal to enter the East Yard at the old Viaduct Junction (about where the east end of platforms 15/16 at Southern Cross Station are now.

      The West Tower still controls some of the remaining signals in this area. Those signals that are purely “standard gauge” are controlled from Adelaide and signals applying to both gauges are released by both Adelaide and the West Tower together……….that’s “kind of” the situation as far as I know?

      Hope this helps?

      Sean. šŸ™‚

  5. […] The terminal was last remaining part of the vast Melbourne Yard complex that stretched between the Melbourne CBD and the docks, but no longer exists – the land earmarked for the new ā€˜Eā€™ Gate development. […]

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