Photos from ten years ago: June 2008

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is June 2008, 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.

Footnote

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

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