The time Queen Elizabeth II visited Museum station

Just on a decade ago at the corner of Swanston and La Trobe Street in Melbourne, I found a curious plaque hidden among the bluestone paving – it read “Queen Elizabeth Plaza named by Her Majesty The Queen, 28 May 1980”. So what was Queen Elizabeth Plaza, and why did the Queen have it named after her?

Plaque marking the naming of 'Queen Elizabeth Plaza' by Her Majesty The Queen on 28 May 1980

The story behins

We start in the 1970s with the construction of the Museum station – now known as Melbourne Central – in a cut and cover box beneath La Trobe Street, between Swanston and Elizabeth Streets. To make room for the massive excavation, Melbourne Underground Rail Loop Authority acquired properties so that La Trobe Street was detoured to the south.


Public Record Office Victoria image (via ABC News)

The Melbourne Underground Rail Loop Authority also acquired additional land south of Museum station for a future commercial development, with this 1973 artists impression showing how it would be integrated with the underground station.


PROV image VPRS 12903/P0001, 698/27

However the plans for over site development stalled, and the decision was made to build three standalone entrances to Museum station – from Swanston, Elizabeth and La Trobe Streets. The architecture firm responsible was Perrott Lyon Timlock & Kesa, with the above ground entrances designed by project designer Graeme Butler.

The main entrance to the station was at the south-west corner of Swanston and La Trobe Street, with a civic plaza located over the escalators down to the station concourse.

Melbourne Museum Station MURLA GB design 0041
Graeme Butler photo

Once the station box was completed and La Trobe Street moved back to the original alignment, construction of the station entrance started in earnest.

Melbourne - Museum now Central Station MURLA - North Entrance plaza during construction, 1980s
Graeme Butler photo

But by mid-1978 the intended opening date of December 1979 was looking unachievable – October 1980 set as the new date, following delays to the new ‘Metrol’ train control centre.


Weston Langford photo

Enter Queen Elizabeth II

On 1 March 1980 it was announced that Queen Elizabeth II would be coming to Australia to open the new High Court Building in Canberra on May 26, followed by visits to Sydney and Melbourne.

Another construction project also underway in Melbourne was City Square at the corner of Swanston and Collins Street, with Queen Elizabeth II cutting the ribbon to open it.

Melbourne City Square 1985
Graeme Butler photo

But Melbourne’s new underground railway – it wasn’t ready yet! So the civic plaza on top of the station entrance was tidied up.

Museum Station MURLA construction 1980 0041
Graeme Butler photo

Ready for the Royal Visit on 28 May 1980.


Screencap from MURLA film

The Royal Visit

Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh arrived at the station via La Trobe Street.


Screencap from MURLA film

Exiting their car on the north side of the street.


Screencap from MURLA film

Walking along La Trobe Street a short way.


Screencap from MURLA film

And down the ramp into the station.


Screencap from MURLA film

The ramp ran along a sloped garden, providing a lightwell into the station concourse.


Screencap from MURLA film

Once in the station, the party headed down another level to inspect a number of displays on the platform.


MURLA photo

And then back up the escalator to the concourse.


Screencap from MURLA film

After another escalator the party reached Swanston Street, where they walked up a flight of stairs to the upper level plaza.


Screencap from MURLA film

A crowd watching from the State Library forecourt across Swanston Street.


Screencap from MURLA film

Up ahead – a waiting plaque, covered in a velvet curtain adorned with the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop Authority logo.


Screencap from MURLA film

Time to pull back the curtain.


Screencap from MURLA film

And there’s the plaque I found – “Queen Elizabeth Plaza named by Her Majesty The Queen, 28 May 1980”.


Screencap from MURLA film

Time for a quick photo with Her Majesty.


MURLA photo

And then it was time for the next engagement of the day.

So what happened to Queen Elizabeth Plaza?

Following the Royal Visit work continued: stage one of Museum station and the first two City Loop tunnels were officially opened on 14 November 1980.

MURLA plaque marking the completion of Museum Station stage one and the first two loop tunnels, November 14 1980

The dome in the middle of Queen Elizabeth Plaza was completed.

Museum Underground Railway Station (now Melbourne Central) , 1980s MURLA
Graeme Butler photo

Overshadowed by Coops Shot Tower.

Queen Elizabeth Plaza, Museum Underground Railway Station 1982  (MURLA) now Melbourne Central Station
Graeme Butler photo

An island among wasteland waiting to be redeveloped.


Graeme Butler photo

At what was then a quiet part of the Melbourne CBD.

Melbourne Swanston St 349-373 CAD sheet 07 14
Graeme Butler photo

But farewell

Redevelopment of the surrounding area was soon approved as part of the ‘Melbourne Central’ complex, and by 1989, Queen Elizabeth Plaza had disappeared beneath the new shopping complex.

The shopping centre opening atop the station entrance in 1991.


Sydney Hughes postcard

With the Queen Elizabeth name applied to ‘Queen Elizabeth Walk‘ on 11th September 1991.

Plaque marking the renaming of 'Queen Elizabeth Plaza' as 'Queen Elizabeth Walk' on 11th September 1991

But just over a decade later, it was now the turn of the Swanston Street station entrance to disappear.

Melbourne Central Shopping Centre at the corner of Swanston and La Trobe Streets

Closed in 2003 as part of the redevelopment of the Melbourne Central, replaced by a maze of escalators running through the shopping centre.

Time to dodge the marketing stalls blocking the main entrance to Melbourne Central Station!

Not exactly fit for a queen, is it?

And the ramp to La Trobe Street?

The ramp used by Queen Elizabeth II to enter Museum station survived far longer.

Ramp up to La Trobe Street from the office level of Melbourne Central station

As did a spiral staircase to La Trobe Street.

La Trobe Street staircase to Melbourne Central station

Despite being enclosed by shops along La Trobe Street and a car park to the north, both remained in almost original condition until a few years ago.

Ramp from ground level on La Trobe Street, leading to the upper level of the underground concourse at Melbourne Central station

Until the site was acquired for the Aurora Melbourne Central development. Demolition work commenced in 2015.

Demolition work underway at the car park atop the La Trobe Street entrance to Melbourne Central station

The connection to the station box hacked away at the north side of La Trobe Street.

La Trobe Street ramp to Melbourne Central station has been completely demolished

Making way for the basement of the 84 storey residential tower.

Looking south across the Aurora Melbourne Central construction site to La Trobe Street and Melbourne Central station

The replacement station access to La Trobe Street? A dank graffiti covered staircase and lift.

Staircase and lift to La Trobe Street for Melbourne Central station inside the Aurora Melbourne development

Definitely not a place you would bring royalty to inspect!

Footnote: a few more Royal Visit titbits

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has a copy of the 1980 Royal Visit program – 30 minutes was allocated for the Queen to inspect Museum station.

3.10pm

  • Alight at La Trobe Street entrance
  • See selected features of the station
  • Her Majesty unveils a plaque naming “Queen Elizabeth Plaza”

3.40pm

  • Depart for Government House

In their 1980 annual report, the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop Authority made special mention of the Royal Visit.

It is fitting that the Authority received recognition by Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh during their recent visit to Melbourne by their making an inspection of the Underground at Museum Station, culminating in the conferring by Her Majesty of her name on the plaza above the eastern entrance to the Station. In due course the plaza will be integrated into the Museum Station area redevelopment.

The visit by Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh provided a further impetus for public involvement with the Loop and its potential benefits. It also made possible a welcome opportunity to open Museum Station for inspection by special interest groups of individuals, and representatives of organisations who have made significant contributions to the project, and workmen (with their families), many of whom have been involved with the project since its inception.

Special reference is made to the Media which, in story and picture, provided a continuing coverage of Loop progress, particularly the television sector which, by virtue of its unique nature, enabled millions of viewers throughout the world to see activity taking place underground and in areas otherwise completely hidden from public view, including an extensive national and international coverage of the Royal Visit.

The full film of the visit is here:

‘phunnyfoto’ on Flickr was also there for the Royal Visit, photographing the event from atop 200 La Trobe Street.

Finally, on Flickr you can find more photos of Museum station by Graeme Butler.

Footnote: another Royal Visit to a delayed station

Queen Elizabeth II also visited a behind schedule railway station during her 1975 visit to Hong Kong – but still left behind a plaque to mark the occasion.

Commemorative plaque unveiled by Her Majesty the Queen in 1975

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7 Responses to “The time Queen Elizabeth II visited Museum station”

  1. graham says:

    Queens Victoria II ?

  2. Andrew says:

    It was a VERY quiet part of town when it opened. The growth of RMIT and the shopping centre have certainly changed that.

  3. Steve says:

    I was on a Train of Knowledge tour in Grade 6 to Bairnsdale back in 1982. When we came back to Melbourne on the last day we took a train to/from Museum and I remember we were out on a concourse somewhere – maybe that was it! I also remember getting told off for standing too close to the edge of the platform trying to look at the track and wires. (Not being familiar at all with Melbourne at the time, being from the country!)

  4. Mitty says:

    Great post Marcus. Will still never forgive Melb Central for how horrifying they’ve made it to get down to the station these days.

  5. GURVINDER SINGH GANDU says:

    The current station is much better than the original looking one

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