Melbourne’s Franklin Street and a railway signal box

There are plenty of thoroughfares called Franklin Street in Melbourne, but the most notable one is located along the top end of the Melbourne CBD, connecting the Queen Victoria Market in the west to Old Melbourne Gaol in the east. Meanwhile outside Southern Cross Station is an abandoned railway signal box, with the name ‘Franklin Street’ on the side. So how are the two linked?

Signal box at Franklin Street

As you can see, Franklin Street goes nowhere near a railway line.

While the signal box bearing that name is wedged between the Dudley Street and La Trobe Street bridges.

But I found the answer in this 1855 map of Melbourne.

Map of Melbourne, 1855
Map of Melbourne, 1855, via Wikimedia Commons

Franklin Street continues through what is now the Flagstaff Gardens, terminating at Adderley Street as ‘Franklin Street West’.

This 1895 plan by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works also features ‘Franklin Street’ adjoining Adderley Street.

But jump forward to the 1920 Morgans street directory, and we find Batman Street – the same as today.

So when did the name change? From Melbourne newspaper The Age on 16 December 1907:

The question of changing the name of the western end of Franklin Street to Batman Street, which will be considered by the City Council to-day, draws attention to the deplorable oversight by which the memory of John Batman, the founder of Melbourne, has been allowed to lapse into oblivion. It is late in the day to name a street after Batman, though better late than never, even if the street is only half a street.

But it may well be asked if the memory of Batman cannot be best incorporated into the beatification of Melbourne scheme by the erection of a statue to him? John Batman founded Melbourne, and he made no fortune by it, but it is fitting that the people of Melbourne should know of him and of the manner of man he was. With his fine, stalwart, broad shouldered figure, and strong, determined face. Batman in his picturesque habit as he lived would be an admirable subject for a statue!

And the day after, 17 December 1907.

The idea mooted in “The Age” of yesterday that some better plan of perpetuating the memory of John Batman, founder of Melbourne, than of naming half a street after him should be thought out was warmly supported at yesterday’s meeting of the City Council.

In calling on the tenth order of the day, that the portion of Franklin Street west of King Street be changed to Batman Street, the Lord Mayor, Cr. Weedon, referred to what he termed the excellent suggestion in “The Age” that John Batman, the pioneer of Melbourne, was a worthy and an artistic subject for a statue.

The idea had already occurred to himself, and now that there was a tendency to erect statuary in suitable places, it was beyond question that there was no name in the history of Melbourne better deserving of prominent public recognition than that of Batman, and no better means of doing honour to his memory than by the erection of his statue. At a recent meeting of the Geographical Society, he had brought the mutter forward, and had suggested that the A.N.A. Society should take the work in hand and carry it through, for Batman was a native of whom natives I might feel proud.

Cr. Aikman said this was a matter that should not be allowed to drop. It was certainly a reflection upon the city that
Batman should be forgotten. He hoped that a statue of the courageous pioneer might be incorporated in the scheme for the beautification of Melbourne, and erected in some suitable position overlooking the river and the city.

Cr. D. V. Hennessy said the City Council should take this matter in hand, and not leave it to the A.N.A. It was true that Batman was an Australian native, but it was as the founder of Melbourne that his memory should be perpetuated, and thus the obligation rested upon the municipality. He would like to see Batman’s statue standing in a prominent place in the municipal gardens near the Yarra.

Crs. Gardiner and Marks also supported the idea of erecting a statue, and Cr. Gardiner put forward a further suggestion that the name of Flagstaff Gardens should be changed to Batman Reserve. This, however, did not appeal to councillors, who voiced objections to interfering with the spot where the flag was first unfurled.

The order of the day was carried, and the west end of Franklin Street is now Batman Street.

So my question is answered: the signal box was opened at the west end of Franklin Street, but the thoroughfare being renamed ‘Batman Street’ in 1907 to remember John Batman, founder of Melbourne.

History of the signal box

A history of the signal box at Franklin Street can be found on page 170 of ‘Docklands Heritage Study: A Report to the Docklands Task Force‘, completed by Andrew C Ward and Associates, in conjunction with Dr Peter Milner, Gary Vines and Ron Greenaway in 1991.


The Franklin Street box controls passenger train movements at the junction of the suburban and country lines from the Up side of North Melbourne station to the points of interface with Spencer Street No. 1 box and No. 2 box. It is a two level brick signal box with concrete slab floor and walkway, steel approach steps and pipe railings and terracotta tiled hipped roof.

Condition: Good
Integrity: Good (architectural), Poor (technical)
Original Owner: Victorian Railways Department
Chief Engineer of Way and Works: E.H. Ballard
Chief Architect: Builder: J. TN. Fawcett


The Franklin Street and Viaduct Junction (demolished) signal boxes formed part of the rearrangement of the passenger suburban lines through the Melbourne Yard from the Spencer Street viaduct to Kensington. These works were associated with the construction of the Spencer Street suburban platforms opened in August 1924, and the interlocking frames were electro-mechanically operated in a manner similar to earlier installations at South Yarra and Camberwell.

The original box, close to the present building was opened on 6.9.1884 and replaced by the present installation on 17.8.1924. The box was closed in March, 1984 and replaced with a control panel which has been remote controlled by Metrol since 18.10.1986.


Although the original electro-mechanical apparatus has been removed, the Franklin Street box has controlled train movements since 1924 and forms a part of the suburban lines reconstruction plan at the Melbourne Passenger Yard of that date. It forms a unit with suburban platforms 11-14 and is typical of the Department’s work of the period, comparing with Camberwell (1924), Footscray ‘A’ (1930), Caulfield (1933), North Melbourne (1928) and Dandenong (1929).

The interior of 1924 signal box can be seen in this photo from the collection of the Public Records Office Of Victoria.

VPRS 12800/P5, item S 1179

Here the electro-mechanical interlocking frame used to direct trains takes centre stage.

VPRS 12800/P5, item S 0077

While this 1968 photo from West Tower shows the signal box among an array of railway tracks.

VPRS 12800/P5, item S 1007

In 1986 the signal box closed, but the remote control panel that replaced it was still in place as late as 2012.

The building itself remains in place today.


This history of the W.G. Goetz & Sons engineering works also mentions Batman Street.

After operating at 140 and later 260 Queen Street, the Goetz engineering works moved to 399-401 Franklin Street West (later Batman Street), West Melbourne.

The move from 260 Queen Street to Franklin Street West occurred sometime between 1892 and 1895. Franklin Street West was renamed Batman Street in 1909, and the Goetz property was later renumbered as 115 Batman Street.

When did Melbourne stop building new level crossings?

Removing level crossings is the current flavour of the month in Melbourne, as the continuation of a long and close process to separate road and rail traffic, but it raises a question – how long since the last brand new level crossing was built on a greenfields site?

Down Upfield train crosses the Gaffney Street level crossing at Batman station

Some background

For almost 15 years the creation of new level crossings in Victoria has been blocked by government, thanks to the passing of amendment VC016 to the Victoria planning scheme in September 2002:

Amend the clause 18.01-2 of SPPF to require transport routes to be designated to provide for grade separation at railways.

Public Transport Safety Victoria expand further in their Road/Rail Safety Interface Agreements guidelines:

Planning scheme amendment 18.01-2 of the State Planning Framework states that “design of transport routes must provide for grade separation at railway crossings except with the approval of the Minister for Transport”. This policy is primarily intended to prevent the construction of new roadway level crossings.

A notable level crossing rejected by this policy change is Aylmer Road on the Cranbourne line.

Dead end of Aylmer Road at the railway crossing, looking west

City of Casey councillor Damien Rosario explains further:

In the early 1990s the State Government approved development plans for the Lynbrook/Lyndhurst area with a level crossing at Aylmer Road, with developers required to make contributions for the level crossing.

However a few years ago, when Council was planning to construct the level crossing, the State Government changed the rules to prevent any further level crossings throughout Victoria. This meant that connectivity between Lynbrook and Lyndhurst could only be achieved via an overpass or an underpass.

The current version of the Lynbrook and Lyndhurst Development Plan still makes reference to an “at-grade” crossing at Aylmer Road reflecting the original planning for the area. Council will be updating this document to recognise the change in circumstance brought about by the State Government’s changes to railway crossing planning.

So when did the last new level crossing get built?

Finding the candidates

Melbourne was a early builder of railways, with the majority of today’s network in place by 1890 – a time long before mixing road and rail traffic was a concern!

VPRS 12800/P1, item H 4165

In the decades that followed a few short rail extensions were opened in suburban Melbourne – the Princess Bridge-Victoria Park direct route in 1901, the Albion-Jacana freight line in 1929, and the the eastward extension of the Glen Waverley line in 1930.

VPRS 12800/P4, item RS 0391

With motor cars beginning to fill the roads, the railways mentioned above were all grade separated from the start – no level crossings at all!

You might think that would throw a spanner in my search, but if we move forward to the 1980s we find the trail again – on the Altona line.

Originally opened as a short single track branch line to Williamstown Racecourse in 1885, the line was extended to the beachside town of Altona in 1888. There it remained until 1985 when the line was extended west to Laverton, via the new station of Westona, to form a through route to Werribee.

Siemens on the down near Altona

Thanks to the narrow rail corridor, the cheapest way to extend the line was a single track at ground level, resulting in two new road/rail level crossings: Grieve Parade, and Maidstone Street.

Grieve Parade level crossing

We then have an explosion of new level crossings created in 1986, with the opening of the Webb Dock railway line.

Wharf and Todd Road looking east

Built to link to Port of Melbourne with the wider rail network, the line ran at grade from the rail yards next to Southern Cross Station, crossing the Yarra River, and then running parallel to Lorimer Street, Todd Road and Wharf Road, before passing under the West Gate Bridge and arriving at the port. Along the way almost a dozen roads were crossed, the majority of them being access roads to neighbouring wharf sheds.

The Webb Dock railway closed in 1996, sparing motorists the level crossings, but the trucks that took their place cause so much traffic congestion reopening the railway is a recurring idea.

We now skip forward a few years, over to Dock Link Road in West Melbourne.

Truck departing the Melbourne Freight Terminal

Opened in the early 1990s so that trucks from the Port of Melbourne could access the South Dynon rail freight terminal, this level crossing was quite a beast – originally seven (!) tracks crossed the road, but was reduced to five in 2009 as part of the ARTC ‘Missing Link’ project.

G532 and VL256 lead the up Maryvale freight over Dock Link Road bound for Victoria Dock

Then end at the spartan facilities that pass for the railway station at Keilor Plains.

Citybound Siemens train arrives into Keilor Plains

Keilor Plains station opened in 2002, as part of the extension of the electrified network from St Albans to Sydenham. Located a short distance south of Taylors Road, there was no easy way for passengers to access the new station, so a ground level pedestrian crossing was provided at the city end of the platform.

Possibly the last new level crossing to be built in Melbourne

So there we have it!

  • 1986: last new road/rail level crossing on a Melbourne suburban line (Maidstone Street, Altona on Werribee line)
  • 1993: last new road/rail level crossing in Melbourne (Dock Link Road, West Melbourne)
  • 2002: last new level crossing in Melbourne (Keilor Plains station, Sunbury line)


By expanding the criteria to include expanded level crossings, the list grows longer: in 2007 Craigieburn station received a pedestrian crossing instead of an underpass, and in 2016 the crossing at Cardinia Road on the Pakenham line was duplicated.

A walk around Carnegie: apartments and skyrail

In recent years Carnegie has been a suburb full of cranes and construction – the apartment blocks came first, followed in 2016 by the replacement of the level crossing by an elevated rail viaduct dubbed ‘Skyrail’.

EDI Comeng arrives into Carnegie station on the up

Some locals aren’t happy with the elevated railway – Karlee Browning, No Sky Rail Group spokesperson in the Herald Sun.

It’s a visual blight on my property and I don’t want it. Nobody asked for my say — I have had no choice, I have had no voice in this whole consultation process.

I fear my property will be overshadowed, and for the privacy of my young children playing in the backyard and in the pool, and I hold grave concerns for the impact on my property value.

But the apartment blocks started arriving some time ago, like this six storey block opposite Carnegie station.

Six story high apartment block towers over Carnegie station

At the Carnegie the timber station building has gone, but the apartments still loom overhead.

Entrance to Carnegie station platform 2

Apartments also tower over the the concrete pylons that will support the elevated railway viaduct.

Six story apartment block overlooks Carnegie station platform 1

On the northern side of the tracks stands a five story high apartment complex, overlooking a future construction site.

Five story high apartment block overlooks Carnegie station

Opposite the Grange Road level crossing is a ‘Remove Level Crossings / Rail Under Road /’ banner on a side fence.

'Remove Level Crossings / Rail Under Road /' poster on a house backing onto the railway at Carnegie

Backing onto the railway in Carnegie is this house, in the front yard stands a bike with a ‘rail under not over’ message.

Bike with a 'Rail under not over' message on it, outside a house backing onto the railway at Carnegie

At Carnegie a piling rig is visible over the house rooftops, boring foundations for the rail viaduct. Virtually identical piling rigs are used to create basement car parks at nearby apartment blocks.

Piling rig visible over houses at Carnegie

This house at Carnegie also backs onto the railway line, where a three story high apartment building sits next door.

Houses along the railway line at Carnegie, already overlooked by three story high apartment buildings

At Murrumbeena a ‘I didn’t vote for Sky Rail’ sticker is overshadowed by a four storey apartment development across the laneway.

'I didn't vote for Sky Rail' sticker overshadowed by a four storey apartment development at Murrumbeena

On a third story apartment at Hughesdale a ‘No Skyrails – Rail Under Road’ banner is tied to the balcony railing. The apartment already overlooks neighbouring houses, but the new rail viaduct will looking back the other way.

'No Skyrails - Rail Under Road' banner tied to the balcony of a third story apartment at Hughesdale

Even if local residents got their way and the railway was put under instead of over, the suburb they were trying to ‘protect’ is already gone – their streets of single houses on quarter acre blocks will soon be full of multi story apartments.


Over at Urban Melbourne, Alastair Taylor wrote:

Carnegie won’t be a “mostly flat” suburb for long – it even had multi-level higher-density development before the new residential zones were applied. The new residential zones are driving investment into this pocket of Melbourne and buildings of a similar height or even higher than the proposed Carnegie Station have either been constructed or have been lodged with Glen Eira council.

Also include is a list of proposed apartment developments – a dozen and counting.

V/Line’s fourth train for Albury – has anything changed?

For almost a decade V/Line’s service to Albury has been a complete and utter joke – marked by three years of full time bus replacements for track upgrades, followed by a revolving door of track and train faults pushing passengers onto buses yet again. The government has promised the public that they are doing something about it, by introducing a fourth train set, but has anything actually changed?

N464 ready to lead the train back south from Albury

Some background

Since the 1960s the railway from Melbourne to Albury consisted of two separate railways – the broad gauge track used by intrastate trains, and a parallel standard gauge track that carried interstate services into New South Wales.

Parlor Car after turning at Wodonga

The problems date back to February 2008, when deteriorating track conditions saw a 80 km/h speed restriction placed on the broad gauge track between Seymour and Albury, forcing V/Line services to terminate at Wangaratta station in order to keep to the timetable.

The ‘fix’ for the problem was the North-East Rail Revitalisation Project – the broad gauge track between Seymour and Albury would be converted to standard gauge and the existing track upgraded, resulting in a ‘brand new’ double track railway. Work started in 2008, with V/Line passengers being put onto buses for three years while work was completed.

Just one problem – V/Line only had broad gauge trains!

N453 now on the standard gauge, beside XR555 at the South Dynon SG turntable

As a result three V/Line locomotives and 15 passenger carriages were converted to the standard gauge, to create a separate pool of trains to operate the services to Albury. This was enough trains to run three return services per day, with one locomotive and one set of carriages in the workshops under repair.

Reality bites

It was soon discovered that a single spare locomotives was not enough to maintain a reliable rail service – so in 2015 the State Government announced that a fourth locomotive would be moved across to the standard gauge fleet to improve reliability.

Extra Locomotive To Make Albury Trains More Reliable
Minister for Public Transport
28 May 2015

The Andrews Labor Government is converting an extra V/Line locomotive to standard gauge to improve the reliability of train services on the Albury line.

There are currently only three standard gauge locomotives available to haul trains on the Albury line. Routine maintenance means one of these locomotives is almost always off-line, leaving only two available to operate the six daily services.

If a second locomotive has to be withdrawn from service due to a fault or damage from an animal strike, there is only one available, meaning services need to be replaced by coaches.

Converting a fourth locomotive to standard gauge will give V/Line the buffer they need to provide more reliable services to Albury line passengers.

The transfer of an additional locomotive from the broad gauge fleet has been made possible by the introduction of a new overnight maintenance regime, which means more trains are available for passenger services.

The improvement to Albury services comes as the Labor Government prepares to launch its Regional Network Development Plan – a long-term strategy to boost capacity, reliability and coverage of the regional public transport network.

Communities in Northern Victoria will be consulted as part of the development of the plan, with consultation to kick off next month.

The additional locomotive is expected to be ready for service on the Albury line by the end of July this year.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Public Transport, Jacinta Allan

“Right now the Albury line is running on the bare minimum of trains. Adding a fourth locomotive will provide the capacity V/Line needs to improve services and make them more reliable.”

“Our Regional Network Development Plan offers an opportunity to further improve services to Albury, and I encourage people to put forward their views during consultation over the coming months.”

Quote attributable to Member for Northern Victoria, Jaclyn Symes

“This is a great announcement for Albury line passengers and I look forward to working with local communities across northern Victoria on a long-term plan for better public transport through the Regional Network Development Plan.”

Unfortunately for the people of North East Victoria, a spare locomotive wasn’t enough to improve their V/Line service, so in 2016 the government decided to shuffle the deck chairs – reconfiguring the existing fleet of three 5-carriage long trains into four 4-carriage long trains.

Work On An Extra Train For The North East Line Begins
Minister for Public Transport
17 October 2016

The Andrews Labor Government is building a fourth train for the Albury line, to boost the reliability of services while it plans for the next generation of rolling stock for passengers in Victoria’s north east.

Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan joined Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes at the Downer Rail workshop in Melbourne today, where V/Line has started reconfiguring existing carriages to create a fourth train.

Currently, three five-carriage trains operate on the Albury line. This is the minimum required to run the three return services to Albury each day and means that if a train has to be pulled out of service, the only option is to put passengers on coaches.

The extra train will mean there is one in reserve if anything unexpected happens – boosting reliability for passengers.

On average there are around 330 seats per train and currently an average of 200 seats available on Albury-line services, so the reduction of carriages on each train will not affect the ability of passengers to get a seat.

The reconfiguration work currently underway will take a carriage off each of the three existing trains and add a new one to create four four-carriage trains.

V/Line has also already sourced and begun refurbishing a power van for the fourth train, which acts like a power supply generator for the fourth train, so it can have lighting, heating and cooling.

The significant upgrade is part of $15 million provided by the Labor Government in the Victorian Budget 2016-17.

The investment will also clean and repair the interior of the existing carriages, to make them more comfortable for passengers, and fund planning for the next generation of trains for the north east line.

The reconfigured trains will start service in the first half of 2017.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan

“We’re building a fourth train for the Albury line to boost reliability and it’s great to see work underway.”

“Reconfiguring the carriages will improve services for local passengers while we plan for next generation trains for the north east line.”

Quotes attributable to Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes

“I am looking forward to the introduction of the extra train to the North-East line that will deliver much needed improvements to the service and comfort for commuters.”

“We’ve sourced the power van, work has started on the carriage refurbishment, and next year the new train will be in service – we’re getting it done.”

This fourth train entered service in April 2017, complete with flashy new PTV branding.

N457 leads power van PCJ492 and carriage set SN8 on the up Albury service at Albion

But has anything really changed?

Or is it just Malibu Stacy, with the same problems as before, but with a new hat?


A few weeks after entering service, the brand new train was attacked by graffiti vandals.

Reconditioned V/Line trains have been targeted in a graffiti attack.

Services between Albury and Melbourne continued to run this week despite the carriages being vandalised with green, yellow, orange and black spray paint.

The 12.05pm Melbourne to Albury service was replaced by buses, and the 5.20pm Albury to Melbourne was also replaced by coaches on Friday, but a V/Line spokeswoman said that was not due to the graffiti.

The carriages will be taken out of service to be washed next week.

Wasn’t the point of creating a fourth train to allow for Albury services to keep running, even if another train is already in the workshops?

Photos from ten years ago: April 2007

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is April 2007.

Plenty of trains again this month – starting with a 8-car long V/Line special departing Geelong, loaded with cats fans headed for the MCG.

P14 leads an 8-car long push-pull football special at North Geelong

There were also a number of special tour trains running. I captured Steamrail Victoria running a diesel-hauled school holiday special train from Melbourne to Geelong.

T356 arriving into Geelong

The Seymour Railway Heritage Centre also visited town, with a train south to Warrnambool.

T357 - T320 at North Geelong on SRHC's 'Warrnambool Blue' tour

And even a train operated by the New South Wales Rail Transport Museum, who took their ‘Southern Auroa’ consist from NSW through to the western Victoria city of Ararat.

A bit further down the line, 4201 and 4520 approach the former station at Moorabool

I also captured some more everyday workings, like this Warrnambool bound V/Line service in the southern Geelong suburb of Grovedale.

N456 on a down Warrnambool, at Grovedale

Along with a Waurn Ponds cement train.

X31 at Grovedale, returning from Waurn Ponds with loaded cement wagons

And this Genesee & Wyoming Australia operated grain train.

CLP17-CLF5-CLP14 on a Melbourne bound grain at Corio

Something unexpected was this power failure at Geelong station, which shut down V/Line rail services.

Geelong station in the dark after a power failure

Trains could still keep keep on running, thanks to the redundant power supplies that feed the railway signals, but the lack of station lighting was considered a safety hazard for passengers.

Geelong station in the dark after a power failure

Finally I paid a visit to the tin shed at Avalon that passes for an airport. The air traffic control is located opposite the terminal.

Air traffic control tower on the hill to the south

With passengers using portable stairs to access the aircraft.

Front and rear stairs in place


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