Wine goes by train

Many things go by train – even wine.

Australia wines for sale in China - 'Jacob's Creek' and 'Yellow Tail'

Mildura is one of Victoria’s many wine regions, and also the origin of a freight service that carries containers of export goods to the Port of Melbourne.

Melbourne-bound Mildura freight passes through Bannockburn

Among those loaded containers is bulk wine, loaded into 20 foot long ISO ‘tanktainers‘.

Eurotainer carrying alcoholic beverages

The giveaway is the scrawled ‘alcoholic beverages’ text on the emergency information panel.

20 foot ISO 'tanktainer' container loaded with 'alcoholic beverages'

Just don’t go tapping the wrong tank – this similar looking Orica container is located with sodium cyanide!

Orica tank container carrying sodium cyanide

Further reading

In 2014 British wine critic Jancis Robinson wrote this piece on bulk wine exports from Australia:

In the last few years there has been a huge structural change in how wine is delivered to those who drink it. The UK, for example, is the most important market for one of the world’s most enthusiastic wine exporters, Australia. In 2008 fewer than three in every 10 bottles of Australian wine on British shelves contained wine that had been shipped from Australia in bulk rather than in bottle. Four years later that figure was eight in every 10, and the total amount of wine shipped out of Australia in bulk overtook the volume exported in bottle.

The reason for the switch to bulk transport?

This was when Britain’s major retailers and food producers signed the Courtauld Commitment to reduce packaging waste, which had the result of dramatically increasing the proportion of wine brought into the country unencumbered by heavy glass packaging.

But there is one big downside.

But what may have been good for the planet, has been bad for Australia and bottlers in other major wine-exporting countries with their mothballed bottling plants. The big bottle producers are international companies that have merely switched their supply bases, but in countries such as South Africa, bulk shipping has had a serious effect on local employment.

More crumbling Melbourne railway stations

A few years have passed since I first noticed the crumbling state of railway stations in Melbourne, but our poorly maintained rail system doesn’t stand still – I’ve spotted two new examples since then.

X'Trapolis 36M passes through Camberwell with an up express service

The first is Hawksburn. The current station building were completed in 1914, as part of the duplication and grade separation of the railway between South Yarra and Caulfield. The main station building is located on the central island platform, with smaller structures sheltering the entrances to platforms 1 and 4.

EDI Comeng arrives into Hawksburn on an up City Loop service

It is the waiting shelter on platform 1 that has started to crack, as the soil behind bears down upon the brick wall.

Cracked station building at Hawksburn platform 1

As a result, steel girders and rod have been put into place to prevent the wall from falling towards the platform.

Steel girder and rod reinforces the cracked station building at Hawksburn platform 1

But Camberwell station really takes dilapidation to a new level. The current Edwardian style station was completed in 1919, following the regrading of the tracks between Hawthorn and East Camberwell. The main station building serves platforms 1 and 2, with platform 3 having a smaller structure to protect waiting passengers.

X'Trapolis 175M arrives into Camberwell with a down Riversdale service

The first issue I spotted was on the cantilevered concrete beams that support the station footbridge. On the south side of the station, there was only minor water damage.

Original condition cantilevered concrete beams on the south side of Camberwell station

But on the north side was a much deeper issue – the concrete clad steel girders had been cleaned off, in what appeared to be an effort to address concrete cancer in the structure.

Rehabilitated cantilevered concrete beams on the north side of Camberwell station

Meanwhile on platform 3 were similar issues to the deteriorating structure at Hawksburn – cracked brickwork in the station building. Large cracks were visible at the Ringwood end.

Massive cracks, and plywood covered steel supports reinforcing the station building at Camberwell platform 3

With more cracks at the city end.

Cracked wall at Camberwell platform 3

But unlike Hawksburn, permanent repairs have yet to be completed – instead steel supports have been jerry rigged beneath the archways to reinforcing the structure, hidden behind hastily erected plywood sheets.

Plywood covered steel supports reinforcing the station building at Camberwell platform 3

By mid-August I took a closer look at the cracks.

Cracked brick archways at Camberwell platform 3

Further remediation works had commenced.

Steel rod reinforces cracked archways at Camberwell platform 3

Steel rod being used to reinforce the failing archways.

Steel rod reinforces failing archways at Camberwell platform 3

Mortar used to fill in the cracks.

Steel rod reinforces cracked archways at Camberwell platform 3

And surveying markers put in place to monitor any future movement.

Surveying markers to monitor failing archways at Camberwell platform 3

Given the lack of interest by those in charge to properly invest in maintenance and renewal of Melbourne’s rail network, I can only see the number of crumbing station buildings grow as the years go by.


Here you can find my 2013 piece on the crumbling station building at Newmarket.

Getting creative with tram stop advertising

Melbourne is known for the trams that trundle along our city streets, but for those who run the tram network it serves another purpose – a massive billboard for advertisers to make their mark on.

The majority of tram stops have plain glass walls, with a single advertising panel at one end.

New 'Adshel Live' digital screens at a CBD tram stop

Bigger adverting campaigns need a bigger message.

Ad wrapped tram stop at Collins Street advertising Garnier hair products

So vinyl decals are affixed to the glass walls to provide a larger canvas

Ad wrapped Town Hall tram stop on Collins Street, hiding the network map behind the stickers

Occasionally extra features are added to a tram stop to fit the advertising theme – like these stadium style seats for a Fox Sports campaign.

Foxtel advertising on Collins Street at the Town Hall tram stop

Mock timber elements were added to the tram stop for this Bacardi campaign.

Bacardi advertising at the Queen Street tram stop on Bourke Street

While this campaign for Mount Buller added fake plastic icicles around the roof.

Tram stop covered in advertising for Mount Buller

And this noodle campaign added an entire Asian style roof to the tram shelter.

Asian style roof attached to an AdShel tram shelter on William Street, advertising Suimin noodles

I wonder how much these custom tram stop additions cost the advertiser?


Yarra Trams lease their infrastructure to outdoor advertising company Adshel, who bear the responsibility for cleaning and repairing tram stop shelters, funding it by onselling the space for marketing campaigns. As you can assume, revenue is usually the first priority – covering tram network maps.

Yarra Trams network map hiding behind the advertising slogans

And driving the construction of almost useless shelters such as this one.

Fantastic tram stop - one seat, two advertising posters

One tiny seat, but plenty of room for two advertising posters!

Looking back at the ‘Cavalcade of Transport’ mural

For decades the ‘Cavalcade of Transport’ mural was a landmark of the otherwise unremarkable main concourse at Spencer Street Station. So how did it come to be?

Cavalcade of Transport mural (photo by Rennie Ellis dated 1983, SLV H2011.150-2517)
Rennie Ellis 1983, SLV image H2011.150/2517

The dreary Spencer Street Station building that we all remember dated back to the 1960s.

Melbourne Spencer St 045-315 CAD sheet 03 10
Photo by Graeme Butler, part of the 1985 Melbourne Central Activities District (CAD) Conservation Study

But the Cavalcade of Transport mural wasn’t added until a decade later – the Victorian Heritage Database listing gives some background.

The 36.6 metre long and 7.32 metre high History of Transport mural featured across the main concourse of the Spencer Street railway station, depicting the first century of transport in Victoria (1835-1935), was commissioned by the State Government in 1973.

Painted by State Artist, Harold Freedman (1915-99), and two assistants, the work was completed in January 1978. The mural, a realist oil painting on canvas mounted on plywood, was painted in five main sections at the East Camberwell railway substation, and erected in stages above the Spencer Street station concourse

Putting the mural into place at Spencer Street Station was quite the task.

Hanging the first pieces of the mural in the great hall at Spencer Street Station 18-6-1974 (PROV image VPRS 12800/P1, item H 4218)
PROV image VPRS 12800/P1, item H 4218, dated 18-6-1974

An entire wall of scaffolding was required to give access to the wall where the mural was hung.

Hanging the first pieces of the mural in the great hall at Spencer Street Station 18-6-1974 (PROV image VPRS 12800/P1, item H 4219)
PROV image VPRS 12800/P1, item H 4219, dated 18-6-1974

Once in place, the mural could be viewed from the maun station concourse.

Cavalcade of Transport mural (photo by Rennie Ellis dated 1983, SLV H2011.150-2537)
Rennie Ellis 1983, SLV image H2011.150/2537

Or from the mezzanine level cafe.

Cavalcade of Transport mural (photo by Rennie Ellis dated 1983, SLV H2011.150-2517)
Rennie Ellis 1983, SLV image H2011.150/2517

Cavalcade of Transport mural (photo by Rennie Ellis dated 1983, SLV H2011.150-2518)
Rennie Ellis 1983, SLV image H2011.150/2518

The mural stayed untouched until 2000, when the right hand end of the mural to be repositioned perpendicular to its original location, to allow the construction of the Bourke Street Bridge at the north end of the station building.

Further changes came in 2004, when the redevelopment of Spencer Street Station saw the mural put into storage while the new Southern Cross Station was built.

View south along Spencer Street

There it stayed until being re-erected in April 2007. Finding the mural was quite the ordeal – the new location was the north wall of the new Direct Factory Outlet shopping centre that formed part of the new station.

'Cavalcade of Transport' mural now relocated to the shopping centre

But unfortunately this wasn’t the end of this undignified story – in 2014 the shopping centre was redeveloped and the former viewing platform being demolished, leaving the mural hidden from view at the back of a discount shop, behind a forest of light fittings and air conditioning ducts.

'Cavalcade of Transport' mural sitting above a new factory outlet store

A sad end to something at used to take pride of place at Spencer Street Station.

Tigerair flights to Canberra

In August 2016 it was announced that Tigerair would commence daily flights between Canberra and Melbourne, breaking the current Qantas / Virgin Australia duopoly on the route. However this isn’t the first time that the airline has flown into the national capital.

On the apron at Canberra Airport, Tiger Airways A320 VH-VNB

Under their previous name of Tiger Airways they previously served the route, with the first flight on 14 February 2008 marking the start of one return flight daily seven days a week, until the grounding of the airline in 2011 resulted in the route being dropped.

I travelled on one of these early flights, and boarding the plane at Canberra was what I expected from a low cost carrier – walking out onto the tarmac then climbing a set of airstairs.

Tiger Airways A320 VH-VNB loading passengers at Canberra Airport

At least the weather was fine, and both legs of my journey were on time.

Three airlines at Canberra Airport: Virgin Blue, Qantas and Tiger