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Builder's photo of Victorian Railways S class 4-6-2 locomotive No. S 300, 1928. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. This image is of Australian origin and is now in the public domain because its term of copyright has expired.

Major Events in Victorian Railway and Tramway History

David Matheson

5 May 2019

12 September 1854

First steam-powered railway in Australia opened between Flinders Street (Melbourne) and Sandridge (now Port Melbourne).

25 June 1857

Railway opened between Greenwich (now Newport) and Geelong, operated by the Geelong and Melbourne Railway Company.

13 January 1859

First government railways opened in Victoria between Melbourne and Williamstown, and between Melbourne and Sunbury.

May 1860

Thomas Higinbotham (1819–1880) became Engineer-in-Chief of Victorian Railways. Higinbotham was Engineer-in-Chief until 1878, and then again for several months during 1880. During his term of office he was responsible for the construction of railways within Victoria, including lines to Ballarat, Echuca and Wodonga.

28 February 1861

First trains operated to Flemington Racecourse, the line opening before the first running of the Melbourne Cup later that year.

10 April 1862

Railway completed between Melbourne and Ballarat via Geelong.

20 October 1862

Railway opened to Sandhurst (now Bendigo), completing the line from Melbourne.

17 September 1864

Railway opened to Echuca, completing the line from Melbourne. The line to Echuca was the first railway in Australia to reach the border between two colonies. Echuca is located on the southern side of the Murray River, which forms the New South Wales–Victoria border.

24 January 1872

First locomotive built by Victorian Railways, 2-4-0 No. 100, entered service after construction at Williamstown Workshops.

19 November 1873

Railway opened to Wodonga, completing the line from Melbourne.

30 June 1878

Melbourne and Hobsons Bay United Railway Company purchased by the Victorian Government. The Melbourne and Hobsons Bay Railway Company had operated the first steam-powered railway in Australia in 1854. In 1865 it amalgamated with the Melbourne Railway Company to become the Melbourne and Hobsons Bay United Railway Company.

1 June 1883

Rowan steam car first operated in Victoria between Spencer Street (Melbourne) and Williamstown.

14 June 1883

Railway bridge opened across the Murray River between Albury and Wodonga, connecting the lines between Sydney and Melbourne. Although the two cities were linked by railways, Victoria built its railways to broad gauge while New South Wales built its railways to standard gauge. Albury and Wodonga were both break of gauge stations where passengers travelling between the two cities were required to change trains and goods were transhipped, although Albury later became the major interchange location. A standard gauge link between Sydney and Melbourne was completed in 1962.

20 December 1884

Horse tramways began operating in Melbourne.

11 November 1885

First cable tramway opened in Melbourne, between Spencer Street and Richmond. Cable trams operated in Melbourne until 1940.

19 January 1887

Railways joined at Serviceton, near the Victoria–South Australia border, connecting the lines between Melbourne and Adelaide. The opening of the line between Melbourne and Adelaide completed the first single-gauge connection between two capital cities in Australia.

14 October 1889

First electric trams in Australia commenced running between Box Hill and Doncaster in Melbourne.


30 May 1890

Railway opened to Swan Hill, completing the line from Melbourne.


23 November 1891

Railway viaduct opened between Flinders Street and Spencer Street stations in Melbourne.


30 June 1893

Z Class 0-6-0T locomotive No. 526, the first locomotive to be built at Newport Railway Workshops, entered service.


14 March 1899

Victorian narrow gauge (762 mm) railway opened between Wangaratta and Whitfield, the first of five Victorian narrow gauge lines.


18 December 1900

Victorian narrow gauge (762 mm) railway opened between Upper Ferntree Gully and Gembrook. The line between Belgrave and Gembrook was closed in 1954, but was re-opened in sections as the Puffing Billy Railway. The line between Upper Ferntree Gully and Belgrave closed in 1958, and then re-opened as a broad gauge line in 1962.


17 October 1902

First DD Class 4-6-0 locomotive entered service. A total of 263 members of the DD Class entered service, including two that were converted from the DDE Class, making it the most numerous locomotive class to operate in Victoria.


13 November 1903

Railway opened to Mildura, completing the line from Melbourne.


2 December 1907

First A2 Class 4-6-0 locomotive entered service. The A2 Class was designed and built by Victorian Railways, and a total of 185 entered service from 1907 to 1922. Although built for express passenger service, they also operated goods trains.


20 April 1908

Worst railway accident in Victoria killed 44 people after two trains collided at Sunshine.


13 May 1912

McKeen cars, self-propelled passenger vehicles, entered service in Victoria. The McKeen cars were Australia’s first petrol rail motors.


28 May 1919

First electric passenger train services commenced in Australia, running between Essendon and Sandringham in Melbourne.


1 November 1919

Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board (MMTB) formed as a government body to control and operate tramways in Melbourne. Prior to the establishment of the MMTB there were various private tramways within the city, most of which came under the control of the MMTB in subsequent years. The MMTB controlled tramways within Melbourne until 1983.


17 September 1920

Harold Clapp (1875–1952) became Chairman of Commissioners of Victorian Railways. Clapp was Chairman from 1920 until 1939, during which time Victorian Railways were modernised and service to customers was emphasised. In 1945 he completed a report on the standardisation of railway gauges in Australia.


20 July 1923

Locomotive 1100, class leader of the 1100 Class and the first electric locomotive in government service Australia, entered service in Melbourne. Some light electric locomotives had operated on industrial railways prior to this time.


21 December 1923

First W type tram entered service in Melbourne. The W type trams, with various classes, became the standard Melbourne tram, with a total of 756 entering service up to 1956.


5 June 1926

First G Class 2-6-0+0-6-2 locomotive entered service. The only Garratt locomotives to operate in regular government service in Victoria, the two members of the G Class worked on Victorian narrow gauge (762 mm) lines.


14 March 1928

First S Class 4-6-2 express passenger locomotive began trials.  The four members of the S Class gained a reputation for their speed and performance, and were the most prestigious steam locomotives to operate in Victoria. From 1937 all four were streamlined and were capable of hauling the Spirit of Progress non-stop between Melbourne and Albury.


23 December 1935

36AE, the first air-conditioned carriage in the British Empire, entered service between Melbourne and Albury.


23 November 1937

The Spirit of Progress express passenger train entered service between Melbourne and Albury. Following completion of the standard gauge line between Melbourne and Albury in 1962, the Spirit of Progress became a standard gauge train operating overnight between Melbourne and Sydney.


26 October 1940

Last cable tram operated in Melbourne, from the city to Clifton Hill.


7 February 1941

H Class 4-8-4 locomotive, H220 Heavy Harry, the heaviest steam locomotive in Australia at the time, entered service. H220 was the only member of its class and operated passenger and goods trains. It is preserved at the Railway Museum at North Williamstown.


16 October–8 December 1950

Longest railway strike in Victoria stopped all services for 54 days.


27 June 1951

First R Class 4-6-4 express passenger locomotive entered service. A total of 70 members of the R Class entered service. They were built as express passenger locomotives, but the arrival of diesel-electric locomotives resulted in them having short working lives.


15 July 1952

First B Class diesel-electric locomotive, B60, Victorian Railways’ first mainline diesel, entered service. A total of 26 members of the class entered service, with 11 being converted to become the A Class in the 1980s.


13 October 1952

First diesel-hauled run of The Overland operated between Melbourne and Adelaide. The train was hauled from Melbourne to Serviceton by two Victorian Railways B Class locomotives, and then from Serviceton to Adelaide by two South Australian Railways 900 Class locomotives.


17 December 1954

J Class locomotive No. 559 became the last steam locomotive to enter service with Victorian Railways.


3 January 1962

Standard gauge railway line opened between Albury and Melbourne, completing the standard gauge connection between Sydney and Melbourne. The completion of the standard gauge line enabled direct trains to operate between Australia’s two largest cities for the first time.

12 April 1962

Inauguration of the Southern Aurora standard gauge express passenger train between Sydney and Melbourne. The Southern Aurora operated an overnight service between Sydney and Melbourne until 1986.


21 July 1962

Puffing Billy Railway between Belgrave and Menzies Creek re-opened for heritage train services. Puffing Billy has become one of Australia’s most popular tourist railways.


22 June 1971

Last regular steam-hauled train operated in Victoria. J Class 2-8-0 locomotive J558 worked a goods train from Eaglehawk.

24 January 1981

First underground railway in Victoria opened with the completion of the first stage of the City Loop, Museum (now Melbourne Central) station, and the Burnley and Caulfield Loops.


2–3 August 1986

Final regular runs of the Southern Aurora and the Spirit of Progress express passenger trains between Sydney and Melbourne.


15 June 1987

Last regular train hauled by an electric locomotive operated in Victoria when L1169 worked a goods train from Traralgon to Melbourne. Four L Class locomotives have been preserved, including L1169, which is owned by Steamrail Victoria.


20 November 1987

Melbourne to St Kilda railway re-opened as a light rail line. The line previously operated as a railway line from 1857. The line was converted from broad gauge to standard gauge to enable Melbourne trams to operate on it as a light rail line.


18 December 1987

Melbourne to Port Melbourne railway re-opened as a light rail line. The line previously operated as a railway line from 1854 when it was Australia’s first steam-powered railway. Like the Melbourne to St Kilda line, it was converted from broad gauge to standard gauge as a light rail line serviced by Melbourne trams.


4 June 1995

Standard gauge railway opened between Melbourne and Adelaide.

22 December 2005

VLocity railcars entered service and the upgraded Ballarat line re-opened. The VLocity trains operate over regional lines in Victoria.


3 September 2006

Full Regional Fast Rail project timetable began, enabling 160 km/h trains to run on the Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo lines.

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WC 162.jpg

Melbourne’s first cable tram service, between Bridge Road, Richmond, and Spencer Street via Flinders Street, 11 November 1885. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. This image is of Australian origin and is now in the public domain because its term of copyright has expired.

Victorian Railways' new diesel electric locomotive, B 60, passes on its delivery run to Melbourne one of the S class 'Pacific' steam locomotives it ultimately replaced. Seymour, July 1952. Photo: Victorian Railways, Wikimedia Commons. This image is of Australian origin and is now in the public domain because its term of copyright has expired.


Steam locomotive H220 Heavy Harry, Railway Museum, North Williamstown, 15 January 2017. H220 was the heaviest steam locomotive in Australia when it entered service in 1941.


NA Class locomotive 8A attaching to Puffing Billy train, Belgrave, Victoria, 16 January 2017. The Victorian narrow gauge (762 mm) railway to Gembrook opened in 1900 and closed in 1954. Puffing Billy opened its first section of the line in 1962, and has become a popular tourist railway.


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