The Railways of Altona

Three years after the first steam train in Australia ran from Melbourne to Sandridge (Port Melbourne) in 1854, a railway, the first Victorian country line was built between Geelong and Greenwich (now Newport) by the Geelong and Melbourne Railway Co. It is stated that the line was completed on August 8 1857, the last rail being fastened near the present Laverton station. As the line lost money the Victorian Railways took the railway over in 1860.

The next railway in our area – “the shortest railway line in the Colony, it may be in the world” – served the Williamstown Racecourse. It branched off the Geelong line and ran to near Kororoit Creek Road. It was opened on April 6 1885. This Government-owned line was later extended across the road to the creek and opened November 9 1887.

The line to Altona proper was constructed privately by the Altona Bay Co. in 1888, and the first official trains ran to the Land Sale on 8th September the same year and on succeeding weekends. A twice daily six days a week service was provided by the company by means of a steam rail car which connected with a Government train at the racecourse that ran to Spencer Street. The service was cancelled August 14 1890.

Initially there was one station only, “Altona” at Pier Street. Then in November 1888 the line was extended about a mile west to a station “Altona Beach” just east of Grieve Parade. The line possibly continued to rejoin the Geelong railway between present Galvin and Laverton stations where a station “Edinborough” was to be constructed. Certainly the formation and bridgework were prepared.

When Hosie opened his mine just past the “Altona Beach” platform in 1895 the Company hired a hired a steam engine from the Railways to work their railway between July 1895 and March 1896, possibly to haul coal. When this venture failed the railway fell into disuse until about 1908 when the Melbourne & Altona Colliery commenced operations. A spur was built from the old line beyond Altona station to the mine in 1909 and trains ran as required from Newport to bring in supplies and take out coal. In 1916 trains were used to bring in Army personnel to the camp at Altona.

On the 1st of December, 1917, a steam passenger service was restored to the former “Altona” station at Pier Street, and the station renamed “Altona Beach”. The Land Co. paid for the train and the Railways ran it. Most of the engines and carriages used were of ancient vintage, but the two Miocene carriages (old petrol rail motors) with their motors removed, gave the line an individuality all its own.

altona-steam-trainImage above: Altona Steam Train with Miocene Car and Guard’s Van, about 1925.

Initially in 1917 there were 10 return trips per day, but no service after 7p.m. Today there are 33.

Seaholme Station was constructed in 1921, the name being a winning entry in a competition held by the Land Company, Mobiltown was added in 1953 to serve the oil refinery.

After protracted negotiations the line was taken over by the Victorian Railways on December 1 1924, and electrified on October 2 1926, the ribbon being cut by Mrs. Murphy, wife of the President of the Progress Association.

On the Geelong line, Laverton Station appeared in 1886, Galvin and Paisley in 1929. A station “Hatherley” was built in 1891 near to where Altona line branches off, but was closed a few years later.


A History of Altona by Allan J. Clark Hon Secretary and Members of the Altona Historical Society, First published 1974, second edition 1978 (some small updates have been included where further information has located).