Chandler Highway Bridge
This article was first published in the White Hat
Melbourne Newsletter No.336 on 30th October 2009.
“You’d think they’d have more foresight.”
The fellow sitting underneath the bridge throwing a stick for his dog was
not looking in my direction, but since I was the only other human within
sight I assumed the statement was meant for me. “Just one lane of traffic in
each direction” he said gesturing to the bridge above and still not turning
his head to look at me.
““You’d think they’d have more foresight.”
“Hmmph.” I grunted. I find a grunt is useful under circumstances
like this since it usually conveys to the listener what they want to hear.
“I hear what you say comrade” he said tossing the stick once again
“but I still say they should have had more foresight.”
I retired to a reasonable distance to contemplate both what I had said
and the bridge above my head. It was originally built as part of the Outer
Circle rail route in the late 19th century. The Inner and Outer loops were
to carry freight and also open up new land for settlement once they were
served by passenger. rail. It is no surprise that two of the politicians who
voted to allow the railway had also bought up lots of land around said
railway. However their plans were to be thwarted by Global Downturn of the
1890s (well it seemed global here in Melbourne its effects were so
devastating). "Hmmph." I reflect.
“I know what you mean, but they should build more railways” says
my companion as he heaves the stick again. I grunt in a non-committal manner
as I reflect that some historians such as
Tim Flannery have blamed
this devastating 1890s depression on, among other things, over
capitalization in railways. “And that ugly factory over there – they
should get rid of it.” I grunt again.
The APM paper mills started life where Southgate now stands. Paper
manufacture needs a steady supply of good quality water and that was
available above the Queen Street falls. Over time factories and tanneries in
Richmond polluted the water and the paper mills were force to pipe water
down form above the next barrier – Dights Falls. Eventually they moved to
their current location and the part of the Outer Circle railway with the
more established section of the rail network remained one of the few heavy
freight uses of the Outer Circle.
My companion’s dog has spotted a rabbit and set off in pursuit. The
rabbit, sensing a city dog, stops turns and stares defiantly and the
apartment dog returns whimpering to its master.
Melbourne’s rail system grew up as ‘spokes’ radiating from the city and
only the inner and outer circles offered cross-town rail travel. How
romantic for the suburban housewife to have the occasional steam train
rattling past the back fence. Not really. Monday was traditionally washing
day when the womenfolk of the family would spend the whole day scrubbing and
washing and hanging the whites on the line to be bleached by the sun only to
have a dirty, smelly machine trundle past belching smoke and soot and
depositing a grey cloud on your day’s work. Only part of the outer circle
was electrified and most of the rest was gradually decommissioned and turned
into linear parks or used for other purposes. The inner and outer circle
routes would now prove ideal for light rail or tram routes giving cross-city
connection but it would be a brave politician who tried to now reclaim that
land for its original purpose. The rail bridge above our heads was
eventually converted into a road bridge for the Chandler Highway.
“Just two lanes of traffic up there.” says my companion. “You’d
think they’d have more foresight. They should start thinking about more
“Hmmph.” I say. My companion and his dog depart. "Good speaking
with you." he says.
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Other articles in the series Seven Monuments of Melbourne: