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The branch to Cunningham Pier was one of the first sections of the Geelong - Melbourne railway to be built. A curved pier in the vicinity of the current Cunningham Pier was erected by the Geelong and Melbourne Railway Company for the purposes of transporting material for the building of the line.
The pier was initially known as the Railway Pier, the date of the name change believed to be after 1916 but before the 1920s. The original curved pier was later replaced by a straight one in the present location at an unknown date. From at least the 1920s until the 1950s the main use of the pier was inbound coal traffic, until it was relocated to a redeveloped Corio Quay. Export wool was the other primary traffic on the pier.
The Cunningham Pier line did not serve the pier in isolation, with a number of private sidings running to nearby wool stores. A four road goods yard was also provided between Western Beach Road and Gheringhap Street, with an area being set aside for the discharge of goods to trucks or drays. The sidings date to pre-1916.
The first private siding was provided to the Denny Lascelles Woolstore (Bow Truss Building) in 1911, in conjunction with extension works to the store. Consisting of a single siding, it was a trailing set of points off the main line and ran inside the building located on the corner of Brougham and Clare Streets.
A second siding followed in December 1918 to the Dalgety Woolstore, again due to woolstore extensions. The twin dead end sidings ran inside the store, with an elevated loading platform provided alongside the tracks. It was dismantled in September 1962, by which time it was known as the "Dalgety's and New Zealand Loan Mercantile Siding".
More private sidings followed in November 1934, with Denny Lascelles building a new woolstore on the western side of Cunningham Street. A 182 metre (600 ft) long loop siding was provided off the main line running adjacent to the store. The up end connected back to the main line via a weighbridge, at the down end it was connected to the outside pier road.
A final siding was provided by September 1949 for the 'Geelong Co-op Dairying Association' consisting of a switch back siding with a weightbridge. It was located close to Geelong Yard on the up side of the Roy Street subway. The main line points faced down trains, being secured by a hand locking bar. The siding was still shown on the 1978 signal diagram, by 1985 it had been removed.
In February 1962 the 'Huddart Parker Siding' was abolished, with the double compound leading to it being replaced by a turnout. It is currently unknown where the siding was located.
The main line connection at Geelong Yard was removed in September 1993, but the line was not available for traffic for some years before.
Approximate layout of sidings off the Cunningham Pier line:
- Dalgety Siding
- Second Denny Lascelles Siding
- First Denny Lascelles Siding (Bow Truss Building)
- Public loading area on Cunningham Street
- Cunningham Pier
Operation and Safeworking
The Cunningham Pier line was considered an extension of Geelong Yard.
A maximum of 30 vehicles could be taken on one train at once, and the air brake was required to be continuous through the entire train. On Up journeys (returning to Geelong Yard) the last three vehicles were required to have their brakes in working order due to the grade.
In 1896 a special instruction was issued stating that vehicles were not allowed to be left on the wharf line, as it as considered a running line. For the 1899 grain season a Pilot Guard section was brought into use between Geelong 'A' box and Gheringhap Street, to allow the working of two engines on the line. This special instruction was cancelled two months later.
When a locomotive was already at the pier and it was found necessary to send a second locomotive, a Shunter was required to precede the second locomotive on the down journey to ensure the line ahead was clear. A maximum speed of 8km/h was set for the second locomotive between Geelong 'A' signal box and the weighbridge at the pier.
When a train was ready to depart from the pier on an Up journey, the Shunter at the pier was required to contact the Signalman at Geelong 'A' by telephone to obtain permission for the movement.
The second loop siding for Denny Lascelles' was equipped with a scotch block on the up side of the Western Beach level crossing. The scotch block was required to be kept in the derail position to protect the level crossing, unless wagons were to be moved from the siding. The Dalgety's siding was also equipped with scotch blocks 7 metres (25 ft) from the shed doors, with the company being responsible for their operation.
At the entrance to the Roy Street pedestrian subway, wicket gates were provided at the pedestrian crossing with the pier line. A lever on each side of the line was provided to operate the gates.
The operation of the level crossing at Brougham Street is unknown. Located at the bottom of a cutting, and at the exit of an underpass, it assumed a flag person was required to stop road traffic before a train could proceed.
Considering the line's location in the middle of Geelong, a large amount of the line is still visible to a informed observer.
The cutting from Geelong Yard to Gheringhap Street is still evident today, except for a small stretch between Brougham and Mercer Streets which was redeveloped in the early 1990s as the Geelong Police Station. It is now part of the Law Court and Police Station carpark. The level crossing at Brougham Street still has rails in it, and the bridge at Mercer Street is still visible on the eastern side of the road.
The block from Gheringhap Street to the second Brougham Street level crossing is where the most change has occurred. The Geelong Bowling Alley (now a Christian church) was built on the north-east corner Corio and Brougham Streets in the 1960s, but did not encroach on the line. On the other hand, the Geelong Busport was built on the south-east corner of Brougham and Gheringhap Streets in the late 1990s, and the eastern end covers the former line.
The Bow Truss Building was demolished in the early 1990s, and is now a large hole in the ground. The remainder of the Denny Lascelles site is now the National Wool Museum. The Dalgety Woolstores was redeveloped by Deakin University into their Waterfront Campus in the mid 1990s, with the shed with rail access being demolished and now a courtyard.
From Brougham Street to Western Beach Road the reservation is still vacant and grassed over. The second Denny Lascelles Woolstore is currently vacant, with the site of the loop siding still vacant.
Northwards from Western Beach Road railway track is still visible in the forecourt of Cunningham Pier, as well as on the pier itself. The large green shed on the pier was demolished as part of the Smorgeys development of the late 1990s.
From Bernie & Trish at http://www.fallinggum.com.au/
9 of 34 images found displayed. Click them to enlarge.
- Signal Diagram - Geelong 9'73 (April 1973)
- VR General Appendix 1953
- Weekly Notice Extracts - Alan Jungwirth and Keith Lambert