The Fyansford line was opened in 1918 to serve the Cement Works located at Fyansford. The line branches from main line at North Geelong Yard, weaving it's way uphill through the suburbs of Geelong until reaching Herne Hill where the plant was located. The cement works themselves are located at the bottom of the hill, with a conveyor system bringing the finished cement to the silos located atop the hill.
At the Cement Works loading silos were provided, as was a substantial yard for the marshalling of wagons. Services along the line were mainly shunt moves from North Geelong Yard and return. Over the years a number of railfan specials also ran along the line.
Usage of the line declined by the 1990s as road haulage took over. A bike path and linear park was provided beside the tracks in the early 1980s. The plant closed in the early 2000s and was demolished, however then line itself remains and being baulked off at the main line sometime before 2003.
The line was conceived by the cement company, who approached the State Government in 1915-16 requesting a rail link to North Geelong. The company said that the line would remove the problem of damaged roads in Geelong, and would also help support an anticipated increase in plant output.
A number of alternate routes were proposed for the line, but both were ruled impractical - the first was a line from South Geelong though Chilwell and Newtown, then dropping downgrade using the present route of Deviation Road to the works site. The second was a railway siding from the down side of South Geelong, running to the south to the Barwon River, where a wharf would be located near the bottom of Yarra Street. Barges would then transfer bulk coal and bagged cement to a second wharf at Fyansford, where an aerial ropeway would connect with the cement works.
The present route was decided upon, the North Geelong to Fyansford Railway Construction Act 1916 was soon passed, and the line was opened on September 9, 1918. The cement company purchased the private land required, and transferred the title to the Victorian Railways, for as long as the line remained in use. The construction cost was 5404 pounds ($10,808) but the company was required to pay 2345 pounds ($4708) per year in freight for 15 years. It was also required to send all cement capable of delivery by rail to any place further than 16 km from the works by rail.
Estimates of freight tonnage was 45,000 tpa (tonnes per annum) of cement, 25,000 tpa coal, 750 tpa stores, and 300 tpa of paper from the Buckley Falls paper mill (which closed in 1923).
The Victorian Railways branch line runs from North Geelong Yard in a south-westerly direction to the hill above the Cement Works at Fyansford. The line is 4.7 kilometres (2.93 miles) long from North Geelong Yard, or 5.23 kilometres (3.25 miles) from North Geelong Station. The junction faces Up trains (running Geelong to Melbourne) but the distances on the line increase from North Geelong Station towards Fyansford.
The line is on a steep rising grade, starting at 17 metres above sea level (56ft) at North Geelong increasing to 64.6 metres (212ft) at Fyansford, an average 1 in 120 grade, although many sections are much steeper. Up until the late 1960s steam was frequently used on the line. Locomotives up to the B class could be used on the line, with the 'J' class steam locomotive could take 450 tons up the hill, 'K' or 'N' classes were allowed 15 tons less. All locomotives were permitted 1250 tons on the downhill return. The use of 'bank' engines was frequent, where an extra locomotive was added to the rear to provided extra power. A 15 mph (25 kmh) speed limit applied on the line.
Traffic on the line served the Cement Works exclusively and operated in both directions. Inward coal arrived from Northern NSW via the Geelong wharves, gypsum from North-Western Victoria, iron oxide, bags, and straw. In 1965 it total freight totalled 261,116 tonnes (255,997 tons). In the later years the VHCA hoppers were the sole cement hoppers used on the line, running daily to a cement plant at Arden Street in North Melbourne.
Train Staff and Ticket Safeworking was used on the line, with staff locked catch points being provided at the up end of Fyansford yard. Trains were permitted to run on the line without a brake van in the rear. Up trains were required to stop on the down side of the Duro Street level crossing before being admitted to North Geelong Yard.
Provision was made for goods trains at Fyansford to be assisted in the rear by a locomotive from North Geelong 'C'. A locked staff box was provided at the up end of Fyansford yard. It contained train staff tickets for the Fyansford - North Geelong 'C' section, as well as a 'Notice of Train ahead' book. Upon reaching Fyansford the assisting locomotive would return to North Geelong 'on ticket', with the goods train being given a 'Notice of Train ahead' and the train staff for the section.
A number of railfan specials have operated over the Fyansford line. They include:
- November 1960: ARHS Vic tour of the Cement Work's private railway, rail to Geelong and bus onward.
- July 1963: ARE tour, A2 class steam loco to Fyansford.
- November 1964: ARE tour, N class steam loco to Fyansford.
- April 1965: ARHS tour, D3 639 steam loco to Fyansford.
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- VR General Appendix 1953
- History of the Australian Portland Cement private railway from the ARHS 'Excursion to Fyansford - April 20th 1965' tour notes.
- Additional details are from 'The Fyansford Cement Line' by John McNeill (Light Railways, April 1993)
- Details of the cement works are from 'A Journey to Destiny - 100 Years of Cement Manufacturing at Fyansford by Australian Cement Limited' (1990) by the same author.