About the Line
The Queenscliff line opened in 1879, branching from the South Western line at South Geelong. It was among the first branch lines to be built in the state of Victoria.
The line leaves the Geelong suburbs, running through the flats near Moolap, before encountering Leopold Hill, where the grade stiffens. Undulating country then follows though to past Drysdale, before the line begins it's downhill climb into Point Lonsdale, following the shoreline of Swan Bay, before entering Queenscliff station though cliffs.
On opening there was one mixed train per way each day provided. It took one hour to make the trip from Geelong to Queenscliff. This was later changed to two trains each way. By 1885 services had increased to four trains daily. By 1901 it had been cut to three services in each direction. Passenger services ceased completely in 1931, mainly due to bus competition. However, was still a conditional excursion train timetabled for Sundays. These trains became a regular occurrence from 1955 onwards.
From 1931 goods trains operated twice weekly on the line, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. By 1934 the Tuesday's train was cancelled. However in 1941 a pilot was introduced to run to Cheetham Siding for the salt traffic, running daily except Thursdays. A spike in goods traffic occurred from 1939, due to World War 2 and heavy traffic to military facilities at Queenscliff. Up to two trains per day would run from Queenscliff loaded with mines that required repair.
After the war traffic declined one again, with the weekly goods reduced to every fortnight. Further declines lead to the line being closed on May 13 1959.
The line was reopened on November 16 1959 to serve a new customer on the line - shellgrit traffic from Lakers Siding to Spotswood for use in glassmaking, with this traffic was the mainstay of the line until 1973. A train ran weekly to serve Lakers Siding, as well as a thrice weekly pilot to Cheetham's Siding.
Excursion trains continued after the reopening as well, with trains running most Sundays. A 'T' class diesel electric was the usual motive power, hauling a number of PL type carriages and a C van. In 1963 the maximum speed for T'' class diesels and 'J' and lighter steam locos was 40 mph (~64 km/h) with tender first running limited to 20 mph. The steep grade through the South Geelong tunnel limited the loads hauled by trains (often requiring trains to set back or be assisted by a bank engine) as did long 1 in 50 grades near Drysdale.
Summer excursion trains were the only traffic on the line by the time the 1970s rolled around, with the line being truncated to Cheetham's Siding on November 6 1976, with the last freight train there running in 1978.
- I would like to thank Kathleen and Paul Kenny for giving me permission to use data from their book: "Trains, Troops, and Tourists - The South Geelong ~ Drysdale ~ Queenscliff Railway"
- Additional sources used are listed in the Sources section.