Proposed railway to Barwon Heads

In the Railway Construction Bill 1890 a railway between Geelong and Barwon Heads was proposed, but rejected by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways.


The Saturday 9 August 1890 edition of The Leader described the proposed route.

The length of the line is a little over 9 miles, reaching as a branch from the Geelong racecourse line to within a few hundred yards of the mouth of the Barwon. The racecourse line makes about 5 miles of the 14 miles between Geelong and Barwon Heads.

The proposed line runs in a south-easterly direction for about 4 miles, and then turns eastward to the Heads. On the north-east and north is Lake Connewarre with its swamps, mud fiats and marshes, which the line touches at two places. The lake district is almost entirely without settlement, and the majority of the people supposed to be served by this line are within a few miles of Geelong.

Nearly the whole of the country through which the proposed line would pass is level country, and the steepest gradient is 1 in 100. On leaving the racecourse line the survey makes for the nearest rise, such as it is, with the ostensible object of avoiding the swamps and touching the settlement. In this it has succeeded fairly well, for the first survey ran into a farmer's house on top of the hill, but this was altered, and the line goes through his yard instead. It will, however, run through a marl pit which supplies the farmer with manure, and which will of course have to be paid for. This property will be destroyed instead of benefited by the line.

From this point the line runs for some miles through fenced paddocks with very little cultivation. The country is for the most part bare or lightly timbered, many paddocks being abandoned to nature in the shape of growths of young gum trees or wattles. In some of the paddocks there are a few cattle and horses. The line passes the junction of the main roads to Bream Creek and Barwon Heads, and finds its way to the top of a rise, where there is a school and three or four houses, and there it turns east for Barwon Heads. At this bend the suggested line to Lorne branches to the south-west.

The country now becomes poorer as it nears the sea. There are stretches of she-oak, which give shelter to a few sheep, but cultivation disappears, and the settlement is very small. The traveller is never actually out of sight of a human habitation, but he is only one step from it, and the same might be said of the thinly populated plains of Riverina. The state of the country round here is such as to emphatically refute the description given in the commissioners' report, for instead of a well stocked, well cultivated thriving district, as it is made to appear, it is held by a very small population and worked in a very small way.

After passing the lower end of the salt swamp the line goes by a few small farms and gets into sandy country covered with brackens, fringed by the sand hills of the shore on one side and the marshy Connewarre swamps on the other. This is the character of the country, with a few breaks of good land, for the rest of the way to Barwon Heads. There are a few vegetable gardens in this vicinity, and some patches of cereal crops, but the country becomes more unattractive at every step, especially on the south of the route.

From the Connewarre Swamp to near the Heads there is a large tract of desolate bracken, without timber or carrying stunted withered trees that only add to the ugliness of the place. The brackens are brown with frost bite, and the appearance of the locality is about as dismal as could be imagined.

Yet this was the country bought up during the land boom with the object of re-selling to anyone who might be insane enough to buy at fancy prices. This also is the land through which the railway is surveyed, and curiously also, some 640 acres of it belonging to a member of the Legislative Council is traversed by the railway all its length, though it is absolutely empty of settlement, and there are some farmers left out in the cold on the opposite side of the main road. When the line turns up to the school house it goes close to a few farms, but it goes away from a larger number further along and makes a straight line into the hon. member's property and the property of the syndicate which represents the alleged community at Barwon Heads.

The agitation for this line began with the purchase of the land forming the Barwon Heads Estate by a company organised for land boom purposes. This property, of about 467 acres, containing some fair land, fronts the mouth of the river on its right bank, immediately beyond the council member's property. Along the frontage there is a moderately attractive outlook, with a sight of Ocean Grove on the other side of the river, and also of Point Lonsdale ; but in the first remove back from the frontage all outlook is lost, and no one could be expected to buy land in that place unless he were under the spell of the land boom fever. Of course there is a township — on paper — with allotments and streets and parades, etc.

The names of Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads are familiar in land boom advertisements as those of beautiful estates and charming resorts, but only with the exaggerated mode of expression common to the land agents of the period. The land boom has so perverted the use of the language that many words will not be used for years to come without arousing a sense of irony and ridicule.

This land company's property was formerly held by three owners as farms. The largest holding was about 340 acres, containing some fair soil, but a large portion is covered with brackens, and some of it is hidden under drift sand. A second farm of 72 acres has been cut up into allotments, and some of these sold. A small church building has been moved on to it, and a site for the railway station is reserved in it, but there are no other improvements. The third farm fronts the river. Some of the allotments have been sold, and a few cottages have been built by Geelong people as summer residences. There is a commodious coffee palace and several other cottages further south, and still further on is the Government township, most of which is sold, and a few cottages have been put up. The whole township consists of about a dozen houses, and the prospects of payable traffic are very small.

A line from Connewarre to Jan Juc might be of some good, as it would serve an old settled district ; but this line is apparently being proposed for the benefit of a limited enterprise. It passes through poor and unattractive country with a meagre population ; one of the last places one would expect to see a railway in, and the proposal is put down to the influence of the Geelong syndicate, which has bought up land at Barwon Heads, and tried to boom the concern.

The line will not benefit the local farmers, for they will have none of it, and the project there fore means an abuse of the Treasury to bring grist to the mill of half a dozen exploiters. Of all the shameful proposals in the Railway Bill this line to Barwon Heads is among the very worst.



Rough guess at what route the railway would take.



On 29 March 1892 Sectional Committee No. 2 of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways rejected the proposed railway to Barwon Heads.

Geelong to Barwon Heads

Length, 9.06 miles, steepest gradient, 1 in 100, sharpest curve, 1.5 chains radius; Estimated by the Railway Department to cost £65,087, or £7,184 per mile.

The Sectional Committee have inspected this line, which was included in the Railway Construction Bill 1890, and have taken evidence at Geelong and at Barwon Heads. The surveyed route branches off from the Geelong Race-course line near its terminus, and runs through almost level country, which is all settled: and used principally for grazing and vegetable growing.

Barwon Heads, the proposed terminus, is situated on the ocean, and is becoming a popular seaside resort.

It was urged in favour of the construction of this line that it would make Barwon Heads the nearest watering place on the ocean for the residents of Melbourne, Ballarat, Sandhurst, Geelong, and other places ; that the passenger traffic ·would be very considerable during the summer months, as a large number of persons visited Barwon Heads to spend the day picnicking, or to stop for a few weeks ; that it would he a great convenience to the fishermen, who cannot now get their fish speedily to a market; that there are extensive deposits of limestone at Barwon Heads awaiting development; that the district traversed by the line is most suitable for the growth of vegetables and various root crops ; and that it would cause the existing line to the Geelong Racecourse, which is now only used three times a year, to be utilised.

The Sectional Committee are of opinion that there is no necessity for the construction of the line, and that it would not be remunerative. The area to be served, a great portion of which lies between the sea and the lakes through which the Barwon River runs, is small, and would furnish very little traffic to the line. The value of the limestone deposits is doubtful, and the revenue to he derived from the passenger traffic would be inconsiderable.

The following resolution has been agreed to:-

That, in the opinion of Sectional Committee No. 2, it is not expedient to construct a line of railway from Geelong to Barwon Heads.