Sewer Tramway

In the early 20th century agitation for a proper sewerage disposal scheme saw the establishment of the Geelong Waterworks and Sewerage Trust in 1910. Consultants developed a number of schemes, with the one chosen being an 11 mile long sewer to an ocean outfall located at Black Rock, partway between Torquay and Barwon Heads. Tenders were called in early 1912 for the supply and laying of reinforced concrete pipes for the outfall. Sydney engineering firm Stone and Siddeley were awarded the contract.

Work begins

Pipemaking commended at the Marshall station yard, where a factory was erected on railway land. A part of the Geelong Racecourse railway line had been retained for train crossing purposes, so a set of points was installed at the down end, and a short dead end built into the factory for the supply of raw materials.

Pipes were manufactured by the pouring of wet cement into moulds, compressed air injected to exclude water, then the pipes left to harden in the moulds, being stacked along the former railway line reserve. The pipes were oviform in cross section, 4ft by 3in by 3ft 3in, 8 feet in length, and 2 tons in weight. Excavation work begun at the ocean outfall end in May 1912.


The Tramway

The weight of the pipes led engineer Stone to decide upon a light tramway to move the pipe to the trench, as well as removing the spoil. Eight miles of rail and sleepers, as well as a locomotive and a number of 4 wheel wooden framed trucks and one-yard capacity skips were purchased for a little under 3,000 pounds. The rails and locomotive arrived at Marshall in June 1912 and work on the tramway commenced immediately.

The part of the tramway was along the former Racecourse branch for a mile, before it met the route of the sewer, following it south 7 miles to Black Rock. The track gauge was 2ft 6in and no ballast was used. The locomotive was an 0-4-0 saddle tank with 19in diameter wheels and 6x9 outside cylinders. It was built by W.G. Bagnalll of Stafford, England as number 1801 in 1906.

By September 1912 seven miles of tramway were laid and the first batch of production pipes were finished (before this time trial pours had been carried out). By May 1913 the tramway had reached the coast, with delivery of pipes to the trench commencing in February 1913.

On the night of February 21, 1913 a special run was made along the tramway for 100 Trust officials, council representatives, and local journalists. After an inspection of the pipe factory, the train left at 9pm, arriving at the Black Rock terminus 700 yards from the ocean at 10.15pm, after two stops along the way to inspect the works. A meal was had and speeches given, before a return after midnight.



Work on the southern section of the sewer continued until April 1913, then preparations were made for the 4 mile long northern section towards Geelong city. A second locomotive was delivered in 1913, and rails for the new section arrived at Marshall on Thursday May 22, 1913.

Stone and Siddeley also won the contract for the aqueduct over the Barwon River at Breakwater, submitting a design in reinforced concrete. The tramway reached the south bank of the bridge site in June 1913, being used for the delivery of construction materials for the bridge. A temporary wooden truss bridge was built over the river in September 1913, and the rails continued to the north.

From the river the sewer was to run under the Geelong Racecourse and Showgrounds, changing to a smaller section pipe, then under the Queenscliff railway line, west along Carr Street, then north up Bellarine Street to McKillop Street. It was planned for the tramway to serve the entire route, with double headed train up the 1 in 33 Bellarine Street hill, but the tramway was not extended beyond Carr Street. In November 1913 it was announced that once the the tramway reached South Geelong, two passenger vehicles would be placed on the tramway and trip for the public run over the entire route, but this did not eventuate either.

By 1914 the tramway had reached the Showgrounds, reaching the Queenscliff railway by March. Victorian Railways workers dug a subway and laid supporting baulks to support the line above. The tramway was laid under the line in July 1914, and ran along Carr Street to a terminus at the foot of Bellarine Street. A deep tunnel was driven in sections from the terminus, with horse drawn wagons used to deliver the pipe from the tramway to shafts in Bellarine Street.



It is believed that the tramway was operated in two sections - north and south from Marshall. Temporary run around loops and sidings were situated along the works as required. The only serious accident occurred in October 1913 when an employee of the pipe works had his leg crushed between the buffers of two pipe trucks.



By January 1915 work on the main outfall had been completed, leaving only the trench to be filled in.The aqueduct was completed by Christmas 1915, and hydraulic testing was carried out in soon after. The pipe factory was closed sometime in September 1915. The tramway was removed at this time as well.

Today little trace of the tramway remains. At Marshall a number of concrete forms and test sections at the south end of the current station carpark at the former pipe factory. The outfall sewer remains in use today, but the aqueduct was replaced by a siphon under the river in 1992, and has now been fenced off from public access due to deterioration.



6 images found. Click them to enlarge.



  • 'Geelong Harbour Trust Tramways' by Norman Houghton (Light Railways, July 1981)
  • 'The Geelong Sewer Tram' by Norman Houghton (Light Railways, April 1983)
  • 'Horses, Shows and Trains' by Richard Aitken (Investigator, September 1978)
  • 'South Barwon 1857 - 1985' compiled by John Pescott (ISBN 0 949583 53 7)