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The Railways - The Strzelecki Line

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The Strzelecki railway line was a 49 km steam-era branch railway line in Victoria, Australia.
The line opened in June 1922, branching off the former Great Southern Railway (South Gippsland line) at Koo Wee Rup Station. The main line branched off the current Pakenham line at Dandenong, extending out into the South Gippsland region.

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Opening and description

The Strzelecki line opened on 29 June 1922, serving the farms of the Strzelecki Ranges. Sheep and/or cattle loading facilities were provided at all stations except Heath Hill, with goods loading and storage facilities at all stations except Athlone.

Two years after the line opened, two goods sidings, situated between Koo Wee Rup and Bayles, were provided: Plowrights siding and Water Washed Sand siding. Narrow-gauge tramlines ran from both sidings to the main Koo Wee Rup drain, and were used for transporting river-washed sand to the main line. Both Plowrights and Water Washed Sand sidings closed in 1931.
koalaBayles was the first station on the line, situated in light scrub just south of the township. The following station was Catani, now just a mound of earth where the platform was. Yannathan platform was 11.5 km from Koo Wee Rup, and Heathhill was a further 2.4 km along the line. Athlone Quarry Siding, 94.14 km from Koo Wee Rup, was opened with the line, but closed three years later. Athlone station was 2.4 km further along the line, followed by Topiram.
Triholm, 106.6 km from the junction, became the terminus of the line after the section beyond was closed on 22 November 1930. Beyond Triholm, the line featured steep grades and sharp curves.

The original terminus station at Strzelecki had a 53-foot turntable. After Strzelecki station's closure, no other station on the line was supplied with a turntable, requiring trains to run tender-first in the down direction and returning to Koo Wee Rup engine-first.

History Strzelecki railway station

The former Great Southern Railway (South Gippsland line), which opened in 1892, branched from the Gippsland line at Dandenong and ran to Port Albert.
The Strzelecki railway line, which branched off this line at Koo-Wee-Rup, was opened in June 1922. The line served the farms of the western Strzelecki Ranges, and the stations provided facilities for the storage of goods andthe loading of sheep and cattle. Historic photographs from the 1920s show stockyards next to Strzelecki Station.
Strzelecki was the eighth and last station on the Koo-Wee-Rup to Strzelecki line after ( Bayles, Catani, Yannathan, Heath Hill, Athlone, Topiram and Triholm).

koalaConstruction of the line came at a time when railway expansion was being curtailed as a result of increasing government expenditure on roads and the development of motor vehicles. But the continued development of this line can be largely attributed to the significant increase in vegetable crops and diary produce arising from the draining of the Koo-Wee-Rup swamp, which in turn supplied Victoria's profitable overseas trade in perishable food stuffs.

Strzelecki Station was only 8 km to the east of Triholm but its elevation was almost 200m greater, and 23 cuttings were required between the two.
The station closed on 22nd November 1930, after a timber trestle bridge on the section of line between Triholm and Strzelecki developed a large sway every time a train passed over it - in response to the severe financial difficulties experienced by the Victorian Railways, falling traffic and disrepair of infrastructure, including the bridge at Strzelecki. The closure came only eight years after the line opened.

the Koo-Wee-Rup - Strzelecki railway

The Triholm and Strzelecki (Dismantling) Act, No 4518 of December 1937 authorised the dismantling of the rails and the sale of land. The track in this section of the line was taken up in 1938, whilst the turntable and station buildings at Strzelecki had all gone by 1940.

Strzelecki was the only station on the line to be fitted with a 53' turn table. Gangers facilities at the station were the Gangers headquarters, tool shed and departmental residence. Goods facilities at the station included goods loading platform, goods shed and cattle and sheep yards. Motor gang trolleys were also kept at the station.

Closures

The Strzelecki line turned out to be one of the shorter-lived lines in Victoria. The section between Triholm to Strzelecki closed due to a trestle bridge developing a large sway every time a train ran over it, with the cost of repairs deemed uneconomical in view of the light traffic.
The section of track from Yannathan to Triholm was closed on 7 August 1941, after flooding of the Lang Lang River resulted in damage to one of the four trestle bridges over the river.
Next to close was the section from Bayles to Yannathan, on 15 April 1950. The line to Bayles was kept open until 4 February 1959 to serve a butter factory.

The line construction

koalaThe line was constructed with 60 lb/yd (29.8 kg/m) 'D' steel rail, using sleepers 8 ft 4 in (2,540 mm) long, 9 in (229 mm) wide and 4 1 / in (114 mm) deep, with nine sleepers being used for every 22 ft 6 in (6.86 m), or 20 sleepers per 45 ft (13.72 m) length of rail, laid on a ballast of sand 6 in (152 mm) deep.
Track speed for passenger and freight services was 25 mph (40 km/h).