Line Side Guide
Queenscliff Station & Yard
The station building is the original, dating back to 1881, interestingly this is two year after the line was actually opened. The station building is registered by Heritage Victoria as having statewide significance. Note the curved iron rails which support the verandah. It has been suggested that these were originally from Victoria’s first railway line to Port Melbourne. Along the platform you will find several interesting items, such as the parcel scales, luggage trolleys, indicator clock, the ‘zero’ milepost, and beyond the toilets at the Drysdale end of the platform you will see the coal which powers the steam locomotives, and the water tank which is used to refill the locomotive’s tanks.
Our fleet of operation passenger carriages include steel bodied Tasmanian saloon coaches dating from 1937, and wooden bodied carriages originating from Tasmania, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia, and dating from the 1880s to the 1930s.
Our locomotive fleet consits of nine steam locomotives, four diesel locomotives and two railcars, with some of these awaiting future restorations to working order.
If you look towards the pier end of the yard, you will see our workshops. This area is off limits to the general public, however arrangements may be made for you to visit this area. The workshops volunteer staff carry out all restoration and running repairs on the locomotives, carriages and wagons here in the original engine shed and adjoining carriage shed, as well as other tasks such as signalling and track work.
You’ve purchased your ticket and found a seat. The Station Master is ringing the traditional brass bell, and is showing his white ‘all clear’ flag to the Train Guard. The Guard blows his whistle, and shows the Driver a green ‘right away’ flag. The Driver then sounds the locomotive whistle, and eases the train into motion. The train moves out of the yard and into a left hand curve underneath a steep embankment. This first curve on the journey is the sharpest on the line with a radius of 15 chains, or 300 metres. The sound from beneath the carriage floor is of the wheels passing over the rail joins. The rails between Queenscliff and Drysdale are generally all 23 feet long, and weigh 75 pounds per yard (37 kilograms per metre). The short length rails are typical of the old country branch lines, and all main lines are now built with rails welded into continuous lengths.
Soon we are rolling along the shores of Swan Bay, a very shallow tidal inlet which is teeming with wildlife. This area has been given much attention over the years by treasure seekers, trying to find the loot of the pirate Benito reputed to have been hidden in the area over 200 years ago.Further along, you will notice the main Geelong road running parallel to the railway. This area is known as ‘The Narrows’. It is a narrow strip of land only a couple of hundred metres wide that connects Queenscliff to the mainland. Port Phillip Bay is directly over the dunes behind the road.
On your right is the “Marine Discovery Centre” an educational and research facility- well worth a visit. All the railway line in this section is built upon an embankment in the tidal area of Swan Bay. After heavy rain, and a high tide, the train looks as if it’s running on water.
Also along this stretch to your left we pass Ward Road Stopping Place. This pick up point is mainly used by visitors to the nearby caravan parks, and trains only stop here by pre-arranged request.
We leave Swan Bay and the Borough of Queenscliff behind, and soon arrive at Laker’s Siding. This siding was used for loading shell grit from the adjacent works. You can still see the concrete loading platform, and also the remnants of the works. The Laker family still owns the engineering business that now occupies the site, and also have a street named after them in nearby Point Lonsdale.
If you are only travelling as far as Laker’s Siding, your train crew will now attend to reversing the locomotive. You may observe the Guard using the large red levers to the right of the train. These control the large semaphore signals at either end of the yard which serve to prevent any other trains entering the yard, and also secure the points which allow trains to travel on the siding track. The points can only be changed when the signals are at ‘stop’; that is when the semaphore arm is horizontal. This procedure is also carried out at Drysdale. Your train will only remain here for around 10 minutes, so don’t wander off, it’s a long walk back to Queenscliff!
Continuing on towards Drysdale, we cross the Portarlington Road, and you will hear the locomotive begin to work hard as we commence to climb up from sea level into the Bellarine Hills.
As we near the top of the first hill, on your left you will see the Suma Park complex. The original homestead dates back to the 19th century, and today the site has been developed into a function and reception centre with accommodation cottages. The small station was built to serve the complex’s guests, as often wedding parties use the train for transport to the reception venue. As we round a long right hand curve after passing Suma Park, if you look out and back to your right, you will catch a great distant view of Swan Bay and the township of Queenscliff. On a clear day you can see right across Port Phillip Bay to the Mornington Peninsula.
Following the railway at this point is a made path for the use of walkers and cyclists. This is the Bellarine Rail Trail, part of the Around the Bay Trail which is maintained by the City of Greater Geelong. This trail continues on to Drysdale, and beyond along the closed section of the railway line right into South Geelong.
Further along on the right hand side you will see Yarram Creek. This creek flows into Swan Bay and is crossed over twice by the railway. The creek is dammed a number of times by the local farmers, and a lot of revegetation work has been carried out along the creek banks. The first crossing of the creek is very apparent as the train passes over a traditional timber trestle bridge.
Although only small, this bridge can carry a lot of water after heavy rains when dams are full. From here the train passes over Banks Rd level crossing, and commences to climb the grade to Mannerim. This was the site of the old Marcus Station. The railway line here climbs at the ruling grade for the line, 1 in 50. This means that for every 50 metres travelled, there is a climb of 1 metre. The ruling grade is set so that all steep grades on the line are the same, so that train loads can be set more economically. You will hear the locomotive’s distinctive exhaust beat here as the driver uses more steam to top the grade. There are four exhaust beats for every revolution of the locomotive’s driving wheels.
Just before the site of the former Mannerim station is the rollingstock storage siding. This siding accommodates a number of interesting items of rollingstock in an un-restored state, including goods wagons from the Fyansford cement works railway, and a steam breakdown crane from Western Australia. The aim of the society is that in time all the items of historic rollingstock will be able to be restored, and protected from the elements in undercover storage.
Continuing past Swan Bay Road the train continues its uphill climb, reaching a summit before rolling down over a high embankment which crosses over Yarram Creek. This site was formerly a trestle bridge, but this was filled in and converted to a culvert. The train then continues a steep climb towards the highest point of the line, the Andersons Road crossing, which is around 280 feet above the level of Queenscliff.
From here the train rolls downgrade into the Drysdale Station. Looking out on the right hand side on a clear day you can see across Corio Bay directly to the You Yangs. Opposite Drysdale Station is Lake Lorne, and in the station grounds there are swings, barbecues, and toilets.
The station building here is a replica of the original, which still exists as a private house relocated elsewhere in Drysdale. All of the other additions to the station have been added by the society apart from the van-goods shed, which survived from the Victorian Railways days, plus a length of platform sufficient to fit in just one carriage.
The engine crew and guard will now attend to reversing the locomotive. When the engine returns to the platform, it may stop beneath the water tank, and the fireman will fill the locomotive’s tender with water, then the locomotive is re-coupled to the train for the journey home. The locomotive is now travelling backwards to haul the train home.
If you look towards the Geelong end of the yard, you can see the old broad gauge railway line continuing on towards Geelong. The railway line is still in place as far as Curlewis, from there the Rail Trail walking and cycling track is built over the original railway formation. It is possible that a train service will return to this section in the long term. In the yards at Drysdale are a number of goods wagons which are part of the railway’s collection of historic rollingstock. Many of them also perform useful functions for the railway, being water tankers, ballast wagons, and cargo carriers for items such as bicycles, heavy spare parts, and sleepers.