The Argus at KellyGang 31/1/1871

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The construction of the first section of the North-eastern Railway line has been sufficiently far advanced to admit of a description being given of the works.

The first surveys of a line from Melbourne to, the Ovens district were made about fifteen years ago, but they gave such unpromising results that a railway following the same direction as the Sydney-road seemed to be impracticable, and the only alternative a line branching out somewhere from the line from Melbourne to Echuca. The apparently insurmountable obstacle was the Dividing Range near Kilmore. No difficulty presented itself in the ascent of the range from this side, but beyond the summit the country was uneven, and the hills so numerous and interlaced, that it appeared to be impossible, save at an, enormous outlay, to carry a line from the summit to the level country inland.

The plan then suggested itself of constructing a branch line from the Melbourne and Echuca Railway, turning off at Goornong, beyond Sandhurst, and striking into the Sydney road between Violet Town and Benalla; but the objection to such a line was the fact that it would leave all the country from Melbourne to Violet Town, and particularly the town-ships of Kilmore and Seymour, with their adjacent agricultural districts, without railway communication. As so circuitous a route, therefore, would hardy answer, where amore direct one was possible, it was then proposed that the Ovens line should turn off from the Echuca line at a point much nearer to Melbourne, namely, at Woodend, at the top of the Dividing Range, and strike into the Sydney road at Seymour, on the Goulburn River, 60 miles from Melbourne.

But the survey showed that the country between Woodend and Seymour was as difficult to pass over as that between Kilmore and Seymour. So, some time later, further attempts were made to find an easy way over the northern slope of the Dividing Range; and eventually Mr Hardie, the present district engineer on the North-eastern line, discovered a practicable route, i.e., the valley of the Dry Creek, which it was found could be followed down, by the adoption of curves of 40 chains radius, and a ruling gradient of 1 in 50, with-out, having to make heavy cuttings or embankments. The valley of the Dry Creek, which is entered near the summit of the range, conducts the line by a somewhat devious, but at the same time easy course, among the hills, and brings it into comparatively level ground about 10 miles beyond Kilmore. The only drawback connected with the route is the fact that, crossing the range five miles to the eastward of the Sydney-road, it does not approach nearer to Kilmore than a distance of two miles.

The first section of the North Eastern line-the one now being carried out-extends from Essendon to Seymour; the second, which is shortly to be let, from Seymour to Benalla; and the third from Benalla to Wondonga, near the River Murray, and opposite to the New South Wales town of Albury. The heavy works are almost entirely confined to the first section. Immediately after leaving Essendon, the line passes into hilly ground, mostly under cultivation, and involving some winding about and considerable earthworks in the shape of cuttings and embankments. About eight miles from the starting-point, the second of the two largest cuttings in the first 20 miles of the section is met with, and the line then enters on a long stretch of level country, requiring very little alteration. The principal works are the bridges over creeks.

The Sydney-road is crossed at Craigieburn, between the 15th and 16th mile-posts, and the line then keeps to the right (or east) side of the road for upwards of 25 miles. The works continue light, or comparatively so, until Hearne's swamp, opposite to Wallan Wallan, is reached. Here an embankment two miles in length is required, in order to pass high and dry overground which, though quite dry in summertime, is a sheet of shallow water in winter. The embankment, in the highest part, is about five feet above the swamp. From Essendon to the swamp the line has been ascending the whole way, but, for the most part, by easy gradients. In one place, however, not far from Essendon, the plans show an ascent of 211ft, in a distance of 1 mile 30 chains. Five bridges, iron girders resting on stone piers, have to be erected between Essendon and the swamp, the principal one being over the Moonee Ponds; but compared with structures of the same kind at the other and of the section, they are all small works.


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