The Argus at KellyGang 22/8/1868

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The late visit to these districts of Mr Higinbotham, the chief engineer of Victoria, has convinced some of our sceptics that a railway from Melbourne to Albury is, after all, a possible thing. Long ago we pronounced it to be a probable thing, and latterly we hare characterised it as utmost a certainty. Accustomed as our population have been to the slow movements of a New South Wales executive, many of them are still incredulous that the line will be finished in their time. However, when we remember that the extension to Echuca was completed in three years, and that the Ballarat line was also going on sip? tenuously, we think that now it is provided to concentrate the whole engineering resources of the colony upon a cheap single line to the Upper Murray, it would be neither novel nor extraordinary if the line should be open for traffic in three or four years. But although we are to have a railway, and that as quickly as possible, there is still a good deal to be done in the matter of hastening on the work.

The Railway Loan Bill may pass both Chambers of the Victorian Legislature in the course of the next two or three weeks but the battle of the routes has yet to be decided. It is fortunate that the Government have fixed on the direct line via Kilmore as being the most advantageous. That circumstance disarms in a great measure all opposition. Up to Wangaratta all is likely to be plain sailing. But we notice certain discrepancies between the latest plan of the proposed line, and the former plan of the Goornong survey.

The branch line from Wangaratta via Tarrawingee to Beechworth is now omitted, mid the terminus, instead of being placed at Albury, as in the former survey, is made to stop short at Wodonga. We are not foolish enough to suppose that the latest plan is infallible and unalterable; still we should like to see these defects corrected, and to know whether there has been any deviation from the original intention, and if so, why. Leaving the Beechworth people to make their own game, we must protest against the absurdity of fixing the terminus at Wodonga. All through the piece the public have been agitating for a railway to Albury. The Melbourne people have taken up the cry of a railway to Albury, and the Ministry have re-echoed that cry in the same words. To call it a railway to Albury and to form it only to Wodonga would be a kind of misrepresentation which we do not suppose the Victorian Government would entertain for one moment. Ostensibly the line is to he made for the purpose of tapping the Murray, and reaching the commerce of Riverina.

So long as two miles of flooded flat intervene between the station and the river these objects cannot be said to have been accomplished. We differ entirely with the views of the engineer-in-chief, that a station at Wodonga would command every ounce of the traffic. When it costs 10s. for each passenger and £2 per ton for each load of goods to be boated across Wodonga fiats, it will easily be seen that the wool from upper Riverina would not be sent by this route, and a good deal of the local passenger traffic would be cut off. Even at present, with the rails running down to the steamers, as is the case at Echuca, three-fourths of the wool from Riverina finds its way down to Adelaide, owing to the keen competition of the Murray navigation. At other times, when the floods were not up, the heavy tolls now charged would prevent waggons getting loading.

The chief expense in carrying goods is the repeated handling of them, or "breaking bulk." as it is sometimes called. Supposing a good road existed between Albury and Wodonga (which unfortunately is not the case), the transferring of goods from steamers to drays, and from drays to railway trucks, would involve considerable trouble and expense. The real functions of the steamers should be to feed the railway to collect produce both up and down the river, and to land it direct on to the railway trucks. Could this be done, there would be a vast development in our river trade which is little dreamt of at present. The produce of the splendid country about the Mitta Mitta, now often used for feeding the pigs, would be floated down in barges to Albury; but it would never pay to cart it to at Wodonga.


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