The Argus at KellyGang 20/11/1873 (2)
One prominent member of the Opposition suggested, with characteristic, geniality, that the line extended from the Premier's station to his Treasurer's stores and left his hearers to draw their own conclusions from the remark. There were, however, strong admirers of the Government proposal. One member described it as part of a grand scheme which would eventually girdle the colonies with railways, and render Melbourne the capital of Australasia . The engineer-in-chief advanced strong reasons why the proposed line should have preference over that to the Western district, and stated his belief that it would furnish a net revenue sufficient to pay the whole of the interest of the money spent in building it. It was admitted that the line was intended to secure the trade of a very large and important district of New South Wales adjacent to the Murray, and it was hoped that the trade of the Tumut district would also be obtained for this colony.
The Loan Bill was ultimately passed, but it was not until the session of 1869 that a bill to authorise the construction of a line from Essendon to Belvoir was introduced by Mr J F Sullivan, Acting Minister of Railways. It was read a first time, but no further progress was made until after the report of a select committee appointed on the motion of Mr J A Macpherson, to report upon the subject of rail- way extension in Victoria, with a view to ascertain the most economical mode of construction consistent with safety and stability, had been brought up. Mr T Higinbotbam, engineer-in-chief, estimated that the average cost of the line, including rolling-stock, would be £9,300, but the committee reported that railways which would provide the inhabitants with sufficient ordinary accommodation, at moderate speed and moderate fares, could be constructed, including rolling-stock and stations, for £6,000 per mile, suitable for all purposes of traffic for many years to come. As a matter of fact, the average cost of the line has been £5,500 per mile, exclusive of the cost of rails. fastenings, stations, and water supply.
The total cost has been about what the engineer-in-chief estimated. The M'Culloch Government having retired from office in September, 1869, Mr Longmore, the Minister of Railways in the Macpherson Administration, moved the second reading of the Railway Bill on October 20, and carried it through its remaining stages. The Macpherson Government were in turn succeeded by another M'Culloch Government, and on Monday, June 20, 1870, the first sod of the new railway was turned by Mr Wilson, the then Commissioner of Railways. From Melbourne to Essendon, a distance of five and a quarter miles, the line had been already constructed. Some 10 or 15 years ago some wealthy capitalists conceived the idea of a railway to Carpentaria, and by way of an instalment they constructed the line to Essendon. The company did not answer, and on August 20, 1867, they sold their interest in the property to the Government for £22,500.
On May 5, 1870 , the first contract for the new line was taken. The contractors were Messrs O'Grady, Leggatt, and Noonan, who undertook to construct the first section between Essendon and Seymour, a distance of 56½ miles, for £305,558. The date of the completion of the contract was May 31, 1872 , but the whole section was not open for traffic until some months later. The total cost of the first section was some £30,000 over the contract amount. The reason was that the contract was let before the very heavy floods in September and October, 1870. These floods were so destructive and dangerous that it was found necessary to make considerable alterations in the works. Additional provision was evidently required to carry off the flood waters, and this had to be supplied by the erection of additional bridges and culverts. It may not be uninteresting to mention that on the whole line there are 14,877 lineal feet of bridge, including 513 openings from 10ft. to 120ft. in width. There are also an immense number of culverts.
The works on the Seymour section are the heaviest on the line, though the bridge over the Goulburn is not so large as those over the Broken River and the Ovens River , on the second and third sections. About 32 miles from Melbourne , the Line crosses the Dividing Range near Kilmore at an elevation considerably lower than it has been crossed by the other Government lines. At this point, locally named Pretty Sally's Hill, in memory of an extremely ugly old woman who once lived there, a very heavy cutting had to be made. It is nearly half a mile in length, and over 50,000 cubic yards of earth had to be removed, and used in the construction of embankments on either side of the range. Another big cutting, about a quarter of a mile in length, was made near Tallarook, about seven miles from Seymour. It was through hard rock, and was very difficult to blast, owing to the veins of iron-stone.
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