Gallery of images.
The official name of the proposed railway, and that used on contract plans, was Wandong, Heathcote and Sandhurst. However, many newspaper reports readily used Wallan (south of Heathcote Junction) instead of Wandong (north of Heathcote Junction) when reporting such things. In fact, the Victorian Railways even used Bendigo via Wallan in some cases. Kilmore Station on the North East line was changed to Kilmore East following the opening of the branch line. The junction was then named Kilmore Junction and later changed to Heathcote Junction. This must be borne in mind when reading some of the information contained herein.
Heathcote Junction has been covered in various publications and I do not set out to just repeat it here in any great detail.
The location of the junction is just on the north side of what was originally know as Summit, the gap in the ranges over which the North Eastern line passed at 33m. 8c. 77l - between Wallan and Wandong. In 1888, when the short southern end of the Wandong, Heathcote and Sandhurst branch line opened to the township of Kilmore, it was officially named Kilmore Junction. It was to eventually become the junction for the whole of the line through Kilmore and Heathcote and connecting with the Sandhurst [Bendigo] to Echuca line near the site of the Sandhurst Cattle Yards and later North Bendigo Workshops in 1890, when the final, mid-section opened. The branch actually connected to the Echuca line a short distance on the Down side of the now-closed Bendigo 'D' Signalbox.
The driver of an Up branch line train was faced with a Distant Signal on the curved approach to the junction, west of the bridge that carried what is now the Epping-Kilmore Road that runs parallel to the main line on its Western side. The junction itself was approached through a deep cutting and could not be seen until the train had almost arrived.
Kilmore Junction was re-named Heathcote Junction in 1922.
The North-Eastern rail line was a double line and Up branch line trains were required to cross over the Down mainline in order to continue to Melbourne. Interlocking was provided in 1890 but the signalbox, originally located on the Up side of the line, was relocated in 1961 to the Up end of the junction platform due to Standard Gauge works. The closing of the branch line led to the abolition of the interlocking in 1970, followed by the signalbox in 1973.
If it was not safe and clear for an Up branch line train to enter upon the main North Eastern line, the interlocking of the Home Signal set points that would have the effect of directing any out of control train into a short dead end siding that ran uphill. This was to feature in a fatal accident in November, 1910, when an Up goods train ran from the line into the dead end siding, killing the Driver.
Passengers from the branch line did not normally have a through service to Melbourne and connected with the North-Eastern trains at Heathcote Junction. Delays in passenger journeys were the subject of service complaints for most of the life of the branch line - a line that was mainly created for the carriage of timber and stone.
Much of the infrastructure associated with the branch line no longer remains. The concrete foundation of the signalbox and toilet is still visible but the platform now only serves the main line. The branch line has been largely filled in to the height of the platform and the dead-end siding is obscured by undergrowth.
There is not a great deal of the cutting leading from the junction that can be seen. The original road bridge has been removed and the road itself has been lowered through its own cutting which crosses through the rail cutting. Spoil from this more recent cutting has been used to fill much of the original rail cutting and it requires a trek through the scrub on the western side of the road to uncover a couple of very short, unfilled sections.
It is even harder to locate evidence on the Junction side of the road as it has all been filled. However, there are two pine trees between which the line passed and these two trees closely mark the edges of the cutting. A narrow pedestrian track running parallel to the line and to north, effectively marks the approach road to and from the junction platform.
There is a commemorative plaque on the Down platform. However, it is a strange compilation and the following comments are made in relation to other than the included Lancefield line. It does not represent any particular point in time or even all locations that existed. The displayed information is not restricted to stations only, but it also does not include all sidings. Some old names are used where others are more recent. Starting from Bendigo:
The following locations are not mentioned: Carr Fowler Siding, VIMA or Freezer Company Siding, Rifle Butts Platform, Rangelea Siding, Strathfieldsaye Station, McIvor Road Station, and McIvor Timber and Fencing Co. Siding.
Longlea Station is mentioned but Axe Creek, its name that was used until 1904, is also mentioned. If this refers to the Creek instead of the station, it is shown on the wrong side of Longlea station. Otherwise, Axe Creek should not be mentioned at all, as it refers to a creek, one of the many that the line crossed.
High Camp Plain is listed. It was named Glenaroua when the line opened, was changed to High Camp Plain just a few months later, and then High Camp in 1904.
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