The first section of the North-Eastern Railway, which extends from Essendon to Seymour, on the Goulburn River, is near completion and an experimental train, consisting of an engine recently constructed at the Williamstown Workshop, brake van and three carriages, runs to Schoolhouse Lane - about 3 miles from Seymour with Mr. Longmore, Minister for Railways, various dignitaries, members of the Press and others.
Another party, headed by Mr. Berry, leaves Spencer Street in another train for the 'new township of Gavan Duffy', reaching there after stopping at a number of new stations along the way. They are met by the Mayor of Kilmore, Mr. Reilly. The party changes to a number of Cobb and Co. carriages to make their way via a very rough road, in the process of construction, to Kelly's Kilmore Hotel. During the many speeches and toasts, it is mentioned that "Railway gatherings such as these would take place almost annually from the present time." It is Mr. Berry's opinion that for many years to come, scarcely a year would be allowed to pass over without some such celebration as this to mark the opening of some long-wished-for line of railway, giving another portion of the country the means of reaching the seaboard or else a market for its produce." There is regret that the line did not come into Kilmore instead of passing two or three miles away from it.
Nothing more need be said about this line as it now exists as a prime ingredient for our focus line.
A deputation from Kilmore and surrounding district meets with the Minister of Railways and Roads to urge the claims of the town of Kilmore to railway accommodation. A petition for the building of a branch line is also presented. It stated that the North Eastern Railway was marked in on plans for land sales and that had inflated the land prices. Since the line opened, the greater part of traffic is from Kilmore - the station on the North-Eastern line and 5km from the township of Kilmore. The petition also covers past promises relative to returns from the district.
Kilmore has, in fact, ended up with a station that is viewed as of little use due to being so far from the town. The original survey shows a line through Kilmore, yet the nearest station is 3 miles away on the North-East line. Mr. Gillies states that the rail route on the plans was surveyed in 1855 and the Government could not really be held to it.
An article extolling the virtues and quality of the bluestone from Napthali Ingham's quarry at Axedale appears in the Bendigo Advertiser. The stone is being used in building, kerbing and channeling in the City of Sandhurst. It is said that bluestone footpaths can be constructed for the same price as wooden footpaths, the only obstacle in supplying bluestone to Sandhurst at a cheaper rate, in fact as cheap as bricks, is the "frightful" state of the McIvor road. One bullock team can only do five trips per week and cartage costs are 13/- per load - even in the summer.
Mr. Ingham, a wood carter and contractor, considers that it would pay someone to lay down a wooden tramway from Sandhurst to Axedale.
The question of connecting Kilmore with the North-Eastern line is again raised as the subject is completely ignored in the Government railway scheme of the day. The local Railway League is expecting a loop line to the North-East line and says, "If the line sought for be not granted, then efforts must be at once made to get the accommodation so much required at the present station [Kilmore East] and which should be done long ago.
Another meeting of the Kilmore Railway League for the purpose of "taking into consideration the extraordinary conduct of Mr. Bourke, MLA, in withdrawing at the last moment, his motion in the Assembly for the introduction of a clause in the Government Railway Construction Bill, providing for the construction of a branch or loop line to Kilmore". They intend also to adopt some means to bring the claims of the League before Parliament. It is believe that if the Hon. Member for Kilmore had pushed his motion in the House, it would have been carried and the branch line would have been fact. A motion to petition the Legislative Council to introduce a clause providing for the construction of a branch line to Kilmore by way of amendment, into the Railway Construction Bill when it comes before the Upper House, is subsequently carried.
Heathcote is mentioned in Parliament in connection with what is termed the "general railway scheme". The subject of a railway connecting Heathcote with Melbourne is seen as a very important subject and could be most beneficial to the district and could make it flourish even more, and make it one of the most thriving districts in the colony. However, it is also recognised that local politicians and lobbyists need to pursue the matter with Parliament to ensure that a rail extension is achieved. A "patient and favorable hearing with the Minister" is expected.
A numerous deputation, including a number of MLA's and MLC's, representing inhabitants of the parishes of Lancefield, Rochford, Goldie, Springfield, Monegeetta, Havelock, Pyalong, Cobaw, and other localities, wait on the Minister of Railways for the purpose, primarily, of asking for a survey of a railway from Lancefield Road Station to Lancefield via Romsey. Their view is that the wants of such people are neglected and they want the line included in the next Railway Construction Bill. A farmer advocates the continuation of the proposed survey from Lancefield to Heathcote via Baynton, Glenhope and Mia Mia.
Mr. Gillies, Minister for Railways, says that when the survey to Lancefield is being made, he will see if the survey can be extended to Heathcote.
The Kilmore Railway League asks the Shire of McIvor for support in getting a branch line to Heathcote via Kilmore and Pyalong. Cr. Field says that although the surveys are proceeding, the Minister has said that he is not sure that the line to Heathcote will be included in the next batch. The League has every reason to believe that their claims will be favourably recognised by the Minister for Railways if they are strongly and repeatedly urged by those interested.
A deputation from residents of the Goulburn Valley meets with the Minister of Railways and urges him to proceed with the construction of a line from Avenel to Murchison. They feel it will open up a very large agricultural area which is being rapidly settled. The Minister, Mr. Gillies, promises a trial survey as soon as resources are available, but adds that until the general question of railways is considered by the Government, he can not state what action might be taken in the matter.
Resolutions from a public meeting at Rochford are presented to the Minister of Railways. The subject matter is an extension of the Castlemaine [Sandhurst] line from Lancefield Road Station to Lancefield town. Mr. Gillies says a survey has already been made and the application will be filed with others on similar subjects.
The Commissioner of Railways receives a deputation consisting of various M.L.A's from Lancefield, Romsey, Newham, Springfield, and Pyalong, who ask that a branch line of railway might be constructed from the Lancefield Road Station to Lancefield. The deputation points out that the length of the line will be only 15 miles and the country is perfectly level. A trial survey has already been made. It is expected that the line will return 12% on its costs and develop many new industries.
Mr. Gillies replies that the estimated cost is a little light on, and adds that many trial surveys of different lines have been made and the Government has to make a selection of the lines that are most required and will give the greatest return on expenditure. He adds that the proposed line will cost as little as those in most other districts and their request will be considered at the same time as the others.
A meeting is held in the Heathcote Town Hall. A Railway Committee is formed and, following a few rounds of verbal thrust and parry, the motion "That the railway Committee immediately put themselves in communication with Kilmore, Pyalong, Tooborac, and the districts of Mount Pleasant, Wild Duck, Costerfield, Redcastle and all such places, in obtaining the most direct railway communication with Melbourne; and arrange with those places for an influential deputation to the Railway Department when advisable, to urge the railway being placed in the first batch." The motion is seconded and carried.
A Kilmore deputation as constituted in February is made to the Minister. Two delegates appointed by the Kilmore Railway League visit the Town Hall and give a detailed presentation on the history of the League and its proceedings up to the present day, in securing a rail service, is given. They have had no less than four route surveys made, one of which was at their own expense. They went on five deputations to Melbourne and on the last occasion they were joined by Heathcote representatives.
It is also mentioned that as soon as the Government brought a railway to the town, they were also obliged to bring a large supply of water. Curiously, the meeting concluded with a round of singing.
Mr. Napthali Ingham makes application for a small area of land, for the purposes of a rural inn at Axedale, and receives approval.
The question of the construction of a branch railway through Kilmore to Heathcote receives the earnest attention of the residents in and around the districts through which the proposed line will run. At a Heathcote delegates' meeting, it is stated that the North-Eastern line is the only paying line, and that is a strong reason why the required branch line should be constructed, as the area through which it passes is far more densely populated. The construction of the Sandhurst line  had diverted traffic that used to pass through Kilmore and Heathcote. Mr. J Taylor says that he had thought after the meeting some 18 months previous, he would be congratulating the people of Heathcote on the opening of the rail line. Although his hopes have not been realised, his faith has not been altered and the elapsed time has strengthened the position.
Mr. Gillies, who is also a local representative, has apparently admitted that the line will pay and they are promised favourable consideration when the Railway Bill comes before Parliament.
The Government now has applications for some 2,005 miles of railway and only enough money for 220 miles. Lines already constructed, or in the course of construction, traverse the large centres of population in a large proportion of the country. There are 618 miles or railway open for traffic, 353 miles under construction and 2,005 miles applied for. Of the lines applied for, 1,244 miles have been surveyed more or less accurately at a cost of about £20 per mile, representing £24,880.
The amount of money so far expended on railways is about £13,000,000 irrespective of stores on hand. The projected loan requires a further expenditure of £1,300,000, with £96,700 additional for [road] bridges. About £13,000,000 is required for all the lines applied for. Lines applied for but not surveyed, include Heathcote to the Goulburn Valley via Costerfield and Rushworth, and Sandhurst to Swan Hill.
The Argus, September 11, 1876, in covering the proposed lines in great detail, provides supporting arguments for a line through Kilmore. Details of that line, as well as the Lancefield line have been extracted and reproduced here.
Kilmore to Heathcote:
"The following arguments in support of this line have been forwarded to the Government. 1). That when the land in the New town was sold, the line of railway was marked in the Government maps as coming through Kilmore, which caused a very high price to be realised by the sale of that land and the land adjoining. The deputation urge that this sale, under such circumstances, was an implied contract on the part of the Government, and ought to be sustained by their successors. 2). That the claims of the district were recognised by the Legislative Committee on Railway Extension in 1865, who recommended that the wants and interests of Kilmore should not be overlooked, and 33 members of the late Parliament recommended the justice of the claim to the favourable consideration of the Government, and some 20 others who did not sign the recommendation promised to support it when before the Assembly. 3). That, in point of settlement, Kilmore is second alone to Melbourne. It is the centre of a well recognised agricultural district, and offers advantages as regards profits to the main line, not only from Melbourne, but also for supplying the pastoral districts of the Murray with agricultural products. 4). That the population of the district which would derive substantial and permanent benefits by the construction of a branch line was shown to be over 14,000, and as the revenue for the past year from all sources was over £4,000,000, the total population being about 800,000, this would give from each individual an average taxation of £5. The amount contributed at that rate by those districts would be £70 000. 5). That the present road to the railway is expensive for goods and passenger traffic, the cost of carriage from the present station to Kilmore (though only a distance of three miles) being 6/- per ton, and which if continued will always prevent the resources of the district from being developed and must eventually destroy the trade and prosperity of Kilmore. 6). That the inhabitants who have invested the proceeds of long years of hard labour and persevering industry in establishing business premises and homes for their families, now find that unless a branch line is made to connect the town with the main trunk line, their property will in a very few years be to them valueless, and their only hope of averting this calamity rests on the justice and honour of the Government and in the assurances of the Hon. the Chief Secretary, the Hon. the Minister of Railways and Roads, and the late Hon.. the Commissioner of Public Works (Mr Fraser) in his place in the Legislative Council, that the claims of Kilmore would receive a favourable consideration. 7). It was asked that the line should be included in the first Railway Construction Bill. A comparatively cheap line has been surveyed by the Government to Heathcote, diverging from the North Eastern line at a point north of the main dividing range, about 32 miles from Melbourne, passing through chiefly leased land to Kilmore. The line then passes through the parish of Willowmavin and Moranding, thence on to Pyalong, Tooborac and Heathcote, There is a large tract of country near Tooborac that would at once be selected if a railway were constructed. Messrs. Longmore, Gillies, and Jones have at various interviews, acknowledged the special claims of Kilmore."
And the Lancefield line:
"The inhabitants of the parishes of Lancefield, Rochford, Goldie, Springfield, Monegeetta, Havelock, Pyalong, and Cobaw, ask for the construction of a branch line from the Lancefield road station, on the Mount Alexander line, to Lancefield, via Romsey. They base their claims on the following grounds: That the district through which such railway would run is both extensive and rich in agricultural and mineral resources, that the construction and maintenance of roads is both difficult and expensive, that the produce of the districts embraced is about 24,000 tons per annum; that the supply of firewood available for the Melbourne market is practically inexhaustible; that there is an unlimited supply of first class granite within three miles of Lancefield which is the nearest place whence it could be obtained for the supply of the Melbourne market were railway facilities afforded; that the country is almost level and presents no engineering difficulties; that there is a three chain road the whole route, one side of which could be used; that no additional rolling stock would be required other than a light engine to ply between Lancefield and the junction with the main line; that considerable saving would be effected to the Government by conveyance of mails; that the cheapness of construction, and quantity of tonnage, would render it the best paying Government line in the colony. The length of this line is 15 miles and it is estimated to cost £2,600 per mile. The line has been surveyed along the main road as far as Romsey, and then to the east of the road along the valley of the Deep Creek, to avoid the undulating ground from Romsey to Lancefield."
The Government introduces their railway proposals and it is viewed as the "most monstrous in character ever submitted for approval of a deliberate body." It covers a line length of 264 miles and includes Lancefield Road to Lancefield. Avenel to Shepparton is another that receives the comment that "If the promoters of the present scheme know anything at all about the geography and topography of the country of the Goulburn Valley line for instance, they would not have its junction at Avenel, but would start from a point South of Kilmore, through that town, Heathcote, Toolleen, Rushworth, etc., crossing the county of Moira and tapping the Murray."
The Lancefield line proposal is looked upon with strong disfavour in Kilmore, as the farthest point of the Lancefield township is not more than 15 miles away from the current Lancefield Road Station and an excellent macadamised road traverses the whole route.
Henry Thomas the Hon. Secretary to the McIvor Branch of the South Rodney and North-Eastern Dalhousie Railway League writes a letter to The Editor, McIvor Times, and complains that "We have had three surveys made to this place and now the people are to be requested to make another, via Broadford, and after that, the Sandhurst route or some other absurdity will crop up". He asks for a combined and consolidated influence as anything else will interfere with "our" object.
An associated circular from the Secretary National Reform League outlines objections to Mr. Woods' preference for a rail connection via Avenel-Shepparton and advocates for a connection via the West to accommodate the farmers of Wild Duck, Weston, Crosbie, Langworner, Muskerry, Toolleen, Mount Pleasant, Cornella, Colbinabbin, Goharup, Wanalta, Timmering, Moira, Kyabram, Merrigum, Girgarre, Waranga and Toolamba as well as the mining towns of Heathcote, Costerfield, Redcastle, Graytown, Coy's, Whroo and Rushworth. It says that the adoption of this line will stop agitation for any railway in this district for the next generation. It supplies the wants of Kilmore, Heathcote, Rushworth, Tatura and by extending to the Murray, it gives railway accommodation to the whole of the country between the North-Eastern and Echuca lines.
Some urgency now arises and the Pyalong Shire Council receives a letter from Mr. Hunt, MLA, to pass and forward a resolution to him promptly, affirming the desirability of the Goulburn Valley being connected by rail along the route of Kilmore, Pyalong, Heathcote, Rushworth and Tatura.
The Kilmore Shire Council holds a meeting as it is informed by Mr. Labertouche, Secretary, Railway and Roads Department, that Commissioner Woods will be at the Lancefield Road Station on the 14th, and thence to proceed on a journey of inspection of the several proposed railway lines towards Romsey, Mansfield [believed to be a typo for Lancefield], Heathcote and other places. Mr. Woods appears to want to get first hand information and clarification of the various line proposals. It is thought that if Lancefield beats Kilmore on this occasion, it will be done forever. If the railway is extended from Lancefield to Pyalong or Heathcote and beyond, all traffic will then bypass Kilmore. Having Kilmore on the line will be a big advantage to Kilmore. If Kilmore is about to be bypassed, they need to do something positive to ensure that it will not be.
The Minister of Railways, Mr. Woods, inspects the planned route of the Lancefield railway line, and also visits Kilmore and Heathcote:
"The Minister of Railways drove from Lancefield road, through Romsey and Lancefield to Heathcote, on Friday, and from Heathcote to Kilmore on Saturday, in order to examine the country through which the Government have been invited to construct important lines of railway. To persons not very intimately acquainted with the map, it may seem remarkable that townships like Lancefield and Heathcote should consider themselves on the direct line of road from Melbourne to the Murray, but they are really the spots over which the crow would be likely to fly. In the early days of the colony, the drays from Melbourne to Echuca went through Heathcote. The claims of the district of Lancefield to railway communication with the Metropolis is well grounded. It possesses rich soil, and annually sends large quantities of potatoes to the Lancefield Road station from the township, which is distant in a northerly direction 15 miles. But the agriculturists of the district want, not only a line to Melbourne, but a line in the opposite direction to Heathcote, Shepparton, and the Murray, in order to sell potatoes to the large body of consumers resident there.
One grave objection to the proposed railway is that it involves a third ascent and decent of the Dividing Range. It is proposed that the range shall be crossed at a low point about eight miles from Lancefield, and the elevation was found by barometric measurement on Friday to be l,650ft. above sea level. Between the summit and a point on the road to Tooborac, the fall amounts to fully 700ft, or an average of 1 in 50. It must be obvious that a light line of railway would not be feasible between Lancefield and Tooborac. To carry heavy loads up hill from one side or the other, engines of considerable weight would be necessary, which engines would shake to pieces a permanent way such as connects Geelong with Colac.
From Lancefield to Heathcote, places 25 miles apart, the line would pass through hilly land, only fertile here and there, and likely to furnish little traffic. The mines of Heathcote produce a good deal of gold and antimony, but the agricultural land can only be said to begin about 20 miles to the northward. Thence to Rushworth, good and poor land are alternately shown on the map. Heathcote appears, from the plans issued by the Lands department, to be the centre of a considerable white space, that is to say, a space which has neither been selected nor purchased The main claim of the township to consideration is that it lies on the road to the agricultural settlements of the Rodney district, and that it is at present 30 miles from the nearest railway station.
On account of the flooded state of the creeks, it was found impossible to keep alongside the proposed line from the summit to Tooborac, a detour had to be made to Pyalong, a village situated on the main road from Kilmore to Heathcote. Between Pyalong and Heathcote, the land seen from the road was of very moderate quality. Parallel with the road for a distance of 17 miles, there ran a steep range, which shut out all hope of traffic from the eastward. It was remarkable that amongst the productions mentioned at Lancefield and Heathcote, as likely to furnish business to the railway, was the splendid granite abundant at both places, and the impression seemed to prevail that a demand existed in Melbourne for that durable stone.
The people interested in the proposed line to Heathcote thought that the selectors at the Goulburn Valley, from Seymour to Murchison, would be abundantly provided for if they got the river cleared and references were made, from time to time, to the boats of the Mississippi. They were not aware, evidently, that maps of the United States now show that river banks are favourite routes for railway lines, and that more than one navigable stream can be pointed out as having a railway upon each side of it.
Saturday was employed in the hurried examination of a counter project - a line from Kilmore to Heathcote, via Pyalong and Tooborac, and about 30 miles long. The main object of the Kilmore people would seem to be to get the railway into the town. The North-eastern line runs down the valley of the Dry Creek, three miles to the eastward of Kilmore, and several hundred feet below it. Any railway from this place, in the direction of Heathcote, would have to leave the North-eastern line at Wandong, near the top of the range, run on the high level, and thence over somewhat uneven ground to Pyalong. Between Pyalong and Kilmore, the journey was made after sundown, so that there was little opportunity to determine what the country was like.
The inhabitants of some of the districts passed through, made inquiries about the number of the unemployed in Melbourne. The farmers at Lancefield said they could provide one month's employment to about 200 men at potato digging. The rates paid are from 5/- to 8/- a ton. Where the crop is heavy, it is the low rate that obtains. Some farms have, this season, yielded 10 tons to the acre. Men accustomed to the work make from 6/- to 12/- a day, and get potatoes for their own use without stint The difficulties that the farmers often find themselves in for want of hands should direct their attention to the machine pickers employed in the United States and Canada."
"It was not the fault of Mr Woods that he did not see more of the locality than was actually brought under his observation. He was invited to drive to Costerfield, six or seven miles out, before breakfast on Saturday, and he got up with his companions at half past 6 o'clock, but somehow no arrangements for the proposed trip had been made. Costerfield was never seen. The most that was attempted was a short walk over some of the ground that was famous for the quantity of gold that it yielded in 1853. Heathcote was left at half past l o'clock, and Pyalong, 17 miles up the road, reached at sundown. At this ancient village a party of the residents of Kilmore, headed by Mr Hunt, MLA, appeared and took charge of the Minister of Railways.
At Kilmore, between 30 and 40 of the residents of the town and district met the Minister of Railways on Saturday evening, and advocated the claims of the borough to a direct line. Mr. Hunt, MLA, who was one of a number of speakers, said he had good reason to believe that the Government had a national scheme in contemplation which, if carried out, would do them infinite credit, and prove of great advantage to the country. Mr. Woods stated that he personally had only a small voice in the matter. First, his colleagues and then the Department had to be consulted. The Legislative Council, one of the two Houses of the Legislature, had very great objections to lines that would not put money into the pockets of its own members or their friends. He thought that it said very little for the skill of the eminent engineers about whom so much had been lately spoken that they could not bring the North-Eastern railway through an important town like Kilmore. His Government had a national scheme in view. They wished to connect every centre of population and production with the seaboard. (Cheers).
It was impossible for him just now to enter into details, but this much he could say, that no national scheme would be complete which left Kilmore out. (Cheers) He should be sorry to leave to his successor, the honour of rectifying the mistake which was committed when the railway was taken past Kilmore instead of through it. (Cheers). He believed that the scheme the Government had in contemplation, would not only receive the approval of Parliament, but raise the colony in the opinion of the capitalists from whom the loan must be obtained to carry it out. (Cheers). The Minister of Railways left Kilmore shortly after 9 o'clock, and reached Melbourne by rail by the night train."
On his visit to Lancefield, Commissioner Woods says that the Ministry can not be spoken of as idlers and has been subjected to much vilification by a section of the Press. No-one objects to fair and open criticism, but the members of the Government have been individually visited with spiteful and untruthful attacks. He says the Press has abused the liberty it enjoys, and if some papers have not broken the law of libel, they have sailed very close to the wind and have done almost as much injustice as if they have published actual libels.
Mr. Woods continues: For twenty years in the past, the colony has been governed by a Melbourne Ministry by Flinders Lane, and the Melbourne Club, by the Melbourne merchants and the civil service. The present Ministry has introduced government of the country, by the country, and let the civil service see that it must keep its proper place. For the changes that the present Government has made, they have been visited with unmeasured abuse. He is not prepared to announce a definite railway policy on behalf of the Government. All he is prepared to do is to go over the ground to report upon it to his colleagues. The aim of the Government will be to carry new lines to the districts that have not yet been reached by the railway. He adds that had not £8,000,000 been squandered by the O'Shanassy Government on the first 200 miles of lines, all centres of population might by this time have been connected.
The Lancefield line is referred to as a "milk line" as it is intended for the benefit of the district dairy farms in order to enhance the supply of milk to Melbourne.
A large deputation representing the inhabitants of Coburg, Preston, Epping, Yan Yean, Whittlesea, the Plenty district and Kilmore, visits the Minister to urge the desirableness of being included in the first batch in the Railway Construction Bill. Mr Ramsay says that the large, populous districts that the railway will benefit, have been neglected in the past, and in the interest of the North-Eastern Railway, the contemplated railway should be made, joining the other at Kilmore. Two gentlemen from Kilmore say that Kilmore is now practically isolated and the contemplated line will ultimately be carried on to the Pyalong and Heathcote districts.