Axedale Station 1565 Detail

Located at 89M 32C 33L

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Axedale Station, an original station on the line, was located at 89 miles, 32 chains, 33 links from Melbourne, and at 569ft above Low Water Mark. The site is a considerable distance from the township and engineering difficulties associated with the Campaspe River and Native Gully bridges, and associated embankments, were cited as reasons for it not being sited any closer.

The location received the comment "a more out of the way place for a station that is supposed to be in close proximity to the township, could hardly be imagined. A regular bush mile from the township." Prior to the opening of the line, a newspaper correspondent mentioned that "if the station site is not located closer to the town, there should at least be a siding to cater for picnic trains".

About 28 acres were reserved for the station site and, as reported, the buildings were to be larger than than those at either Strathfieldsaye or Longlea. Personally, I doubt very much if the buildings progressed much beyond the typical two building, railway portable design.

When first constructed, the station consisted of a main running line with a passenger platform and carriage dock, No. 2 Road with an extension towards the Up end, a No. 3 Road, and No. 4 Road that served a goods shed and loading platform. The carriage dock was removed in October, 1897, (WN 14/1897) and the cutting profile indicates that it existed at the Up end of the passenger platform. Safeworking arrangements were modified in January, 1906, (WN 5/06) with the installation of a Staff Exchange Box. In 1948, the Up home signal was approximately 165 metres from the Down end of the platform, on the Bendigo side of Taig Road. The Down Home Signal was placed approximately 103 metres from the Up end of the passenger platform, on the Up side of the access road that crosses the line, having been moved almost 10 metres closer in 1913 following the removal of the crossing gates and their replacement with cattle grids. The signals were controlled by two quandrant levers on the passenger platform.

Facilities increased over the years with the later installation of a 6-ton crane near the goods shed and sheep and cattle trucking yards near the dead end of No. 2 Road extension. Private facilities included a stone crusher (Probably operated by the lessee of Mr. O'Neill's quarry property, Brazier, Nelson and Reilly, that was later purchased by the City of Bendigo), a few small platforms for unknown specific purposes, and a later, larger stone crushing plant installed by the City of Bendigo, used in conjunction with their quarries that were opened in the mid 1920s. Their quarries were located on Lots 11, 12 and 13, Section 6 on the north side of Axedale township. Stone was carried by road trucks to the station for crushing and transport.

There were two departmental residences at Axedale in 1927. One was occupied by the Stationmaster and the other may have been for a local track Repairer and its location has yet to be identified and proved.

Crossing gates were originally installed at both ends of the station at the Taig Road crossing at the Down end, and the access crossing at the Up end. The Taig Road gates were removed in Feb 1896. The gates at the Up end were the longest serving on this section of the line. The Railways had resisted removal requests from the Shire Council until Oct 1912.

Although the move has not been proved to have actually occurred, plans were drawn up in 1958 for Departmental Residence No. 921, to be relocated to Mangalore.

The suggestion that a railway be constructed, came from Mr. Napthali Ingham, who was a resident of Axedale. As a contractor and wood carter, he initially suggested a wooden tramway from Sandhurst to Axedale in 1873, following it up with a suggestion for a railway running to Heathcote and beyond in 1880. He stated that he could only make six bullock team trips to Sandhurst per week. Of course, such a tramway would have considerably enhanced his business prospects.

The Engineer who eventually constructed the line in 1887 and 1888, Mr. Andrew O'Keefe, owned Adelaide Vale Estate, adjacent to the township of Fosterville, just a few kilometres north west of Axedale.

October 1888 - The line between Sandhurst and Heathcote is opened for traffic. Like all stations on the line, Axedale is opened for light goods not requiring crane power or shed accommodation. [There was a Gatekeeper at least at the Up end of the station yard, where a service road crossed the line. The original Stationmaster's residence was located at the same place].

October 1897 - Axedale's carriage dock is removed. [The cutting profile indicates that it was at the Up end of the passenger platform].

1904 - Somewhere around 1904, an area of land adjoining Axedale township, on the north side, specifically comprising of allotments 11, 12 and 13 of Section VI, is identified as suitable for quarrying. [Information taken from City of Bendigo plans].

1912 - The crossing gates at the Up end of the station yard are removed and replaced with cattle grids. The Stationmaster's residence is also moved to a location closer to the station platform. [Some remains can still be seen today, 2014].

1913 - The Down Home Signal, no longer required to protect the crossing gates, is moved almost 10 metres closer to the station.

October 1916 - The station is closed for private telegraph business.

April 1921 - The Victorian Railways Commissioners agree to erect trucking yards.

October 1921 - Trucking yards are erected near the Up end of the station, adjacent to No. 2 Road extension.

During the late 1920's, the Bendigo City Council purchased a quarry property adjoining the Axedale township on the north side - Allotments 11, 12 and 13, Section VI. This property equates to the property previously owned by O'Neill. The property and plant were advertised for sale in 1912.

The Council set up a stone crushing plant, consisting of a crusher, Ingersol Rand compressor, and loading bins, at the Axedale Station on the West side of the cattle and sheep trucking yards. Stone was hauled by road from their quarries about two kilometres away, to be crushed at the station. The rock was dumped into the crusher on the south side of the current boundary fence, crushed and elevated to the loading bin where it was screened and separated before either falling into waiting railway wagons standing beneath, in No. 2 road extension, or being re-directed to the reject shute for other purposes. The stone was used for road making and other purposes by local and adjoining municipalities.

July 1931 - The Stationmaster's position is downgraded to that of Caretaker and the signals are secured at Proceed. Unlike many Caretakers who were the wives of Track repeair staff, the caretaker in this case was male - the appointed Stationmaster at the time, Victor George Thorpe. He regressed in the grade due to the economic depression. See Stationmaster details below.

December 1939 - No. 2 Road is removed. The extension was still in place in 1948 and a Victorian Railways Signalling Diagram shows No. 2 Road removed, No. 3 Road renamed No. 2 Road and No. 4 Road, adjacent to the goods shed, is renamed No. 4 Road.

There is anecdotal evidence that a fuel dump was created at Axedale, on the rising mound of earth adjacent to Taig Road, at the start of World War II. It is also said that there was a rail connection to the main line although that has not been proved at this stage. This raises the possibility that the No. 2 Road rails may have been used to provide that connection. The timing is very close. The fuel dump is reported to have been created by the Army and an Army camp is said to have existed in the station reserve at one time.

The above may be nothing more than an urban myth. However, the "Shell at War" chapter of Robert Murray's book, "Go Well", mentions that "Bulk Issues - Petroleum and Oil Depots (BIPOD), maintained huge stores of fuel in drums and other containers concealed in the bush so there would be a reserve if seaboard depots were destroyed. It also used free tankers as floating storages in the islands. BIPOD stored thousands of drums near, for example, Rockbank, west of Melbourne, and Axedale, east of Bendigo."

In trying to define the location of the Axedale fuel dump, I had the good fortune to undertake a guided tour of a nearby farm where rows of shallow drains were pointed out as the location of the storage drums. They were not within the Axedale Station grounds.

December 1941 - The rail motor service on the whole line is withdrawn. The service between Bendigo and Heathcote was never to return as such. [The local road passenger service connected with the restored rail service at Heathcote in 1942, and is viewed as a better service by local residents who then had a choice of connecting with the rail service at either Bendigo or Heathcote. ].

March 1942 - Further staff downgrade to No-one-in-Charge as there is no longer any passenger service on the line.

December 1958 - Having survived for 70 years, the station, and the line between Rangelea and Heathcote is finally closed to all traffic.

[On-site research for this collection resulted in the 'discovery' of an entrance from Taig Road to the south side of the station that had 'disappeared' from general notice. The road ends near the remains of the loading ramp near where the goods shed used to be. It is now on private property, as the station boundary fence was further out than it is today. There was also an entrance to the north side from Taig Road on what is now the Rail Trail. Entry to the Up end of the station was via a road from McIvor Highway that also crossed the line, controlled by the Gatekeeper until 1912, to provide access to the south side of the station from that end].

Identified Stationmasters:

James Coates - February 01, 1900.
William Robert Philpott - March 01, 1903.
James Nankervis - 1905.
James Henry Lewis - November 24, 1905.
William Robert Philpott - 01/03/1907.
Francis James Ryan - January 01, 1911.
Finlay Alexander Forbes - August 03, 1914.
Frederick Collins - July 28, 1917.
James Nicholas - April 12, 1919.
Charles Albert Curthoys - August 20, 1925.
Hewitt Eustace - December 10, 1929.
Victor George Thorpe - April 25, 1930. Regressed in the grade 24/07/1931 due to the Economic Depression. He was transferred to Stationmaster, Yackandandah in 1932 in the same grade (Stationmaster -9) that he held before his regression at Axedale. Newspaper articles record that he was promoted to Stationmaster, Picola in 1935 and passed away in 1936 at 36 years of age.

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