Victoria was the first Australian colony to open a steam railway, in 1854, and for the rest of the 19th century it remained the continent's most advanced and intensive railway. Melbourne was Australia's first city to have suburban railways, which were also the first to be electrified, beginning in 1919. This book tells the story of the early railways opened in the wake of the gold rush to Ballarat and Bendigo, extravagantly engineered as none ever would be in the future. It then moves on to examine the role of railways in the development of the colony during the 19th century, when railway policy often dominated political discourse. Railway history both reflected and made Victorian history as a whole, especially during the boom and bust of the 1880s and 1890s. During the Clapp era of the 1920s and 1930s, Victorian railways projected an aura of sophistication and style, whereas after World War II there was constant challenge and readjustment, as other transport modes became dominant. This culminated in a long crisis through the last decades of the 20th century, of which emerged a railway system radically restructured in almost every way.
The colourful characters, political intrigues and enormous social impact of Victoria's railways, as well as their constantly changing and fascinating technology, are major themes of this book.show more