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Friday, 13 June 2014

Caulfield Train Station






This week's prompt photo of  the station of Claremorris in County Mayo Ireland prompted me to find out a little about the history of my local train station. Caulfield Station lies just across the highway from where I've lived for the last six years. It's a busy place from morning til night, serving both the Caulfield campus of Monash University and the Caulfield Racecourse across the road, as well as surrounding residential suburbs. All city and country trains stop at Caulfield. Students and city commuters are always coming and going in a hurry, and on race days the crowds of elegant racegoers are an entertaining sight, arriving as they do in their hats, high heels, colourful dresses and suits, and then departing several hours later looking rather less smartly turned out.


Caulfield Station was first opened on 7 May 1879, but the present station buildings were constructed in 1913-14. It's a heritage listed site, which means that it is considered  'of architectural, aesthetic, social and historical importance to the State of Victoria'.

Here's an extract from the Victorian Heritage Database site: 

The Caulfield Railway Complex consists of four passenger platforms, horse platform, subway, three principal station buildings, a former lamp/store room and a signal box. The station buildings are of red brick with render banding. Distinct architectural features of the three station buildings include ornate parapets and radiating bands of render around the arched openings. The platforms are shaded by cantilever canopies which are supported by curved I beams and clad in corrugated iron, with a ripple iron valance. Fittings that have been retained and probably dating from 1914 include the timber palisade gates, a female toilet, timber seating, ticket office fittings on platform 4 and a drinking fountain on platform 1. The signal box was constructed c.1920 and is also of red brick. It has a tiled hip roof and retains the fittings in the signal room.The station buildings are of red brick with render banding. Distinct architectural features of the three station buildings include ornate parapets and radiating bands of render around the arched openings. The platforms are shaded by cantilever canopies which are supported by curved I beams and clad in corrugated iron, with a ripple iron valance. Fittings that have been retained and probably dating from 1914 include the timber palisade gates, a female toilet, timber seating, ticket office fittings on platform 4 and a drinking fountain on platform 1. The signal box was constructed c.1920 and is also of red brick. It has a tiled hip roof and retains the fittings in the signal room."
"Why is it significant?
The Caulfield Railway Station Complex is of architectural and aesthetic importance as an imposing Federation Free Style complex, and is an important example of the work of Victorian Way and Works Architect JW Hardy. Details of note include, cement render banding terminating in a radiating design around the archways and an undulating parapet design. The horse platform, though physically undistinguished, is a rare structure of its type. The station is an excellent representative example of a Railway Complex of the era as it contains numerous intact structures as well as objects thought to be contemporary with the buildings. These objects include the female toilet and drinking fountain on platform 1, timber seats and palisade gates. The buildings demonstrate the early use of reinforced concrete in the lintels, slabs to floors and ramps.
The Caulfield Railway Station Complex is of social and historical importance for its role as a point of arrival and departure for horses and patrons of the Caulfield Racecourse. The complex is important for its potential to yield information on the changing nature of railways, locomotive technology and public transport use in Victoria, being an excellent intact example of the type of stations constructed immediately preceding the First World War. Because of its retention of detail, the station provides valuable insights into social attitudes and railway practices at the time it was constructed. The Caulfield Railway Complex demonstrates the expansion of Melbourne, the settling in the suburbs and in particular the establishment of Caulfield as a major metropolitan centre. The construction of a larger station in 1914 represents a boom period in the history of Caulfield."

I must confess I haven't actually noticed the drinking fountain, the palisade gates or the horse platform, and I'll  have to have a look to see what remains of them. I also haven't inspected the heritage-listed female toilet, but it is possibly not in current public use. 

Photograph showing the tracks and signal box at Caulfield Station , c. 1915.  http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/167679671

The current signal box, on a sunny June afternoon.

The former lamp/store room photographed today
Caulfield Platform 1

Calm before the evening peak hour. Mid afternoon at Caulfield Station, showing the central island platform with  Monash University buildings in the background.

Above and below, views of Caulfield Station from outside
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Trove is a wonderful web site of the National Library of Australia which includes an ever-increasing repository of digitised newspaper reports from a very large number of newspapers, and a search for Caulfield Station brought up lots of items, including for example a letter to the editor in 1888 complaining about  ruffians on the platform, another in 1915  about the danger to pedestrians of cyclists being allowed to use the access subway, and others in the 1920s onwards, questioning timetabling, lateness of trains and ticketing anomalies. There was also the sad case in 1911 of a dead newborn being discovered in a station waiting room.

In the history of the station however, there is one particular event that stands out, although most Caulfield commuters would never have heard of it. On the building wall on platform 4, there's a small plaque, placed there a few years ago in commemoration of a major train accident that occurred at Caulfield 88 years ago, on 26 May 1926, when an approaching train ran into the rear of a stationary train at around 6 pm on a Wednesday evening. Three young men died that night and a large number of other passengers were injured. The injured were taken to be treated at various Melbourne hospitals, including one St Leonard's Private Hospital, which was apparently located at 23 Turner Street, although there are no hospitals in Turner Street  now. 


You can find a detailed account of  the accident and some victims' statements of what happened on the site of Friends of Cheltenham and Regional Cemeteries Inc.,  but below are a few newspaper reports on the event that I've snipped from the Trove web site. 

CAULFIELD STATION SMASH.
ELECTRIC TRAINS IN COLLISION.TWO PASSENGERS DEAD; 30 OTHERS INJUREDTERRIBLE UNEXPLAINED DISASTERMELBOURNE. Wednesday.
Another serious accident, attended by fatal results, occurred on theVictorian Railways to-night, when a moving electric passenger train crashed into the rear of another electric train which had stopped at the Caulfield Station to let down passengers. One person was killed instantly, and another died shortly afterwards. Thirty passengers were injured, and several are in a critical condition. The trains were crowded, and only the fact that the one entering the station was running at reduced speed prevented a much worse calamity.
The accident occurred at 6.20 pm, when the evening traffic was at its peak, and but for the fact that the second train was drawing into a station, the casualty list must have been much greater. The rear carriage of the stationary train was telescoped.
[transcription of article from Adelaide Register, 26 May 1926http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56570439, ]

The article went on to provide graphic details of what happened, including photographs of the tragic scene. Another passenger who had walked into the casualty ward and initially seemed cheerful died of his injuries in the early hours of 27 May, and the number of injured who submitted claims increased considerably. 

From Sydney Morning Herald, 28 May 1926.  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16295020

From the Australasian of 26 June 1926. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article141415955n, 

From the Registrar, Adelaide, 25 June 1926 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56565408

Both the accused were found not guilty. The jury said they believed that the precautions taken to safeguard the public were inadequate and should be rectified immediately.
Sad to say, there was one additional casualty of the disaster in September that year. The stress of the event and the criticism in the press greatly affected the Station Master, John Phillip Kiernan, who is mentioned in one of the reports above. He felt responsible because he had been in charge that night and took his own life by shooting himself in the temple at Caulfield station. Perhaps the name of JP Kiernan should have been included on the memorial  plaque. In arbitrarily deciding where the blame lies and then relentlessly vilifying those considered to be at fault, I feel the media both then and now have a lot to answer for. To err is human ...

 Rather than finishing up on that somewhat depressing note, here are a couple of photos of the train cake I made for one of our sons on the occasion of his 3rd birthday, back in 1987. The recipe came from the classic Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book, which was beloved by Australian mothers and children alike back in the 1980s when it was first published. I've already bought copies of the recently re-published vintage edition for my two daughters, and you can compare my creation with the cover photo. 


    
                                                                                    

Postscript:
.Here are photos of the heritage- listed drinking fountain on Platform 1, and some of the former palisade gates. The fountain, which these days we would probably call a bubbler, could do with a good clean up, but maybe the listing does not allow that.  The heritage-listed ladies' toilet is nowhere to be seen, and must be locked up and unsignposted. Even the helpful customer services officer I spoke to had not heard of its existence.








This sign on one of the gates advises that when the entrance is manned, the gates will close immediately a train arrives, to prevent trains being delayed, and to prevent passengers risking their lives in attempting to board moving trains. I think this must also date from the same vintage as the gates, because they certainly don't close the gates like that today!

Now, blow that whistle and shout "all aboard" for a ride over to Sepia Saturday #232 for more takes on trains, stations and the like from other Sepian contributors this week.

14 comments:

  1. You'll have to wander over to look for "the drinking fountain, the pallisade gates or the horse platform" and the significant toilet! And you might be able to find the private hospital listed in the Government Gazettes online at SLV.
    You did well with the birthday cake. I don't remember ever going to so much effort. My kids were deprived and probably scarred for life:)

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    1. Thanks for adding the postcript photos, Jo.
      PS I had to google 'palisade gates' because I had no idea what it meant :)

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  2. Great job on the history.
    Women's Weekly magazines were fantastic!!!

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  3. That was a mammoth task putting that together. It was most interesting.and a familiar station but mostly for passing through and by. They really knew how to build impressive looking stations.

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  4. I love the look of OLD train stations with their wide overhang - I guess they anticipated rain. Here in Virginia, many towns have preserved their old stations as visitor centers and small museums. It's wonderful, especially in a place that is more prone to tear down and build new. I guess there is a universal emotional attachment to trains that keeps these buildings alive.

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  5. I love old train stations. It is sad that so many have been demolished. I am looking forward to visiting the one in St. Paul, MN that has been recently restored.

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  6. Caulfield station certainly grew up! Love your train cake. Looks like you did a great job with it. I can't tell if the wheels are chocolate cookies or mini chocolate donuts? Either way - yum!!!

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    1. They are called Waggon Wheels - marshmallow and jam filled biscuit rounds with chocolate coating.

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    2. OMG, I'd run right out & buy a bag of them but I can't do that anymore. My doctor would have a cow! Well, he wouldn't exactly have a cow, but I'd be in for a bit of scary talking to. Ah well.

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  7. What a nice way to end your blog - a darling cake and cute children.
    Nancy
    Ladies of the Grove

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  8. This was a very creative way to spin the theme and a fascinating history. The story of the accident was tragic in several ways, and reminds us how harsh media attention on catastrophes like this is not a modern phenomena.

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  9. A very interesting post and full of detail. Trove certainly sounds like a great resource. Shame about the heritage femae toilet!

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  10. Well Done. A very interesting post. I was surprised to see the number of compensation claims back then. I thought that claiming compensation was a thing of modern times but evidently not.

    A great finish too. Well done on the cake.

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  11. Fascinating post. Our local station has only been in existence for a few years so its history is close to nil. I wonder whether we can still trace the history of some of our country stations. We have nothing like Trove to help us.

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