Located within 40km of Melbourne is the former Healesville Railway. This line was the extension of what is the current Lilydale Line. There were 5 stations on this line: Coldstream, Yering, Yarra Glen, Tarrawarra and Healesville. The line from Melbourne to Lilydale was opened in 1882 and was extended to Healesville in 1889. A spur line was opened to Warburton in 1901. The Warburton Line branched off the Healesville line immediately to the north of the Beresford Road rail crossing which is located some 600m beyond Lilydale Station.
Passenger trains ceased on this line in 1980 and were replaced by buses. The line was never electrified and prior to closure, diesel electric railmotors operated on the line to meet with the electric trains at Lilydale. Prior to the closure of the Warburton Line in 1965, electric services operated as far as Lilydale, the carriages were then detached and separated with half hauled to Healesville and the other half to Warburton under steam power.
Although proposals had existed at various times for the Healesville Line to be electrified from Lilydale this never eventuated. The Healesville destination was even included on the destination scrolls for the Comeng electric train fleet that were being introduced to service in the 1980s as a possible future terminus. Instead of electrification the line was left to deteriorate with little outlay going towards maintenance. The condition of the many trestle bridges, which exist in the floodplain between Yering and Yarra Glen, worsened to such an extent in the late 1970s that drivers had to travel very slowly to negotiate this section safely. Eventually due to the poor condition of the track and the significant cost of repairs it was decided to close the Healesville passenger rail service and replace it with a bus service.
The section of track between Coldstream and Lilydale remained in use until the early 1990s to service a freight depot opposite Coldstream Station. The rest of the track was leased to a tourist operator operating as the Yarra Valley Tourist Railway. Due to the high costs associated with the section of track between Coldstream and Yarra Glen because of the condition of the bridges, they discontinued their lease of this section and instead concentrated their efforts in the section between Healesville and Yarra Glen.
Their current operations include trolley rides operating from Healesville Station to a point to the west of an historic tunnel located near the Tarra Warra winery. A government grant has recently been secured for further restoration of Healesville Station. Operations from the Yarra Glen end of the line have not been as regular to date, although the level crossing at Melba Highway has been restored with flashing lights. The Yarra Glen station building remains in situ, however this building was partially destroyed by fire several years ago and much restoration work is needed. Work is currently underway to build a new crossing loop at the site of Tarrawarra station so that operations can recommence between these two stations.
The track between Lilydale and Yarra Glen remains in place in a disused condition overgrown with grass and weeds. The rail crossings remain in place with signs displaying the message ‘Give Way to Trains’ at all locations except Beresford Road where the road was recently resurfaced and bitumen was laid over the rails. The ‘Give Way to Trains’ signs were turned so as not to face the road. Between Beresford Road and Lilydale station the through track is used as part of the train yards for storage of the electric train sets. A gate and baulk are placed across the track.
Although there have been recent rumours that Freight Australia would be interested in operating log trains on sections of the Healesville Line and that Connex would be interested in extending their passenger service beyond Lilydale, it is difficult to see either of these possibilities eventuating in the near future.
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