This line was originally constructed as an isolated section of track between Alphington and Clifton Hill. The line was intially joined to the rest of the suburban system via the Inner Circle route through North Melbourne requiring reversing at Victoria Park and then later via the more direct route through Collingwood.
The line was extended outwards as far as Hurstbridge on the outskirts of Melbourne. Although a number of proposals existed to extend the line to St Andrews and Kinglake, thisa never eventuated. The entire line was electrified early in the 20th century and this is most likely the reason why the whole line survives today as the section of track beyond Eltham remains a predominently rural area with low patronage and very infrequent services.
There are many sections of single track on this line. Single track exists between CLifton Hill and Westgarth, Heidelberg and Rosanna and on the DOWN side of Greensborough. The line contains some of the last remaining examples of semaphore signals on the suburban system, contains a large trestle bridge near Eltham and has a number of private uncontrolled level crossings.
There are a number of different stopping patterns which exist on this line with many services terminating at either Greensborough or Eltham and few trains stopping at the stations between Clifton Hill and the City Loop.