Outer Circle Line
The Outer Circle Railway has one of the most interesting histories of all the railway lines in Victoria. The line was originally conceived as a means of connecting the Gippsland Railway to the main government railway terminal at Spencer Street without requiring travel along the privately owned railway from Flinders Street.
Despite a direct route being constructed through Caulfield, such was the state of state of confidence during the 1880s that it was decided to construct the Outer Circle route as well as part of the infamous "Octopus Act". (In fact a third route was also constructed between Oakleigh and Elsternwick called the Rosstown Railway which was an even greater disaster than the Outer Circle route.)
And so the Outer Circle Railway was born, traversing empty paddocks between Oakleigh and Fairfield. The route attracted very little traffic, with passengers and freight preferring to use the more direct route via South Yarra. The line provided 4 linkages to other railway lines including the Gippsland Line at Oakleigh, the then Glen Iris Line at Waverley Road, the Healesville Line at East Camberwell and the Hurstbridge Line at Fairfield.
An economic depression hit during the 1890s and the entire Outer Circle Railway was closed due to the heavy losses it incurred. In the late 1890s sections of the line reopened including between East Camberwell and Ashburton and between East Camberwell and Deepdene for passengers and between Deepdene and East Kew for freight. While the Camberwell to Ashburton Line was electrified with the rest of the network in the early 20th century, the section north of East Camberwell was not. This virtually sealed its fate. A passenger service between Deepdene and Riversdale known as the "Deepdene Dasher" continued until 1927, while the East Kew freight service continued until 1945.
After the Second World War in the late 1940s, a new housing estate was established to the south of Ashburton to serve returned was veterans. This estate was named Alamein, and the then Ashburton Line was extended along the former rail alignment to a new terminus at Alamein serving the new estate.
Although the section between Riversdale and Fairfield was dismantled long ago, a short section remained at the Fairfield end right through to 1995, serving the APM paper mill. This section was even electrified and has only recently been dismantled since 2000.
For years the future of the Alamein Line was not secured with many proposals having existed to close the line including the Lonie Report in the early 1980s. One politician who helped to ensure that the Alamein Line remained was former Premier Jeff Kennett, whose electorate of Burwood formed part of the area served by the line.
Today, the Alamein Line forms part of the suburban passenger network, with one of the most frequent off-peak train services operating out of all the lines in Melbourne, despite its relatively low patronage. During off-peak a shuttle service operates over the line between Alamein and Camberwell, while during peak times a direct service operates to Flinders Street. Ashburton is the only staffed station on the line.
The majority of the former Outer Circle Line has now been converted into a bicycle trail called the Anniversary Trail to commemorate 100 years since the opening of the railway. The former rail corridor is almost entirely intact and includes sections in steep cuttings and embankments and several large bridges. The former bridge across the Yarra River at Fairfield is now used by traffic on the Chandler Highway.
While any proposal to reopen this line today would likely be met by stiff opposition from abutting land owners, there have been many calls for an orbital rail corridor to provide a cross-country rail route avoiding travel in and out of the city to reach other suburban destinations. Such a route would not only serve passengers but could also be used by freight from Gippsland and Hastings allowing the double stacking of containers and avoiding travel beneath Federation Square to reach the Port of Melbourne and Dynon rail terminals.
One proposal that is mentioned from time to time is an extension of the Alamein Railway Line to provide a connection to Chadstone Shopping Centre, possibly using part of the former right of way.
Fulham Grange Station
East Kew Station
East Camberwell Station
Waverley Road Station