Stationeers

 Mont Albert Stationeers

Mont Albert Railway Station with its beautifully preserved Edwardian station building bookends and complements Mont Albert’s Hamilton Street, a heritage precinct of “between the wars” architecture. The station building is well maintained and intriguingly drapes over its own chimney. It is a quaint, well-used and prosaic vestige of Melbourne’s railway history. Residents walk pass the station or use it every day to catch trains into the Melbourne CBD and other destinations. Retired people, students of all ages travelling to schools and colleges, and young families with children in strollers complement the village atmosphere. Protective Service Officers (PSOs) patrol the station platforms in the evening, providing a comforting presence.

A group of residents living local to the station volunteer their time to maintain the station gardens, supported by several local businesses, Metro Trains Melbourne and the Whitehorse Council. Additional volunteers are welcome for spring and autumn working bees, and can register their interest by contacting Bruce Harvey at bruce.harvey88@bigpond.com or calling 0408 949 282.

History of Mont Albert Station

Mont Albert owes its name and the shopping village its existence to Mont Albert Station. Established and opened on 11th August 1890 in an open field at the top of the gradient rising eastward from Surrey Hills towards Box Hill, the Station allowed early steam trains to stop and start without loss of traction or power. Newer trains were soon able to easily stop anywhere on the gradient, but Mont Albert Station was established and has remained in use ever since as a secondary station on the Lilydale-Belgrave line. The Station attracted new residents to the area and handsome residences were established looking across open paddocks in the 1890s. The Mont Albert Progress Association planted trees to beautify the railway reserve, with some flowering gums and old peppercorn trees still growing along the side of the rail corridor. For the next 30 years, it is recorded that local children walked across the paddocks and along the railway line collecting wild flowers. Steam trains ran until 1922 when electrification of the line from Flinders Street Central Station to Box Hill was completed.

The current Mont Albert Station building was constructed in 1911, and the first purpose-built shop in Hamilton Street village around the same time. A range of shops along Hamilton and Churchill Streets within 100 meters of the Station soon followed, catering for railway patrons walking to and from the Station and, as the 20th century progressed, roads were sealed and car parks added. The Station had nucleated a growing village.

Over the next 100 years the fortunes of Mont Albert Station and the village waxed and waned as changing train schedules and fare structures affected the choice of local residents to use the Station or walk an extra 5-10 minutes to Surrey Hills or Box Hill. Positioned at the top of the rise between the busier junctions of Surrey Hills and Box Hill, it has always been a quiet Edwardian place seen from the windows of trains passing through. ‘Stopping all stations’ trains come through every 15 minutes, with passengers stepping on and off in quieter numbers than the rush hour crowds at Surrey Hills and Box Hill. Over the years, amenity at the Station has improved; a subway replaced the original overhead footbridge in 1971, the same year a third track was added to the rail corridor. This required an island platform to be built and ticketing office redesign. The gatekeeper at Mont Albert Road crossing was no longer needed when automatic boom gates were installed in 1962. Stationmasters and ticketing staff became a thing of the past with progressive automation and now itinerant inspectors, maintenance crews and PSOs only appear as required. As the number of Metro passengers steadily increases, residents and retailers are ever present and maintain a watchful eye on the Station.

Mont Albert retains its original character because it never attained the traffic volume and status that would demand dramatic redevelopment. While well maintained with modern amenity, it preserves its Edwardian charm complemented by its shrubs and gardens.

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