November 4, 2012
ACTIVE operations in connection with the establishment of the State Coal Mine were begun on November 22, 1909. During that year the Nyora-Woolamai railway was constructed. In December 1909 authority was given under act No. 2221 for the extension of that railway to the SCM. Construction of the new temporary line, as it was called, proceeded rapidly, one mile of track laid daily, until Temporary Terminus (later called State Mine) was reached on February 22, 1910.
Some 500 men with bullock teams, ploughs, scoops, horse drays, but mostly pick and shovel, built the line. The working and living conditions for the men, mostly with families brought into this final section of the line, were appalling. They were camped cheek by jowl all along the line from Andersons Corner to Bourne Creek with little or no logistic support. The men working in the summer heat suffered from lack of potable water. Drinking water was taken from any dam at the nearest farm and dysentery was rife. On top of that, bushfires all along the line threatened constantly.
However, they managed to lay the last rails to the Mine Terminus on the afternoon of February 22. Ten weeks later, “the first passenger train arrived in Wonthaggi on May 9, 1910 with the obligatory water truck together with two Mallee cars and a guard’s van with Messers Deegan and Nugent driving and firing respectively. In 1910, there was no platform, no sidings or loop and the train was backed out to the turning triangle at the SCM, turned and returned to Wonthaggi for departure at 2:20pm.”[ii]
Very soon, the train became the lifeblood of the new town of Wonthaggi, bringing and sending parcels and people, money and post, machinery and livestock every day of the week. Traffic was growing at a rate of knots, creating an urgent need for a station. In July 1912, the Powlett Express reported on the ‘New Railway Station’ that was nearing completion:
“The station occupies a conspicuous position through the fact that there is a full view of the south elevation from McBride Avenue. The main portion of the station is of brick showing that the Railway Commissioners, who control the State Mine, have great faith in its permanency…
“The total width of the station is 184ft., comprising a 76ft. brick building with a 66ft. wooden wing on one end and 42ft. of wooden buildings on the other. The brick portion includes the main entrance porch with a width of 11ft. leading to the booking hall; each room is fitted with segmented windows, and as the upper portion is finished in rough cast, with ornamental gables, this frontage will have a very attractive appearance.
“The north elevation, of course, faces the passenger platform, and will vary from the south elevation inasmuch as a signal box, with a bay window, is included. There will also be a handsome cantilever veranda, covering the full length of the platform.
“Hoffman bricks are used throughout the building. The wooden wings comprise lavatories, sample room, goods room, porter’s room, store room, shed room and yard room; while provision is also made for a lamp room and a heater for the foot warmers.
“On the whole, very little fault should be found with the building. The contractor is Mr Alf Frongerud (a Norwegian man who was clearly a master builder and perfectionist, and was also responsible for building the Post Office, the State Bank and other public buildings in Wonthaggi), and Inspector Braybin is supervising the work on behalf of the Railways Department.”[iii]
On October 26, 1912, the station staff moved into the finally completed building and the Telegraph Office was moved from its temporary office on the weekend. The station was ready for use.