The town of Maryborough’s history had emerged in the Gold Rush days of 1851-1854 when gold mining was becoming the predominant industry in the region. But it wasn’t until the railway lines were being laid down across the state of Victoria in the late 1860s that travel to rural cities became easy.
When the railway line first arrived in Maryborough, the tender specified a station building that was made from red brick with significant bluestone foundations. The building had to provide a platform for the trains, a flat for the station master, waiting rooms for travellers, offices, a dining room and verandas. So it was to be expected that one of the most significant events for Maryborough was the grand opening of the working railway station in July 1874. Everyone in central Victoria turned up.
But by the 1880s, Parliamentarians were already asking for a new station since extra trains were going to Geelong or were linked to the Ararat and Warrnambool areas. Maryborough may have been a small rural city (pop in 1854 was 25,000; now 8,000), but it was seen as a very important central junction, 165 ks from Melbourne.
Second version of Maryborough Railway Station, completed 1891
The new station was built for four times the budget of the original station. Red bricks came from a nearby kiln; roofing slates were shipped in from England; plate glass for the skylight came from Melbourne. The stucco trimming, I assume, was just for contrast. A goods shed and goods platform were built last of all.
Veranda covered platform on cast-iron columns
This second station was built over the top of the old station and was completed in August 1891. It was HUGE – 25 rooms and a gorgeous clock tower that was added just before WW1 started. I am not sure how to describe the architecture; the station’s own history page says the distinctive roofline and offset tower display the Anglo-Dutch style. Even now the viewer can see the different types of Dutch gables with tall faceted rendered chimneys. On the business side of the station, the very long platform covered by a veranda with a hipped roof stands out. The veranda is partly cantilevered and is supported by cast-iron ribbed columns. Locals were very proud of the fact that their platform was the longest single platform outside the capital city (1010 ms under cover).
Inside, visitors notice the impressive, carved ticket box windows, a very interesting tessellated floor, a lovely timber ceiling and quality iron gates at the entrance.
Novelist Mark Twain visited Maryborough in the 1890s. He wrote "you can put the whole population of Maryborough into it, and give them a sofa apiece, and have room for more. You haven’t fifteen stations in America that are as big, and you probably haven’t five that are half as fine. Why, it’s perfectly elegant". He described Maryborough as 'a railway station with a town attached'. I hope he really did say that - it was very clever. And true.
Cafe and wine centre, opened in the Maryborough Railway Station in 1993
The station is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, but it could have sunk into quiet oblivion anyhow. Trains still operate regularly from Maryborough to Ballarat (to connect to the Ballarat-Melbourne line). But the line that was opened in 1874 from Maryborough to Castlemaine (to connect with the Bendigo- Melbourne line) is not used by regular traffic any longer. And the Mildura line, that was opened from Ballarat to Maryborough in 1874, was closed in 1993. Rural cities suffered badly as a result.
Fortunately in 1993 a local business sub-leased the southern half of the station from the town council and established an antique emporium, regional wine centre and café, open daily. A $2 million restoration of the station was carried out in 2006-7, making the visitor’s experience both historically and aesthetically pleasing.
Old waiting room with tessellated floor, high timber ceiling and beams, stained glass.
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