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A GOLDEN age of rail travel was reborn yesterday, with celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of the Geelong-Ballarat train line and the opening of Ballarat’s historic railway station.
Community leaders, dignitaries, rail aficionados and residents joined a special heritage train service which departed Geelong at 10.30am and stopped at Lethbridge, Lal Lal and Ballarat before making a return journey around 1pm.
Hundreds of locals lined the tracks to catch a glimpse of the historic train rattling along tracks usually reserved for freight services.
Officially opened on April 10, 1862, the line was built by the Victorian Railways Corporation, with double tracks, stone station buildings and the 440m Moorabool Viaduct along the line.
It remained the only rail line between Ballarat and Melbourne until 1889.
Members of Victoria’s rail appreciation and historical societies dressed in period costumes for the event, and Meredith Primary School pupils created a special artwork to mark the occasion.
Michael Menzies, president of the Geelong and South Western Rail Heritage Society, said the event had been a year in the making.
Click to view photos from yesterday's event
“We were thrilled with how many people were on board or saw the train along the way, and I think it has brought a lot of attention to the anniversary,” Mr Menzies said.
“So many communities such as Lal Lal and Lethbridge got into the spirit today and having worked for 12 months on this event, we think it is a great result.”
Mr Menzies said much of the infrastructure along the line, including historic bridges and station buildings, remained in excellent condition.
Yesterday’s festivities included plaque unveilings and a morning tea at Ballarat station.
After the construction of an individual line via Bacchus Marsh, and the decline in the Geelong-Ballarat services, passenger trains were withdrawn permanently in 1981.
Today, the railway is used weekly by freight trains to Mildura and seasonally for grain services.
The Victorian government is currently completing a $2 million feasibility study into the return of passenger services.
Mr Menzies said local communities along the line would hold their own events this weekend, with a rail tour from Melbourne and Geelong to Ballarat taking place on Saturday.
This article first appeared on www.thecourier.com.au
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