ABOVE: One of my favourite early VR photos is this often reproduced classic taken at Harcourt circa 1870. It shows the up Bendigo to Melbourne passenger train standing at the platform. There are very few photos that were taken earlier than this of the VR. The locomotive "No 70" was a 2-4-0 built by Beyer Peacock in 1864 which would later be known as the "B class" at the time they would have been the standard passenger loco on the Bendigo line. At this time Westinghouse air brakes were far in the future and the only brakes were the tender brake and the guards van brake, (hence the name "brakevan") both operating wooden brake blocks. Considering that the maximum speed was 60 mph the crew would have really had to know the track profile in order to operate the train safely.
Perhaps the most significant feature in the photo is the slotted arm semaphore signal. At the time the Bendigo track was operated under the "time interval" system. An up and down arm were provided on the post and as can be seen here, the train has arrived so the Porter has put the up signal to the danger position, arm horizontal (red light at night). After 5 minutes had elapsed since the trains departure the arm would be lowered to 45 degrees below horizontal, (green light at night) called the caution position. After 10 minutes had elapsed since the trains departure the arm could be placed at to the "all right" position at which time the arm disappeared into the slot in the post, (white light at night) Amazingly this seqence of lights is still in use today with the handlamp signals given during night shunting.
Finally, the ramped platform ends were a feature of Victorian stations until the reign of Thomas Tait (1903 - 1910) which saw practically every paltform have the now familiar vertical platform end with fence to deter the rascally fare evaders.
The photo below, taken from the same spot, was taken Oct 2008, approx 138 years later!
BELOW: Harcourt generated a significant amount of goods traffic for the VR, a 1916 Argus reported 4,994 tons of fruit dispatched from Harcourt for the year ending Sept. 30 1916. In addition many of Victoria's landmark buildings including Flinders St station were built from Harcourt granite which was railed from the station. This photo which was taken pre 1927 shows a fruitgrower loading empty fruitboxes into his cart whilst blocks of granite await loading.
A very new A2 838 and an A class on a rake of "E" cars depart Harcourt on an up train circa 1910.