Victorian Railways (also Victorian Railways Commissioners 1883-1973, Victorian Railways Board 1973-1983)

Public Record Office Victoria
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Appointment of Victorian Railways Commissioners

On 1 November 1883 assent was given to the Victorian Railways Commissioners Act 1883, 47 Vic.,No.767, to make better provision for the construction, maintenance and management of the state railways. Although the provisions concerning the appointment of Commissioners were given immediate effect, the remaining provisions of the Act were not to become operative until 1st February 1884. The Act provided for the transfer of statutory responsibility for the state's railways from the Board of Land and Works (VA 744) to the newly appointed Victorian Railways Commissioners. The Commissioners, constituted as a statutory body, were to report directly to the minister responsible for railways and could appoint staff to assist in the execution of the Act. The staff of the Department of Railways (VA 2965) thereafter became subject to the authority of the Commissioners and became commonly known as 'Victorian Railways' (although this title had been used interchangeably with Department of Railways since the first appointment of staff in 1856). It is not evident that any major changes were made to the Department's operation as a result of this rearrangement. However a new agency, VA 2876, has been registered from 1883, incorporating the Victorian Railways Commissioners 1883-1973 and the Victorian Railways Board 1973-1983.

Railway Management and Construction

The functions for which Victorian Railways assumed responsibility included:
survey and construction of new lines of railway
supervision and maintenance of existing lines
management of railway traffic including passengers, goods and livestock
superintendence of railway services
determining by-laws, rules and regulations concerning railway operations
construction and repair of rolling stock.

The Railways Act (Amendment Act) 1891, 55 Vic.,No.1250, provided for the Board of Land and Works (VA 744) to resume responsibility for the survey, construction and completion of all lines of railway, while the Victorian Railways Commissioners retained responsibility for the supervision and maintenance of all completed lines. Operational responsibility for railway construction was taken on by the Board's Railway Construction Branch (VA 690). Under the provisions of the Act the Minister responsible for Railways was also deemed to be, ex officio, a Vice-President of the Board of Land and Works - a return to the situation which had existed until 1884 when the Board had ceased to have any responsibility for railways matters. The Act also provided for the establishment of a Railway Accident Fund.

Associated Functions

From 1888 the Victorian Railways gradually began to take on a role in tourism which developed into the operation of the Victorian Government Tourist Bureaux.

In 1911 the Victorian Railways Commissioners assumed responsibility for the State Coal Mine (VA 720) from the Mines Department (VA 612).

Within Victorian Railways other functions developed including:
operation of electric supply for street tramway services 1906-1959
operation of Newport Power Station A (from c1921 until 1951)
provision of railway refreshment services (from 1920)
management of Mt Buffalo Chalet (from 1924-1983)
provision of road motor services for passengers (from 1925)
provision of motor transport services for goods
operation of Newport Power Station B (until 1939).

Handover of Associated Functions to Other Agencies

In 1939 and 1951, responsibility for the operation of the Newport Power Stations B and A respectively was assumed by the State Electricity Commission (VA 1002). In 1959 the management of the Government Tourist Bureaux passed to the Tourism Development Authority (VA 2918). For a brief account of the administration of tourism functions from 1888 to the present see VRG 91 Tourism III. Responsibility for the State Coal Mine (VA 720) ceased in 1968 with the closure of the mine.

Victorian Railways Commissioners replaced by Victorian Railways Board 1973

In May 1973 under the provisions of the Railways (Amendment) Act 1972 (No.8353) the management of the Railways passed from the Victorian Railways Commissioners to a Victorian Railways Board. VicRail, as it became known in the 1970's, continued under the administration of the Victorian Railways Board until 1983, when its operations were divided following a major overhaul of the Victorian transport system.

Abolition of Victorian Railways 1983

Thereafter, the State Transport Authority (VA 1038) assumed responsibility for the provision of country rail and road, passenger and freight services, while the Metropolitan Transit Authority (VA 1044) assumed responsibility for the operation of metropolitan rail services.

Location of Records

See list below and List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, section 3.21.0

141,-34 142.91934,-34.1456 144.58213,-35.65923 147.74263,-35.87318 150.02422,-37.52904 150.2,-39.2 141,-39.2 141,-34


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  • Local : VA 2876