16 February 2011

Macaulay railway station, North Melbourne, VIC, Australia

I like railways.  As a consequence, I often find myself at railway stations.  I've seen many ugly railway stations in my time wielding a camera and generally looking weird (oh no a guy has a harmless hobby!), and if I were to ever make a list of the ugliest, Macaulay would be a prime contender for the top five.  I've also passed - quickly - through plenty of dingy and uninviting stations, and again, if I were to make a list of such stations, Macaulay would be a prime contender for the top five.

Yes, the lead picture above depicts a railway station. That's it on the left, where that train is hidden - the bricky thing that looks like a public toilet beneath a six-lane motorway.  As the picture at right shows, things look just as grim when you're on the platforms themselves.  And while cars whiz overhead, there is precious little activity at rail level.  Macaulay station is located in a part of North Melbourne home to light industry that gets lighter and lighter every passing year as industries downsize or close.  There used to be a thriving network of railway sidings here, diverging from the main tracks to service factories; now, the sidings are just dirt bereft of rails passing decrepit loading docks at businesses that have closed.  A bit of traffic passes on Macaulay Road, but if you are taking shelter inside the dimly-lit buildings, or are just any sort of distance down the platform, you might as well be invisible.  Not exactly the most comfortable place to be, especially not when the train frequencies on the Upfield line are so abysmal.

The setting is bad enough, but were the dank brick shoeboxes posing as station buildings really necessary?  Even before Citylink was built overhead in the 1990s, these would have been enough to make you turn your nose up at Macaulay station.  They're barely even useful - they don't exactly keep out the elements, let me tell you.  I'm pretty sure they'd be right at home in the Walshe & Whitelock part of the property press, and no doubt if the railways desperately need an injection of funding, Walshe & Whitelock would merrily rent out both buildings for outrageous sums to the poor and desperate.  "Cosy, modern riverfront unit close to transportation!"

Once upon a time (i.e. the early 1920s), things were different; Macaulay had a station that, although not an architectural marvel, was smart and functional.  Below, compare the first picture from Victorian Railways.net with a photo I took in 2008:

Ridiculous.  I'd say pull the fucker down and start again, but there isn't much you can do about that motorway looming ahead.  If you must catch a train in the vicinity, you're probably better off spending a few minutes walking over to Kensington on the Craigieburn line, just a few hundred metres away, or if you're obliged to use the Upfield line, Flemington Bridge isn't far either.  I'm surprised the station is still even open.  Well, it could be worse: the neighbouring Moonee Ponds Creek (soon to be featured on the blog!) doesn't look as bad here as it does a couple of kilometres upriver.  Here, the creek has been artificially widened into a canal that contains, gasp, water; upriver it has been raped and abused into a stormwater drain that is often just a stagnant dark smudge.  Macaulay station has suffered enough since its origins as a smart little stop; at least it isn't made even worse by neighbouring a skidmark.

Rating: Condemnable.

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