About the Outer Circle Line

Jonathan Orange

The Outer Circle was built during the Melbourne land boom of the 1880s. Money was no object, and greedy capitalists saw the Colony of Victoria as a valuable investment opportunity.

It was originally intended to bring goods trains into Melbourne from Gippsland. But after the State Government purchased the Melbourne & Hobson's Bay United Railway Company there was no longer a need to build the Outer Circle.

Almost no-one lived along the proposed route of the railway; it was built through open bushland, paddocks and orchards, connecting Oakleigh with Fairfield.

Its name was orignally coined in 1873 by the Engineer-In-Chief of the Victorian Railways, Thomas Higinbotham, who said:

The railway from Oakleigh could be brought into Melbourne via an 'outer circle' route.

The Outer Circle

Engineer in charge of construction:
John (Sir John) Monash
Construction commenced:
Construction complete:
Fairfield Park to Riversdale:
Closed 1893
Oakleigh to Ashburton:
Closed 1895
Last passenger service, north of Riversdale:
Buses replaced rail motors in 1927
Last goods service:
6th September 1943
What remains today?
The Alamein Line

Why was it needed?

The Outer Circle was intended to circumvent the privately-owned railways to Hawthorn, Elsternwick and St Kilda. These were owned by the M&HBURC and the Graham Berry government thought it would be cheaper to build its own railway, connecting Oakleigh with the (soon to be built) Heidelberg line, on today's Hurstbridge line.

Supporters of the Outer Circle also said:

  • There was no efficient link between Flinders Street and Spencer Street, and it was needed to relieve Flinders Street of congestion;
  • It was needed to cart firewood from Gippsland to the brick kilns in Brunswick;
  • And paradoxically, the sooner it was built, the less it would cost.

What happened next?

In 1878 the government finally purchased the M&HBURC for £1,320,820 and finished building a direct line from Oakleigh to Melbourne.

At this point, there was no longer a need to build The Outer Circle.

In 1884 the James Service government passed ambitious legislation which authorised the construction of no less than 65 railways throughout the Colony of Victoria. One of these lines was the Outer Circle.

The plan hatched by a number of politicians went like this:

  • Buy large amounts of land in the middle of nowhere
  • Legislate construction of the railway through, or adjacent to, the privately-held land
  • Sell the land for a tidy profit

Watch the documentary online

Did you know?

  • The entire Outer Circle Line had closed
    by May 1897, after running for just 6 years.
  • "Through" trains never worked on the line -
    instead, trains worked in sections from Oakleigh to Waverley Road, Waverley Road to Camberwell, and Riversdale to Fairfield Park.
  • There were a number of serious accidents
    during the Outer Circle's construction.
    Two fatalities occurred in the Yarra at Fairfield
    on New Year’s Day, 1889.

The Outer Circle by numbers

  • 9 Stations originally constructed
    These were Waverley Road, Ashburton, Hartwell (modern-day Burwood), Riversdale, Shenley, Deepdene, East Kew, Willsmere and Fulham Grange.
  • 20 km Approximate distance
    from Oakleigh to Fairfield.
  • £297,361 Final cost of railway construction
    as reported by John Monash - although later estimates were as high as £414,270.