In the 1920’s Flinders Street Station claimed to be the world’s busiest train station. To be able to boast such a marvelous claim, so early in its history, would have been an exciting development for Melbourne (the capital city of the state of Victoria). Some seventy years earlier in 1854, on the same site, a collection of wooden train sheds stood, as an ugly eyesore on the landscape. The decision to build a new public train station to replace the existing ad hoc wooden sheds was a foregone conclusion and planned by the Victorian government in 1882. But it would be another seventeen years before any serious attempts were made to develop the Flinders and Swanston Streets intersection. A competition in 1899 was held to design the station building and Fawcett and Ashworth, employees of Victoria Railways, won the prize of £500. The construction of the station building commenced in 1901 and was completed in 1910. The result was a grand redbrick and golden-stucco building that stretched magnificently across two city blocks. It boasted a huge dome, arched entrance, and a clock tower. The inside of the building contained a elegant ballroom, library, concert hall, meeting rooms and a nursery, where children could be cared for during the working day for two shillings.
Today, this wonderful building still dominates this corner of Melbourne. It might not be the world’s busiest train station anymore, but its extensive rail network stretches out, like an octopuses tentacles, across the suburbs of Melbourne. For many decades, this iconic building had fallen into disrepair and simply became an embarrassment to the travelling public. It has had many facelifts in its history, but is well overdue for a significant renovation. Plans to rejuvenate and restore the station to its ‘glory’ days have been talked about for years and are hopefully not too far into the future. Most people still love the station, especially its iconic ornate facade and distinctive clocks under the main dome. Older generations of Melbournians love to talk about the days, where the clocks at the front steps of the station, were a meeting place to catch up with friends, on an outing into the heart of the city. “I’ll meet you under the clocks” has been Melbournians famous catch cry for generations.
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