The Rosstown Railway Heritage Trail is an unusual kind of rail trail, covering the former Rosstown Railway line in Melbourne. Almost the entire length of the former private railway has been replaced by roads, except for one section of off-road multi-use path, west of Grange Road. The trail is marked by signs in various places. It is approximately 7 km in total length.
The extinct railway route started as one man’s innovative dream and became his personal folly. You can walk, cycle or drive this historical route.
If you think a map of the area is out of date because Rosstown isn't shown, don't worry, you won't find it on any map produced since 1909. Re-named by Caulfield Council in the early 1900s, Carnegie now stands where Rosstown once was. The Rosstown railway suffered the same fate as the town, its route now obscured by parks, roads and housing.
The Dream - Carnegie Station was once called Rosstown Station — named after its creator William Murray Ross. Born in Liverpool, England in 1825 — Ross emigrated to Melbourne in 1852. One of his many ambitions was to build a sugar beet mill in close proximity to the city, served by a dedicated railway line to transport the processed sugar from the mill to Elsternwick. Construction of the railway began in September 1883 and was first completed only two months later in November 1883. But shoddy workmanship and inferior materials prevented official approval being given for its use. It was four years before construction was resumed in 1887, which culminated in the improved and completed railway in 1888. During the time between the first construction and the reconstruction, Ross sought approval to connect his railway with St Kilda by a line from Elsternwick through Elwood, the Sea Beach Line, but this never eventuated.
The one-train line - The railway was never used for its intended (or any other) purpose, and quickly fell into disrepair. An unsubstantiated claim by William Ross states that he ran one train on his completed railway on 14 November, 1888. This single excursion was said to carry, among others, Thomas Bent, the prominent politician and future Victorian Premier and, considered by some, a notorious land speculator. But, thanks to William Ross and his dreams, we are left with a historic, signposted route to walk, cycle or drive along.
The Rosstown sugar beet mill - The sugar beet mill that the railway was constructed to serve was built by Ross in 1875 on what are now Neville and Miller Streets, Carnegie (Melway Ref: 68 H7) was also doomed to failure.
Local market gardeners were angered at the loss of their public source of water and peat when the government sold Ross a tract of land known as Lemann's Swamp Reserve (now Koornang Park and its surrounds) to provide his sugar mill with a continuous supply of water.
Despite the suitability of the local soil, a ready supply of water, support from businessmen and politicians. Government approval and rail transport, the mill still did not succeed. Ross lacked the support of the market gardeners, who preferred to grow other crops, and he faced increasing competition from the embryonic cane sugar industry in northern Australia.
After unsuccessful attempts to sell the mill to a brewer or to use the building as a rabbit processing plant. a hospital or an abattoir, Ross dispensed with his caretaker to save costs. The unprotected building was then exposed to thieves and vagrants who stole equipment and occupied the mill. Coupled with mounting debt, the mill succumbed to disuse and was finally demolished in 1908.
By the turn of the century, Ross had constructed a railway line and a huge processing plant, neither of which were ever used. A man who followed his dreams, no matter what the cost, Ross died in 1904 shortly after the break up of his second marriage.
William Murray Ross (Born 1825 — Died 1904) - William Ross emigrated to Melbourne from Liverpool, England in 1852 and established himself as a manager of an insurance company. He became a magistrate and was appointed to government boards and committees and had a circle of business and political associates which included Thomas Bent, who was a Councillor on both Moorabbin and Brighton Councils for more than 40 years, as well becoming a State MP and Premier. The suburb of Bentleigh is named after him.
Ross and his wife Leila moved to the market garden district of Caulfield to breathe some country air. They purchased The Grange, a house between the present Grange, Leila and Wild Cherry Roads.
He bought land extensively, naming his holdings Rosstown, after himself. A 19th century entrepreneur, he borrowed and mortgaged heavily, formed companies and built a sugar beet mill and railway and conceived other plans. Very few of his schemes succeeded. He owned 1000 acres in Caulfield and believed the value of the estate would increase with the construction of the mill and railway. He said in his memoirs that he could have sold his holdings for £1,000,000.
Ross's second marriage ended in 1903. The Grange fell into disrepair and was sold by the bank of New South Wales in 1909.
The Rosstown Rail Trail is a generally flat route following local streets and linear parks. The trail is suitable for all ages and can be followed by bike, car or by walking.
Start: Elsternwick Plaza (Melway Ref: 67 F3)
Finish: Oakleigh Station (Melway Ref: 69 F8)
Length: 8.5km (with an optional detour of 3.1km)
Time: Walking - approx. 3.5 hours (excluding detour approx 1 hour), Cycling - approx 1.5 hours