The revolution of rail travel first became available to Gippslanders in 1879. It led to a rush of development and played a key role in the transformation of Gippsland into one of the premier food producing, industrial and tourism regions of Victoria.
This newspaper is named after The Gippslander rail service.
Prior to the coming of rail, travelers to and from Gippsland had to endure the tortuous coach journey along a route cursed with potholes, bogs and innumerable steep hills that tired horses and tested the patience of the most intrepid traveler. A diarist, as reported in the Melbourne Argus, wrote in 1873 that the trip onboard a Cobb & Co stage coach from Melbourne’s Bourke Street to Rosedale took 33 hours of bone jarring discomfort. The diarist was one Thomas Mills, manager of Heyfield Station. He wrote that the trip made him physically ill and “The 33 hours in a stage coach across the Australian forest was quite enough to satisfy my ambitions in that direction.” Much of western and central Gippsland were blocked to travelers by swamps and very heavily timbered land. The Moe swamp was for many years considered to be impassable.
Travelers today can still travel the old coach routes between Melbourne and Sale, with coach “stages” from Melbourne to Oakleigh, Dandenong, Beaconsfield, Pakenham, Bunyip, Robin Hood, Brandy Creek, Shady Creek, Westbury (the Retreat Inn, west of Moe), Morwell Bridge, Traralgon, Rosedale and Kilmany, near Sale. The construction of the main Gippsland railway line, located several miles to the south of the coach route, signaled the demise of the settlements along the coach road. Only the old hotels and some small stores lingered on along the coach road for the next thirty years or so, but of these, only the Robin Hood remains today. The coming of the rail line in 1879 revolutionised the lives of people and business in Gippsland. We take readily available medical care for granted. In 1879 people living in small towns and on isolated farms could be at risk from what we today would describe as non-serious illnesses. The arrival of rail meant that ill people could be placed aboard the train for medical attention, either ‘up the line’ in Sale, or ‘down the line’ in Melbourne.