First school day

With most kids going back to school this week, Andrew was blogging about the first day of school.

I don’t remember much about my first day either, though I do have a photo that I believe was snapped that morning:


Long-haired hippy. It was the 70s though. And I was obviously in a good mood… or it may have been my usual “I’m being photographed” face — lots of kids have those.

What I do remember is that (possibly on enrolment day rather than the first day of term) I decided that I wasn’t capable of spelling “Daniel”, and went by the name “Danny” instead… that lasted for 9 years, until I switched high schools to Melbourne High and decided I liked “Daniel” better. (My surname changed at the same time.)

I also recall early in that first term of Prep an older kid bullied me about something (possibly race-related, or perhaps about the odd appearance of my right eye), but I can’t remember any of the other details. Hopefully I wasn’t too upset about it. Back then there wasn’t a school buddy programme, which probably would have helped.

But as far as I recall, no other issues in Prep, and most of my primary school years are filled with happy memories.

Consumerism Video games

There goes my August spending money

Yowzers. It’s been 7 years since I bought the house.

And it’s been four years since I bought the car.

At the time I bought the car, the dealer I bought it from had just paid the rego, so it’s due every August. This year it’s $696.50.

Obviously because I bought the car in August, the insurance is also due every August. $369.05 (It can be paid monthly, but this is 15% more expensive.)

And… you guessed it… the house insurance is also due. $673.35

Can someone remind me, when/if I decide to upgrade the car at some stage in the future, not to do it in August?

  • I also just got a rates notice… happily the next installment for that isn’t due until late September.
  • A reminder why, despite their groovy advertising and the promise of cheaper premiums for people who don’t drive much, I don’t insure with Youi

Actually do plan to use a little spending money: to help fund From Bedrooms to Billions, a documentary on the beginnings of the UK video game industry. Nostalgia ahoy!

I’ve donated $100. And that was before I discovered the music they’ve used for the trailer — which starts at the 3 minute mark in the following video:

From Bedrooms to Billions – Teaser Trailer from GRACIOUS FILMS on Vimeo.

Retrospectives transport

The view out the front window

When I was a kid, I liked to kneel on the front seat of the (W-class) tram, looking out the front, and watching the driver, trying to figure out how it all worked.

I reckon the front still gives you the best views.

View out the front of a W-class tram; Latrobe Street

Back in the day I recall a control to apply the power, another to brake, with a big wheel as the backup brake (akin to a handbrake I suppose — I was once on a tram whose main brake had failed, and we rolled slowly up Carlisle Street, with the wheel being used to bring us to a halt at every stop).

Many trams didn’t have doors, but those that did had an extra lever to open and close them. These days there are various other newer controls in the cab.

W-class tram controls

Retrospectives Video games

Retro Gamer edition 100

Yes, it’s true: I paid extra money to get a magazine about old video games sooner. I truly am a sucker for nostalgia.

Retro Gamer edition 100

But hey, it’s the 100th issue, with a reprint of edition one as a bonus!!!

PS. 8pm Saturday: Spotted today at my brother-in-law’s birthday barbecue, this tattoo of Rik’s:
Rik's Space Invaders tattoo

My usual stations

My usual stations (part 5)

Murrumbeena/Carnegie, 2003-2005

The move to Carnegie in 2003 gave me two local stations, because the house was almost equidistant between them. It was slightly closer to Murrumbeena, so I usually used that. But Carnegie had better access to shops, so that got used sometimes too.

I’ve mentioned Murrumbeena already. Carnegie hasn’t changed much recently, but the surrounding area has, with the new library being built — and opening just after we’d moved away. D’oh. On the corner of Dandenong Road, a multi-level shopping centre rose from the (figurative) ashes of the old Betta Electrical/Billy Guyatts that was once there.

I still sometimes go back to Carnegie. There’s a great pizza shop (“Herbs”) on the corner of Neerim and Koornang Roads.

Bentleigh, 2005-

Bentleigh station
Bentleigh station

My final regular is Bentleigh.

Since I moved here, it’s had upgrades to the level crossing (but not actual grade separation), and parts of the local Smartbus 703 route have been added into zone 1, which I think has added to the number of people using it. It’d be nice if this was all done in the name of removing zone anomalies, but in fact it appears the motivation was the Myki system, which needs stop zoning to be consistent between all the routes using an individual stop — so parts of the 703 had to be added to zone 1 to fit in with other routes around Brighton and East Bentleigh. No matter, at least it got done.

Shame the 703 still doesn’t meet the Smartbus service standard.

In the station itself, which isn’t exactly beautiful no matter how clean it is, there’s an ongoing battle of wills between Metro and local vandals, with the gents’ toilet door receiving many coats of paint in the past 12 months or so. Given the graffiti that decorates the ex-State Bank/Telstra store down the street, it’s fair to say there’s a local graffiti problem.

My usual stations transport

My usual stations (part 4)

Hawthorn, 1993-95

Hawthorn station
Hawthorn station

When I finally moved out of home, it was to Hawthorn. Initially I was still working in Burwood East, and the commute was an easy tram ride, from the flat we rented which was midway between there and the city — which became useful once work moved into town. Cutting through the back streets, it was about a 6-7 minute walk to the station (ditto at the other end to work in Collins Street).

If there was a big gap in the trains (as there often was just after 6pm when coming home) the 70 tram was almost as quick as the train.

The commute got a tad more complex when I changed jobs to St Kilda Road, and met the perils of the peak hour St Kilda Road tram crush — yes, even back then.

To the untrained eye, Hawthorn has changed very little since then. You see it in television adverts every now and again, and I’m not surprised to see it’s heritage listed.

Glenhuntly, 1995-2009

Glenhuntly station

Moving into a flat in Booran Road, Glen Huntly, and living without a car meant it was a mix of tram and train travel. The usual work trip became either a tram ride on the 67 into St Kilda Road, or a train to South Yarra then a walk along Toorak Road (which was often faster than the cars) and across Fawkner Park, which was nice at least on a sunny day.

Later jobs changed that, and for a while I was catching the train to Richmond, changing onto a train to Box Hill, then a bus to Doncaster… which is what finally prompted the purchase of a car. After that was a job in Brighton, which sometimes involved driving, and other times involved a tram to Elsternwick then a train to North Brighton.

Most of my jobs since then have been in the CBD, so I’ve been a daily Frankston line commuter since about 2001.

Glenhuntly station (which unlike the official suburb name, does not have a space in it) hasn’t changed much over that time (though I recall earlier visits in the 80s when it still had railway gates instead of booms, pre third track).

Initially there was a booking office lady who could sell tickets very fast when a train was approaching — but at times there was nobody present, and no way to buy a ticket. For a short time she wore a bright jacket and was showing people how to use Metcard, and then she was gone, leaving only the machines.

A coffee shop installed itself into the booking office at one stage, but then disappeared again. Nowadays there are station hosts present during morning peak only.

I’ve written before about how the services through the station changed very little in the time I used it, while the operators changed from The Met/PTC to Bayside Trains to M>Train to Connex, then to Metro. It’s only in the past year or so that the timetables had a thorough re-write.

Even though I moved out of Glen Huntly in 2003, I continued to use the station until 2009, because the kids went to school nearby, and it was generally the easiest station to use as part of the school run. As a result, even though the car park is full by about 8am, I got to know the best all-day street parking spots nearby. It’s not really that hard as long as you’re prepared for a five minute walk.

My usual stations transport

My usual stations (part 3)

Murrumbeena 1987-89

Murrumbeena station

We moved into a flat just across the street from the Dandenong line. The noise isn’t noticeable after a week or two, apart from missing dialogue on the television when a freight train goes past.

It was a short stroll (if one took the short-cut along the train line) to Murrumbeena station. By year 11 I’d regularly meet school mates in the back of the 7:40am stopper from Oakleigh to South Yarra. When I moved to university (at Caulfield, then called Chisholm Institute of Technology, but soon to become Monash University’s Caulfield Campus) it was a quick two-station trip.

The station has barely changed at all. The staff member who used to be behind glass in the booking office is now out on the platform, but outside morning peak hours there’s nobody there at all.

Moorabbin and Hampton, 1989-1993

Moorabbin station

We moved to Hampton, but it was actually slightly closer to Moorabbin station, which I used for getting to/from the city, and to university at Caulfield. I think I timed the walk to the station at 12 minutes if going at speed, and looking for a gap in the traffic on the Nepean Highway, rather than having to wait for the lights. Not sure that’d be a good idea these days; I’m sure the traffic is heavier.

At times one could catch an express train from Moorabbin to Caulfield or vice versa. A good quick trip, but it seemed slightly unjust to be paying a two-zone fare for the privilege.

If one didn’t want to walk home, there were buses back towards home, until 1992 when services were slashed from roughly every 15-20 minutes to only every half-hour, effectively killing them as a useable rail feeder service. (This was done by Labor, pre-Kennett, as a money-saving measure.)

Moorabbin station hasn’t changed much over the years — it’s still ugly — though after I moved away, the station building burnt down and was replaced by something that to my mind is about the same — at least, it’s the same shape, perhaps it’s a different version of dull civic building style/colour. Curiously, the Metcard validators are at the top of the ramps, but the Myki readers are at the bottom.

Hampton station was my other regular, because I’d had the job in Elsternwick at Hattams for some years, and would catch the bus to Hampton then the train to Elsternwick to work there — on Saturday mornings, on Fridays once I started university (where generally it was possible to organise your timetable to have a 4-day week) and also during the holidays.

By 1993 I was in the workforce, and for a while was working in Burwood East/Box Hill South, and the commute was a bit of a killer, involving a walk to Moorabbin, a train to Richmond, then either a train to Box Hill and a bus to work, or a train to Burwood and a tram to work. I did get a fair bit of reading done though, and on the way home often had my mate Brian’s company, as he worked at the same place.

My usual stations transport

My usual stations (part 2)

Balaclava, 1974-1982

Balaclava station
Balaclava station

We moved back to St Kilda, settling in a flat in Hotham Street where we lived for many years. Well, almost. We were in flat 7 on the ground floor, before moving upstairs to flat 11. Later on we moved around the corner onto Inkerman Street.

During this time, Balaclava was our local station, though for going to the city or to Prahran, it was easier to catch the Hotham Street bus (then route 602, now route 216/219) which stopped only a few doors up the street, and we’d catch the 69 tram (now the 16) to St Kilda Beach.

We did use the train to go to Hampton though, where for a while we had swimming lessons in the gym next to the station. I recall after swimming lessons we’d get some lunch or a snack from a nearby bakery, then go to the toy shop and see if we could afford any new Lego sets with our pocket money.

Balaclava used to have old wooden buildings, until one morning they burnt down, and were eventually replaced with the current pebblemixed ones. There’s an upgrade programme funded to happen, so they may get replaced at some stage soon.

These days the bridge has a nice sailing ship sculpture thingy on it, but for years it was plain metal and had “Scratch out Fraser, the seven year itch” spray-painted on it.

St Kilda (1982-85)

St Kilda station

We moved to Elwood in 1982. My usual trip to school in years 6 to 8 didn’t involve trains, so we only used the train for trips to the city, usually via St Kilda station.

We’d catch the 600 bus (which long ago had been a Victorian Railways tram route), which at the time ran quite a good service, I think every ten minutes in peak. It would go down the Grey Street hill and into the station forecourt. A clock visible as you came down the hill would indicate how long you had to wait until the next train… usually only a few minutes, as the bus was timed to meet it.

And the buses would be waiting again in the evening for the train from the city to arrive.

In those days I predominantly recall red rattler (Tait) trains, and it was common for those alighting from the arriving train to open the door before it came to a stop, and jump off quickly to get a seat on the bus, which could get quite crowded. Sometimes there’d be two buses waiting to cope with the loads.

Yes, train-bus coordination.

This isn’t a railway station any more of course. It was closed and the line converted to “light rail” (eg tram) in 1987. Nowadays there are various business in the old buildings. Even outside Grand Prix time, the tram is so busy one wonders whether its conversion was actually a good idea — they obviously didn’t see the gentrification and rising urban density in the area coming, nor the new generations of CBD white-collar workers who would move into St Kilda in swarms… not to mention the hordes who descend on the suburb every sunny weekend.

Elsternwick (1985-86)

Elsternwick station

But by year 9, I was heading off to Melbourne High, and the school trip became a walk to Glenhuntly Road to catch the 246 up to Elsternwick station, then train from there to South Yarra. I probably should have just walked the trip via Bent Avenue; it may have been quicker.

Often I’d see a girl from Star of the Sea waiting at the same bus stop. I seem to recall I was too shy to ever speak to her. I wonder where she is now.

I recall a mix of blue trains, silver trains and the brand new shiny air-conditioned Comeng trains at the time. The station hasn’t changed much, apart from the apartment block where the ground-level carpark used to be, but there did use to be huge advertising billboards in the middle of the platform.

Later we moved into a flat above a shop in Elsternwick, and the walk to the station became a 5 minute stroll, though I also used the station interchange to catch the 246 bus to Acland Street in St Kilda, to buy magazines at the excellent (sadly now closed) Village Belle Newsagency, buy the odd record at the record shop (though there was a smaller one in Elsternwick) and play video games at Luna Park.

My usual stations transport

My usual stations (part 1)

Here begins a series of blog posts on every (suburban) railway station in Melbourne that’s ever been my usual. Of course it more-or-less tracks the places I’ve lived, and I’ve touched on some of this stuff in Commutes of my Youth. (Dates may not be exact.)

St Kilda, 1970-71

St Kilda station

When I was a baby, my parents moved into a flat in Fitzroy Street. That part of St Kilda might be hipster grungy now, but I suspect it was a bit of a dive back then. I was too young to remember it, and I don’t think we stayed there very long — but I do remember that later on we were still friends with Mrs Rice, who with her family lived in an enormous house in one of the side streets. Must be worth an absolute bomb now.

Albert Park, 1972

Albert Park station
Albert Park station

Me aged 3My parents moved to a house in Napier Place, South Melbourne for a while, and its there I have my first memories (such as someone’s dog stealing a piece of meat I’d been given as a snack). This old photo was taken at Albert Park, I think.

My mum still goes to a dentist nearby. In later years I remember her telling me that in South Melbourne in the early 70s, renovators were going through ripping out all the “ugly” lace ironwork in the Victorian terrace houses. By the 80s they’d realised it was a mistake, and were putting it all back in again, often having to resort to reproductions because the originals were long gone.

As with St Kilda, the station is now a lightrail stop, and the building is used by a local business. The level crossing still exists, with approaching trams given a green light (sometimes a little too slowly, it seems, forcing them to drop speed slightly to cross the road).

Thornbury, 1973-4

Thornbury station

For a while my parents moved across town. I suppose had they stayed there, I’d be a north-of-the-river boy, but as it turns out it was only a brief migration.

We rented a house in Hutton Street, Thornbury, very conveniently located to the station. I seem to recall the house had a huge, jungle-like back yard, and I remember my mum using wringer (mangle) to dry the clothes after washing.

It was at this house that, I am told, I instructed my sister to jump out the window (and she did), I dropped an egg and was told to say sorry (so I did, proclaiming: “Sorry, egg.”) and also that my sister dropped a biscuit down the drain and tried to reach down after it, becoming stuck.

Retrospectives transport

In the good old days

One of the persistent myths is that in the “good old days”, before trains and trams had locked doors, nobody ever fell out.

When the old VR ran the suburban network trains, and stations were manned and had barrier gates, trains had a lot of doors and it was never a problem. Nobody fell out either, people were RESPONSIBLE for their actions way back then.

“The Don” comment, Herald Sun web site, 8:37am 19/9/2011

This is patently untrue.

Exhibit 1

A search of the National Library’s “Trove” archive of newspapers for train fell out finds scores of cases from around Australia, some fatal, some causing only minor injuries, some adults, some little kids.

Man Sustains Concussion.

Thomas M. Hassett, aged 51 years, of Holt street, Richmond, fell out of a train near Werribee on Saturday morning, while leaning out of a door. The train was immediately stopped, and the train crew ran back to where Hassett was lying on the side of the line. He was placed on the train and taken to the Spencer street station. An ambulance then transferred him to the Melbourne Hospital, where he was admitted with concussion and several broken ribs.

The Argus, 5th January 1925

A search for tram fell out also finds many cases.

Exhibit 2

The Brisbane tramway museum has a page about fatal tram accidents; they found a register of what appears to be all of them from Brisbane’s tramway history, from 1897 to 1969 (a few years after trams had been converted to buses).

Their attempted categorisation of the data (it’s not easy to do apparently) concluded that amongst 509 deaths over 70-odd years, 64 were due to “Falls from moving trams”, 59 were from “Alighting from moving trams”, and 25 “Boarding moving trams”.

(The biggest categories were “Collisions with motor vehicles” 110 and “Pedestrians knocked down” 118.)


Many of us fondly remember summer days, riding in trams and trains with the doors and windows open, the cool air blowing through. Many of us fondly remember stepping out onto the running board of trams, jumping off before the tram had come to a stop.

(Less pleasantly, I recall as late as about 1995, riding a V/Line H-set on the Ballarat line, and people kept leaving the double-doors open, leaving a huge gaping doorway that anybody could have easily fallen out of if the train had been moderately crowded.)

Sure, there’s nostalgia. But the reality is there were accidents, people were injured or killed, and the quest for better safety is a worthy one.