An observer standing at the Claisebrook Road level crossing in East Perth during 1881, the year the Eastern Railway opened, could be forgiven for failing to see that the location would one day become probably the most important junction on the entire WAGR network. Indeed, there was precious little by way of railway infrastructure to be seen here. Although East Perth marked the end of the built-up area of the tiny metropolis that was then Perth (in the sense that it marked the point where the surveyed town lots gave way to the larger suburban lots) the transition from closely settled, to sparsely settled lands existed more in definition than in reality. As far as the railway administration was concerned, the provision of a set of level crossing gates at Claisebrook Road was more than enough railway infrastructure to provide at such a sparsely settled location, and those few locals who wanted to catch the occasional train could walk into Perth for the privilege.
For what was to become such an important safeworking location, East Perth's first decade and a half of its existence was to see a complete absence of any safeworking function of any shape or form. Although a platform was provided in 1883 (built by Smith and Co for the princely sum of 83 pounds!) no point indicator, loop, signal cabin, or staff box was to grace East Perth by its presence for a further 15 years. Trains travelling east of Perth travelled on a Staff (coloured Yellow) that took them as far as Guildford, (although on special occasions, when the short branch that made its way from Bayswater to the river opposite the Belmont Racecourse was in use. A shorter section Perth to Bayswater was used) ignoring East Perth save as to pick up or drop off the occasional passenger. Not even the opening of the South West Railway (as the line to Bunbury was to be called) in 1893 interrupted East Perth’s safeworking slumber.
Although East Perth was the place where the Eastern and South West Railways met, the meeting was not, by any stretch of the imagination a junction.
Between East Perth and Perth the South West Railway ran parallel with and unconnected to, the Eastern Railway - with the two railways operating as separate lines. Such parallel running would become a relatively common feature in Western Australia, with similar arrangements being employed at Kalgoorlie, Narrogin, Collie, Coolgardie, Geraldton, Merredin, Spring Hill, Mount Magnet and York that followed the example pioneered by East Perth - although East Perth would always remain the most impressive example of the genre.
However, all this was to change with the boom that accompanied the great 1890s gold rush. The strains and stresses it placed on the Western Australian railway network are too well known to require repeating here: suffice it to say that in a few short years the West Australian Railways goods haulage task increased some 20 fold, stretching the system to near breaking point. Under a scheme instigated by the great C. Y. O’Connor, the Eastern Railway was virtually rebuilt, involving substantial regrading, the laying of heavier rail, new crossing loops and, relevantly, duplication of the Eastern Railway from Fremantle to Bellevue. It was this relaying that was to see East Perth's introduction into the world of interlocking.
Duplication of the Eastern railway began in late May 1896, the West Australian of the 28th day of that month reporting that on the Monday preceding a start had been made on the work of duplicating the railway line between Fremantle and Midland Junction. The article further reported that preliminary work between Perth and East Perth, in the form of laying in of the interlocking signalling apparatus and the erection of signal boxes, had been undertaken, and:
Any additional information on this signal cabin would be most welcome - please use the e-mail form provided on this page.
Article researched and interpreted by Justin Smith © 2016
Employee information courtesy of WAGR Employment Register held at the State Records Office, Perth.
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EAST PERTH (1) Employees
This list may not be complete and does not yet include employees who worked here without being appointed
|Conroy, Josef F.||15/11/1896||Signalman|
|Byrnes, E. A.||26/07/1897|| |
|Thompson, C. H.||11/01/1897|| |
|Dickson, James|| |
Atkins, A. E.