I begin this article with a question:
“What will Beaconsfield look like without the Railway House (Station Master’s Residence) standing proudly near the Beaconsfield Station since its completion over 150 years ago?”
What will Beaconsfield feel like when our daily walk, or drive, or commute means we no longer glimpse a scene from long ago when life was simple?
Imagine our town when we no longer see the red letterbox with number 20 on it and smile. This is about to become a reality for all of us in the very near future.
The proposed Level Crossing Replacement Project in Station St Beaconsfield means that the Victorian Government will acquire Railway House and demolish it in order to build a very big bridge over a very small railway line with no real advantage.
The Railway House was built in 1888 by local builder James Adamson for Charles Nott. Over the years it has been a family home, a Ladies College and a holiday home as well as the Station Master’s Residence. The original property number can still be found above the door! It has witnessed the growth of Beaconsfield from a quiet country town to the bustling community it is today.
The bunya bunya pine planted at the front of the Railway house although a remnant of the Kenilworth Gardens of the 1880’s was planted when Railway House foundations were laid in 1888 so is in fact as old as the house. It is a very healthy, rare example of its type and is now on the significant trees listing.
It has become a landmark known by all when describing Beaconsfield and surrounds. It is featured in books about the history of Beaconsfield.
When purchased by Ian and Yvonne Cole in 2002 it leaked, was rundown and neglected. Ian and Yvonne spent years and much money ensuring that this special house was restored as faithfully as possible. Inside and out, it is testament to their attention to detail, and the carpentry, restoration skills and patience of Ian.
Yvonne created a wonderful garden and painted metres and metres of wall, cornices and skirting boards!! They jumped through all the hoops Heritage Victoria presented to them despite being initially told it was external control colour only.
As a neighbour, and friend, I know how much they loved living there and being a part of the Beaconsfield community. Ian epitomised this by being a great spokesman and champion of all that is great about Beaconsfield, especially its history. He wrote many articles in the Beaconsfield Banner detailing their renovation ups and downs.
When Ian and Yvonne reluctantly sold in 2018 to move to a smaller property the current owners moved in with the same determination to preserve this beautiful home for future generations. They see themselves only as custodians of this property for Beaconsfield in the many years to come. They love living there and take great pride in ensuring they continue to add to the story of the Railway House but it is first and foremost their home.
The news that this beautiful home, and heritage property, is to be acquired and demolished was sad and shocking news to hear indeed. The official notices from the LXRP made no mention that the property being acquired was the Railway House and there is no understanding or appreciation that it has such significance for the community. It would be devastating for anyone to hear that what was your home was going to be taken and you had absolutely no say in the process. We feel for the owners and this is now a call to arms for our very tight knit Beaconsfield community. It is like this home belongs to all of us, we see it on our travels around the town and have almost taken it for granted over the years.
We do not want this to happen, we need to object in the strongest possible way to those responsible that the Railway House must stay. In order for this to happen we need people power and the power of your voices. Our democracy demands that we be heard because this affects us, our community and the future generations to show that we value our past. Too many of our heritage buildings have been lost to us over the past few years. The Old Post Office in Woods St was torn down and a lonely space now stands as a reminder every day.
Instead of the Railway House there will be a bridge over the road and two roundabouts, one of which will be constructed in the Cardinia Creek Parkland. The justification for removing the level crossing was that it was congested and dangerous but it fulfills neither of those criteria, in fact we would argue that roundabouts create their own congestion, especially at peak time when traffic is approaching the roundabout from all directions as is the case at Soldiers Rd and Kangan Dr. The wetlands flora and fauna will be adversely affected during construction and the engineering feat of ensuring the stability of the bridge is challenging indeed with the whole area being recently under significant flooding. The speed with which these level crossings are being removed is truly worrying without due diligence being undertaken. The floods in Lilydale are being blamed on the hasty build of the new Lilydale Station and the business owners are now paying the price and say that they expressed their concerns at the time but were not listened to. We do not want to be in that position in the future when we are able now to ensure that where we live is protected and our concerns are heard. This is our chance to speak about these very serious issues before it is too late.
Despite these concerns our priority is saving the Railway House. These houses don’t stand the test of time on their own. It takes those who care for them to preserve them, it takes the community to call out efforts to remove them. Our love of all things historical can be seen whenever the steam train puffs and whistles its way up the Pakenham line to Gippsland and spectators line the tracks and level crossings all the way to wave and remember a bygone era that isn’t really gone when we can experience it in what we see and hear and love.
To have your say please go to www.change.org/SaveRailwayHouse and sign the petition
To keep updated on news and progress visit the FB page Save the Railway House
Look out for our information stand around the traps and chat to us
Voice your concern to Cardinia Council and your local Member
The organisers were at Akoonah Market this past weekend to spread the word about Railway House. After getting nearly 1000 signatures on our online petition, an article in the Pakenham Gazette, a sign in front of the house, a council meeting and emails to decision makers that go unanswered, the conversation is still ongoing.
By Fran Healy