The Clocks and Steps of Flinders Street Station

There are numerous historic attractions in Melbourne City that boast brilliant histories and fascinating stories, and Flinders Street Station is no different.

The railway station sits on the edge of Flinders and Swanston Streets and is serviced by the entire metropolitan rail network, seeing thousands of commuters and travellers pass through its doors every single day.

At its rear, you’ll find the Yarra River, which weaves its way through the city centre and provides a picturesque backdrop to the surrounding scenery. Sprawling out over two whole city blocks, Flinders Street Station is a popular attraction for visitors as well as a popular meeting point for locals.

It is also the oldest train station in the whole of Australia, showcasing a historic design with a yellow façade and a green copper dome which can be seen throughout the city. Inside, stalls serving hot food and cold drinks line the concourse, while the upper floors were created specially to house a gym, library, and a lecture hall which was later used as a ballroom.

As the busiest suburban railway station in the southern hemisphere, it sees more than 1500 trains and 110,000 commuters every day. It is now listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, thanks to its 708m main platform, which is the fourth longest in the world.

Flinders Street Station

Flinders Street Stations History

In 1854, Flinders Street Station was known as the Melbourne Terminus, essentially a massive collection of weatherboard sheds. It became the very first steam rail station in all of Australia. With thousands of people coming together surrounding the track to see the first public steam train. The next two train stations of Princes Bridge and Spencer Street opened in 1859, but they were not connected to Flinders Street until many years later. Rather, the trains from Flinders Street went to Port Melbourne and St Kilda, with Southern Cross Station catering for country areas.

It wasn’t until the very beginning of the 1900s where the development of Flinders Street Station became necessary, due to the increasing demand. A competition by the railway commissioners to was publicized to the public. Calling all to design a new and improved station, with the first prize to win 500 pounds. J.W. Fawcett and H.P. C Ashworth were the champions, designing the station that is still standing today. The entire reconstruction of the station cost around 514,000 pounds, taking ten years to fully complete.

The Myth Surrounding Flinders Street Station

An urban myth known to most, if not all Melburnians is the tale that somewhere along the way of this design, there was a colossal mix-up and the firm who won the competition sent over the wrong designs, plans for another train station in Mumbai which is why there is a slight Indian touch to Flinders Street Station. Whether this is true may never be confirmed however it’s a story that you’re sure to hear if you take a tour around the city.

The Clocks of Flinders Street Station

The main portion of the building was completed in 1909 and was a part of the original design plans, remaining in almost the exact same section as they were in the early construction years. They quickly became a cultural icon of Melbourne, what with its recognisable dome, a grand entranceway, and its tower and selection of clocks. There are 13 clocks still displayed to this day, all indicating the different train departures to each suburban train line.

There are very few Melbournians out there that haven’t muttered the words “I’ll meet you under the clocks”, which refers to the row of clocks that line the wall above the main entrance. This marks a hugely popular meeting place for locals thanks to its central location and easy-to-recognise design. Although these days the clocks are operated by a computer, back in the day the clocks were manually operated. With a railway staff officer having to change the times an average of 900 times every eight hours.

The Clocks of Flinders Street Station

The Steps of Flinders Street Station

If you meet a Melburnian who hasn’t arranged to meet someone under the clocks, they’ve probably arranged to meet someone on the steps. This references the wide staircase that sweeps up underneath the clocks. It’s even used as a popular hangout place, with groups sitting here to chat while soaking up the sun. The steps are so popular, that they were refurbished in the late 80s to incorporate heating, so even in the winter, the seats would remain warm.

The historic charm of Flinders Street Station is second to none, thanks to its impressive architecture and its place in Melbournian culture. Whether you’ve got a train to catch or are just visiting to experience the grandiose design of the place, it’s well worth stepping foot inside. Take some time to kick back and relax with a hot drink from one of the stalls and watch the flurry of the action unfold in front of you.

The Steps at Flinders Street Station

Interesting Facts you may not Know

There is an Abandoned Ballroom

Back in the 1950s and 60s, Flinders Street Station was home to one of the most popular dance halls in Melbourne. Hosting large ballroom competitions, dance class, and concerts, being able to hold 400 people at once. However, the last dance event was held on September 10th, 1983, with the hall since closed off to the public. It is still located to this day, located on the third floor of the station.

There is a ghost living at the station

There have been many reports of people spotting a ghost at Flinders street station. With folk starting, they all saw a disorientated man holding fishing gear on platform ten. The ghost’s name is George, and he has a few theorized stories. Some believe he has been around since Melbourne’s settlement. Whereas others believe he is the spirit of George Mansfield, who was later identified as the man Ernest Leahy, who died in a boating accident on nearby Yarra River in 1902 on the 21st of October.

Longest Platform in Australia

Flinders Street Station is also home to Australia’s longest railway platform, though much of the platform is restricted to members of the public. This platform is also the 4th longest in the world!

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