The Port Melbourne railway line is a former railway line in Melbourne, Australia. The line was the first significant railway in Australia, and was opened by the Melbourne and Hobson's Bay Railway Company, to carry passengers arriving in Victoria at Station Pier, and to alleviate the high cost of shipping goods using small vessels up the Yarra River to Melbourne.
Work began on laying the railway in March 1853, under the supervision of the company's Engineer-in-Chief James Moore. Trains were ordered from Robert Stephenson and Company, of the United Kingdom, but the first train was locally built by Robertson, Martin & Smith, because of shipping delays. Australia's first steam locomotive was built in ten weeks and cost £2,700.
The line was opened in September 1854 (three years after the discovery of gold at Ballarat) and ran for 4 km from the Melbourne (or City) Terminus (on the site of modern-day Flinders Street Station), crossing the Yarra River via the Sandridge Bridge, to Sandridge (now Port Melbourne).
The opening of the line occurred during the period of the Victorian gold rush - a time when both Melbourne and Victoria undertook massive capital works, each with its own gala opening. The inaugural journey on the Sandridge line was no exception. According to the Argus newspaper's report of the next day: "Long before the hour appointed ... a great crowd assembled round the station at the Melbourne terminus, lining the whole of Flinders Street". Lieutenant-Governor Charles Hotham and Lady Hotham were aboard the train - which consisted of two first class and one second class carriages - and were presented with satin copies of the railway's timetable and bylaws.
The trip took 10 minutes, none of the later stations along the line having been built. On arriving at Station Pier (onto which the tracks extended), it was hailed with gun-salutes by the warships HMS Electra and HMS Fantome.
By March 1855, the four engines ordered from the UK were all in service, with trains running every half-hour. They were named Melbourne, Sandridge, Victoria, and Yarra.
The line was taken over by the Government of Victoria in 1878, to become part of Victorian Railways. The line was electrified in the 20th century.
Along with the St Kilda railway line, the conversion the line to light rail was first announced on 13 January 1983, by the Victorian state government, with cost estimates at the time of around $6 million.
The line was closed on 10 October 1987, three months after the closure of the St Kilda railway line. The last service departed the station at 18.03, with freight services to Montague continuing until 16 October of the same year. The line reopened as part of the Melbourne tram network on 18 December 1987.
Melbourne tram route 109 now operates on the converted track. The section from Southbank Junction to Port Melbourne was converted to light rail, requiring the conversion from broad gauge 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) used by the Melbourne rail network to 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge tram track, as well as reducing the overhead voltage from 1,500 V DC to 600 V DC required for the trams. Additionally, low level platforms were built on the sites of the former stations to accommodate the trams which contained steps to street level. Low floor trams have since been introduced to the route.
Bold stations are termini.