Last year the Victorian Government announced its intention to remove ten more dangerous and congested level crossings. This decision will result in a new railway station to replace the current Surrey Hills and Mont Albert Stations.
The Mont Albert station and shopping village have an intimately linked history. The station building and surrounds are a rare vestige of Melbourne’s glorious age of rail development early in the 20th century. The central platform of red brick with bluestone caps dates to the 1890’s ‘platform in a field’. Closer inspection reveals where the station masters stepped up from the track onto the platform to sell out-bound tickets. And, most importantly, the ‘mile marker’ stone showing 8 miles, 25 chains and 80 links from Flinders Street Station, one of the last still in its original place in the Melbourne rail network. The heritage station building constructed in 1911 links the rail line with the shopping village. The sound and sight of young ANZACS and Sullivans departing for duty in World Wars I and II hang in the air.
Mont Albert shopping village, with its authentically preserved ‘between the wars’ architecture, sidewalk awnings and shop frontages, is a ‘full service working village’ with a practical mix of everyday providores and destination boutiques. Village life has prospered during COVID, with many locals walking into the village for essential services and takeout coffee and food. There is a gentle pace amenable to the elderly who prefer walk-in convenience to battling supermarket carparks, and teenagers and couples with young children frequent in equal numbers. Dogs abound – it is a dog-friendly village, where everybody knows each other by name, including the dogs!
The station gardens are cared for by locals. Pepper trees and shrubs harking to a ‘florally incorrect’ 1950s and 1960s are kept acceptable through disciplined pruning. Recent plantings of native flowering species along what were dry clay banks are a nod to the past when wildflowers grew in open paddocks. Bench seats are constantly occupied by people soaking in the atmosphere. The overall effect is a delightful mix of the past and present. While the station will be lost in the rail redevelopment, there is a commitment to restore and re-purpose the station building for community use, to be situated close to its current position on a plaza straddling the rail trench. Whitehorse Council is stepping up to the task, engaging with locals to design an attractive civic space with new gardens linking Hamilton, Beresford and High Streets. The station building and some of its stories will be incorporated into the plaza design, making the village more accessible and attractive than ever as a destination for locals and visitors alike. If this is done well, Mont Albert shopping village will continue to thrive as a much-loved community centre.