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Flinders Street Station through the ages

Flinders Street Station has been both the focal point of Melbourne’s railway network and an icon in the city skyline since 1854. The station has become emblematic of Melbourne for its architecture, bold and grand aesthetic, technical innovation and social significance. Although it occupies one of Melbourne’s busiest and most prominent street corners, its walls harbour many gems away from the public eye.

A turquoise copper dome offsets the French Renaissance building’s mustard-toned trimmings, which, in combination with its sheer scale, make Flinders Street Station a visually arresting landmark.

As Australia’s first railway station and the epicentre of Victoria’s emerging public transport network, Flinders Street Station quickly became a natural meeting point for locals soon after it was built. The row of clocks above the main entrance inspired an expression familiar to Melburnians; ‘I’ll meet you under the clocks’.

The grandeur and vivid colour palette of Flinders Street Station’s architecture evoke the spirit of a young Australia on the cusp of Federation. However, the striking amber colours with which many Australians associate Flinders Street Station are actually vastly different from how the building originally looked

Flinders Street Station is currently undergoing a facelift – due for completion in mid-2018 – as the Victorian government takes measures to return the façade to the more muted, earthy tones of its appearance at the time of its construction in 1910.

Legends and rumours

In its prime, Flinders Street Station was an entertainment hub that boasted a concert hall, library, crèche, conference rooms and even a resplendent ballroom that has since fallen into disrepair. The refurbishment plans may well see the station once again reinstated as a hive of social activity, and rumours are circulating that the almost legendary ballroom may even be restored to its former glory.

With its prominent place in Melbourne’s social identity, it’s unsurprising that Flinders Street Station has become a fixture of local folklore. Melbourne urban legend would have you believe that way back in the late 1800s, a London architect accidentally swapped the plans for Flinders Street Station with those for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, formerly known as Victoria Terminus, in Mumbai.

No concrete evidence supports this rather fanciful theory, although it would explain the vaguely East-Indian design motif of Flinders Street Station, and the imposing, gothic structure of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, which might look more at home beside the architecture of Flinders and Elizabeth Streets in Melbourne.

Header images: Flinders Street Station c. 1908–1914. Image courtesy of State Library Victoria/H2008.105/24 and 

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