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How many trains in peak compared to the past? And how full are the tracks?

This video is inspired partly by a shot in the House Of Cards titles, and partly by something my dad used to tell me — that you could stand at Richmond station in the evening peak and see trains on every track coming out of the city.

He may have been exaggerating a tad, but it’s often been said that in decades past the rail system had more trains running on it than at present.

That’s true to an extent. The inner part of the network was probably more intensively used in the past, though the outer sections of the network are busier than before.

For instance in 1939 in peak, trains out to Oakleigh were every 5-10 minutes, but out to Dandenong only about every 15-20 minutes — today they’re about every 5 minutes all the way.

And there’s been substantial growth in train numbers in the past ten years.

1939 vs 2006 vs 2015

How does the network compare overall?

I compared the 1939 timetables with 2006 (just as patronage, service growth and fleet expansion began to take hold) and also with the current 2015 timetables (last revised in 2014). I used departure times at the cordon stations (Richmond/North Melbourne) in the hour 5-6pm. (Note I’ve moved the range slightly where excluding a train a minute or two outside it would have given an artificially low or inconsistent figure.)

The verdict? More trains ran in 1939 than now, but not if you discount the Port Melbourne and St Kilda lines, which were converted to tram lines in the 1980s.

  • In 1939 it was 116 trains in that hour, but 15 of those were on the St Kilda and Port Melbourne lines (and another 7 were on the Inner Circle and Kew lines which no longer exist; but those trains also serve some stations that do still exist). So a reasonable figure to use is 101.
  • In 2006, the number had dropped to 87.
  • But by 2015, it had risen again to 109, about 8% higher than in 1939.

But the balance of trains has changed.

Melbourne PM peak hour trains, 1939 vs 2006 vs 2015

In separating them out into the graph, I’ve used the old line groupings, because it more clearly shows the changes:

  • Northern (eg lines through North Melbourne, including western suburbs) is up, though individual lines have changed in different ways. In 1939 the Williamstown and Upfield lines had a lot more trains than at present. This is countered by huge growth in the Werribee and St Albans/Sunbury lines — a fourfold increase in both, reflecting that they now serve growth corridors.
  • Clifton Hill is now about the same as in 1939 (if you exclude the Inner Circle), showing growth since 2006 primarily on the Thomastown/Epping/South Morang line, which almost doubled in peak services between 2006 and 2015, though that line is still slightly short of the 1939 number.
  • Burnley lines are up, 25 to 29 — Kew trains have been replaced by other services. There’s been basically no change since 2006, which reflects that patronage has grown more slowly. Almost all the other lines on the network serve growth corridors.
  • Caulfield is slightly up, though Frankston and Sandringham line numbers are about the same now as they were in 1939. The real growth is on the Dandenong line, which even just since 2006 has grown by 40%.

Update: This July 2008 paper from Paul Mees notes that in 1929, 113 trains ran in the busiest hour (including the Port Melbourne and St Kilda lines) — slightly fewer than in 1939. It was 108 in 1964 (also including those lines), and a 1969 prediction forecast 181 trains in 1985 (including the Doncaster line).

How full are the tracks?

The bottleneck in the CBD is basically the number of tracks emerging from the City Loop and direct from Southern Cross and Flinders Street.

How full are those tracks in that hour?

“Full” is hard to measure. A rail line signalled for 2-minute headways (which the City area is) could be considered full at 80% of that, eg 24 trains per hour. But loading times at stations, junctions along the way (especially flat ones), level crossing gate closures, and signal/track capacity further out all reduces that. And if we’re measuring outbound trains, then how many inbound trains can we feed in from the suburbs (given little stabling in the City area)?

  • Northern direct tracks to Newport (Werribee, Williamstown lines): 11 trains, but these tracks are used by 5 Geelong trains in that hour as well. Regional Rail Link will help free them up for more suburban services. Then the problem will become the single track through Altona (often the cause of delays and bypasses), flat junctions (principally at Newport), and level crossings (at locations such as Yarraville, the gates have been known to close for almost 20 minutes at a time).
  • Northern Loop (Sunbury, Craigieburn, Upfield lines): 21 trains (plus 2 more trains to Seymour mix in at North Melbourne). This shows the value of having moved the Werribee line out of the Loop back in 2007 — allowing more trains to run in peak on all these lines. But the tunnel is close to capacity — one proposal sees Upfield line trains run direct from Southern Cross instead, and longer-term, if the metro rail tunnel is built, Sunbury line trains would use that. Of course, the single track on the northern section of the Upfield line may pose problems until duplicated, though ten minute services were provided as far as Coburg during the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
  • Clifton Hill Loop (South Morang, Hurstbridge lines): 15 trains. Some trains run express Jolimont to Clifton Hill, which reduces capacity somewhat, though the flat junction at Clifton Hill also makes it difficult to run trains through it at a consistently high frequency (outbound Hurstbridge trains may have to wait for inbound South Morang trains, and vice versa). Ditto single track on the Hurstbridge line.
  • Burnley Loop (Lilydale, Belgrave, Glen Waverley lines): 20 trains. Mostly expresses to Glenferrie, Camberwell, Box Hill and then out beyond Ringwood, but also 6 Glen Waverley trains. This Loop is also therefore close to capacity. Single track on the outer ends of the Belgrave and Lilydale lines can lead to delays.
  • Burnley direct (Alamein line, Blackburn and Ringwood stopping trains): 9 trains. It’s not hard to see why in the long term, the plan seems to be to move Glen Waverley trains out of the Burnley Loop, and allowing more trains to run both to there (direct from Flinders Street) and also to Lilydale and Belgrave.
  • Caulfield Loop (Dandenong line, Frankston stopping trains): 20 trains. Approaching capacity. 2 V/Line trains mix in with the Dandenong line trains at Richmond. The Dandenong line upgrade should help resolve level crossing issues, though duplication of the Cranbourne line is not currently in scope.
  • Frankston direct (Frankston express trains): 5 trains. Clearly scope to move more Frankston trains to run direct, replacing them with Dandenong line trains, but it would be a fine balancing act to ensure large numbers of Frankston line passengers wanting the Loop were handled well.
  • Sandringham direct: 8 trains. It’s not a growth corridor, but peak patronage does continue to grow, probably reflective of demographics (lots of CBD-based white-collar jobs). So there is scope there for an increase in services, though at some point the single platform at Sandringham becomes an issue. The old solution of terminating some trains at Brighton Beach might be the solution, unless Sandringham is upgraded with a second platform.

Belgrave train arriving Southern Cross

Other things to bear in mind

Trains in 1939 didn’t have the same capacity as those running now. 6-car trains now are slightly longer than the old 7-car Tait trains (which necessitated minor platform extensions as newer trains were introduced) and have more standing space, so the overall capacity of each train would be higher now.

Old-timers sometimes say that automation and modern technology has reduced capacity: for instance, they say that Tait trains with 9 (small) doors per side could load and unload quicker than modern trains with automatic locking doors, and blokes throwing switches for signals and points could respond more quickly as trains went past than the computers now controlling the infrastructure.

Required capacity on each line is reflective not only of population growth, but also of the number of people employed or attending education or other activities in the inner city and CBD, and needing to travel during peak hour.

As noted above, capacity of individual tracks has many factors, including signalling, dwell times at stations (which worsens as crowding gets bad), stopping patterns (consistent = good), train acceleration/deceleration, level crossings, junctions (preferably grade-separated, and the fewer the better), and even less visible factors such as capacity of the power supply.

In some ways the City Loop didn’t add greatly to CBD rail capacity. It helped distribute passengers around to more stations, and reduced the need to reverse trains. And associated upgrades (such as the “new” viaduct from Flinders Street to Southern Cross) did expand capacity. But ultimately the number of tracks out of the city stations to North Melbourne, Jolimont and Richmond is what determines track capacity in the City area — which is part of why Regional Rail Link went ahead, and why the metro rail tunnel is being pushed.

Average trip lengths are now longer than they were in the past. This means more demand for express trains (which burns up capacity if provided), as well as a bigger fleet and more staff needed to run the same frequency of service. More longer trips may also emerge via the fare cuts that took effect in January.

Where to from here?

With expansion of the CBD and Docklands, and a strong and growing economy (particularly the “knowledge economy“), demand for train travel into the congested core of the network is likely to continue to grow into the future.

PTV’s Network Development Plan’s proposals show the way forward, in terms of expansion of signal upgrades to High Capacity Signalling, high capacity trains, and re-organisation of lines through the city area to form dedicated high-frequency lines (including capacity expansion such as the metro rail tunnel).

All of which is expensive, but it’s got to be done — more than ever the rail network underpins Melbourne’s economic growth.

And remember that expanding evening, weekend and inter-peak into a 10 minute all-day service can be done far more easily, by making use of track and fleet capacity already available. This can help spread peak loads, by providing a much more usable service outside peak times, and helps to grow patronage when there is more spare capacity on the network.

(What have I missed? Leave a comment!)

Followup post: Line-by-line detail.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

19 replies on “How many trains in peak compared to the past? And how full are the tracks?”

Great article. Re being able to “stand at Richmond station in the evening peak and see trains on every track…”, I’ve seen that quote elsewhere. Not sure where though; probably either in Rick Anderson’s 2010 book, Stopping all stations, or Robert S Lee’s 2007 book, Railways of Victoria, 1854-2004.

So if the line is signalled for 2-second headway, then how does one train follow another by 10 seconds in your video, which, if speeded up 8x, would be only 80 seconds apart ?

@Alan, my dad used to say this I think in the 80s and 90s (which was when services and patronage reduced), so it would have been before those books – but clearly he wasn’t the only one who thought so!

@enno, I wouldn’t count on the video timestamp or the signalling headway being absolutely precise, but notice how the second train (the V/Line one at the 10 second mark) slows down and stops for a while?

It’s also interesting to see that at this time, more trains went inbound than outbound, despite it being PM peak. From memory there was a cancellation or two showing on the Metro app around that time.

Probably worth noting that express trains only burn capacity when not on dedicated tracks, ie mixing stoppers and express on the same track pair.
The growth corridors and the distance suggest we should be if not amplifying to four tracks already, at least ensuring any upgrades (eg level crossing removals) allow for it in future (to wherever the logical end point is for the express pair).

Good analysis, although I think it’s misleading to highlight the fact that more trains ran in 1939 than now, given that that included the St. Kilda and Port Melbourne lines.

I’d agree with what the “Old-timers sometimes say” (does that make me an “old-timer”?). I’m not sure that the number of doors each side made that much difference (although perhaps it did) (and by the way, the Tait’s had nine doors per side *per carriage* (which you probably knew, but could confuse someone who didn’t know)). But the modern trains having power doors that have to wait on the driver to release and close has almost certainly slowed things down. (With the Tait and Harris trains people could have the doors open before the train stopped and close them after the train started moving (if at all), so the entire time the train was stationary was available for people to get on and off. And that’s assuming they didn’t get on or off before the train completely stopped!) Having driver operation of the doors rather than the guards operating them likely also slowed things down a little. The guards could at least blow a whistle to hurry people up.

And it’s not just how quickly the signalmen could throw the levers for the points and signals. It’s also the level of safety built into the system. For example, the older (two-position) signalling, for example, didn’t have the same allowances for trains (wrongly) passing stop signals, which meant that if a signal was really close to a junction, the train waiting at that signal for another train to clear was only metres from the junction, whereas with more modern signalling either that signal is further from the junction, or the train has to wait at the previous signal. In either case, the train is further from the junction when it gets the okay to go after the other train has cleared.

enno, signalling headway is a worst-case figure. The actual headway depends on a number of factors, including the spacing of the signals, the speed of the train, whether or not the train stops (e.g. at a station), and if so how long it stops for (per Daniel’s mention of the dwell times). It also assumes that the trains can travel at normal speed and, often, I believe, on green signals.

Because the headway depends (in part) on the spacing of the signals, the actual headway could vary from signal to signal, but there’s no point in saying that from signal X to signal Y it’s one minute and 49 seconds if then from signal Y to signal Z it’s two minutes. So the headway is the worst-case figure between selected points (such as Richmond Junction to Caulfield). It also assumes trains are stopping all stations (except where a different headway for express trains is shown), and probably assumes 20-second dwell times. So two express trains would typically be able to follow closer than the designated (stopping) headway.

And because it assumes trains travelling at normal speed on green signals, a following train passing a medium-speed signal or a yellow signal could do so sooner than the nominated headway would suggest.

All the inner Melbourne lines, with existing signalling, should be able to handle 24 trains per hour providing trains are well designed to minimise dwell time. That means –

– three doors per side, each wide enough to provide two channels (that is, opening at least 1400mm). A door that is wider than needed for one channel, but not wide enough for two gives little advantage.
– windbreak barriers set back so that people standing against them do not block the doors.
– plenty of handholds throughout the cars, not just near the doors, to encourage people to move away from the doors; including –
– front to back seating, as this double the number of seat back corner handholds. With front to front seating, as well as having fewer handholds, they are so far apart that it is impossible to move through the car keeping a continuous hold. This discourages people from moving away from doors.

Doors should be designed to absolutely minimise the opening and closing time. It should also be possible to set up doors to start opening in the last two seconds before the train stops.

I think the conclusion of more trains ran in 1939 then now is not correct. While 1939 and history shows a more intense peak hour and more trains in the 5pm-6pm (when everyone worked the 9-5 day), in 2015 the peak is now longer then an hour, includes a shoulder peak and the off peak has many more trains.

I suggest an analysis of an entire day’s timetable be undertaken between 1939 and 2015. We certainly didn’t have a 10 minute service off peak on the Frankston line in 1939, or a 15 minute service to Ringwood until 22.05 at night in 1939!

The extensions to platforms actually occurred from 1968 to allow the trains of the time to run as 8 car trains, rather than seven. That is why there is that bit extra length on platforms than trains.

Off-peak actually represented a higher proportion of rail travel before car use took off, compared to today. That is why peak services did not collapse as much as patronage. Cars reduced patronage further when they were more competitive compared to trains. Television also reduced demand for entertainment travel (particularly in the evening) and the increase in crime, cause mainly by leaded petrol, made public transport seem less safe. Patronage would still be much lower in the inner-suburbs (inside the Willamstown to Mordialloc arc) that lost so much patronage in the post war decline but peak services and patronage from further out has increased to catch up to about the total patronage then.

A very good article.

The weakest point of any busy railway is always going to be at the railway platforms, especially if you need more people to change trains at those locations. Other points are week points too. Perhaps we need something like the Flying junctions as found in Sydney, so we can have trains change tracks without so much conflict.

@Dave, as noted in the post last week, the Dandenong line upgrade is indeed planning for future track expansion.

@John of Melbourne and @Chris Gordon, yes, you are right — and I did specifically address the point about the St Kilda and Port Melbourne lines not existing anymore. I agree that a comparison of 1939 to now should exclude those lines, which is why I counted it as 101, not 116.

Yes, the “peak” is now longer – recent changes mean a lot more trains leaving the city around 6:30pm-7:30pm for instance – but this was intended to look at whether the tracks at the “peak of the peak” are used more than they were in the past.

@John, you could get all the inner-Melbourne lines handling 24 trains per hour, but the bottleneck then becomes the signalling, junctions, stations and level crossings further out. Plus not all lines actually need 24 trains per hour (eg Sandringham).

@Tom, re: platform extensions, ah thanks for that. I hadn’t got around to looking it up. That said, extra length on the platforms is of course needed as we don’t have computers controlling our trains.

@Daniel – I’ve seen some people refer to the Footscray tracks as the Western lines; the term might be worth exhuming.

Some engineering work was done a few years back by Robert Baird re increasing capacity of the Northern Loop; the best solution was apparently to resignal with two track speeds, 65 km/h per now for normal times and 40 km/h for peak hours, with the signals adjusting overlaps to suit; lower speeds = closer trains and I think the result was around 10 extra paths per hour. I haven’t heard about the project since late 2013 though, so I’m not sure what’s happening with it.

The Burnley Direct lines have a pinchpoint when it comes to finding platforms at Flinders Street; they merge together then split into either platforms 3 or 4, both of which are often occupied by Burnley or Northern Loop trains respectively. Historically, it seems the Burnley tracks took platforms 1, 2 and 3 at Flinders Street, with the Clifton Hill trains running into Princes Bridge instead. Without those extra platforms, it’s easier to make an argument for some form of Richmond-Loop-North Melbourne link to compensate.

Brighton Beach platform 1 is not available for passengers, because there is no room for a security fence between track 1 and the sidings so any trains stabled there could not be properly fenced in. Frankly, a better solution might be to abolish the yards at both Sandringham and Brighton Beach (and have Sandringham station as an island platform on level one of a 15-storey tower on the site, which if leased could pay for itself and the grade separation of Abbott Street fairly quickly), and add more sidings to Newport instead; there’s room to add another seven trains’ worth of sidings on the new yard adjacent to West Block, and if someone felt like demolishing Mount Newport (the lump of toxic dirt north of Centre Block) that site could hold another eight six-car sets.

I stand by the Taits and/or Swingdoors having a quicker dwell time, largely because the doors could be open and people could exit the train while still rolling, even though that was looked down upon (and probably illegal?). Modern trains will never achieve the same efficiency even if we took the same designs and updated, because of modern safety requirements, but we could still benefit from the multiple doors concept. Generally, a Metro-style train should try to maximise capacity, but also maintain a low passengers:door ratio. The Siemens trains at crush load can hold 1,586 passengers in a six-carriage set, which sounds impressive, but it’s a problem when you try to squeeze that many people through only two doors even if those doors are around three times wider than those of the Taits. (There’s also the fact that they take longer to open to full width, which from memory adds almost 5 seconds of dwell.)

I’ve never seen the claim that mechanical interlocking is faster than computer systems, at least in theory. Additional to John of Melbourne’s comment relating to cleared signal overlaps, I suppose it might’ve been possible (especially after the VR invented their Switchlock mechanism to change and lock points with a single lever throw via a complicated crank arrangement), but that would have been without a whole range of additional safety features we now have in place like trainstop trip arm motors and sensors which feed back into the interlocking and require more checks.

There have been a lot of teething problems with computer interlockings in recent years, such as Newport’s mobile phone phobia (was that ever resolved?), but if everything is working properly the computer controlled systems should be a lot faster. From an operating perspective my preference is the METROL/Camberwell style entry-exit panel, where you can push/hold the button for the train’s current location and press the buttons for the entire route across the board, and the system will store those and apply at first opportunity. I think that would probably be a little faster at the wetware end than more modern systems where every signal needs to be set, but that’s more a gut feel than anything else. (Also, the METROL/Camberwell style uses specialised parts rather than off-the-shelf, so cost is a major factor.)

The main benefit of the City Loop was that it allowed AM Peak trains to arrive at Flinders Street from the western end, then run straight into Jolimont yards (and Macaulay, North Melbourne and Melbourne Yard for the Northern Loop) for stabling instead of the driver having to swap out or change ends, which costs time as a result of conflicting movements and unnecessary platform occupancy. Even if track capacity between stations didn’t change all that much, platform throughput capacity would’ve been roughly doubled in some cases. Of course with Jolimont Yard gone that equation is thrown out the window, and the new limiting factor is counterpeak track capacity.

I’m still not convinced that the Metro Tunnel’s links to either the Western or Caulfield groups is a good idea; I think an Upfield/Tullamarine to Sandringham route might work better in terms of creating a genuine Metro, instead of just using the word for marketing purposes.

@Enno – headways are measured green to green signal, and trains are allowed to pass a yellow signal but expecting the next to be a red. So if a line is quoted at 2min headways, trains every minute are possible but it’s not a good idea to schedule that many because it leaves no room for error, late running etc.

@John of Melbourne – I’ve seen claims in the past that it would be possible to fit “22 passengers and a canary” into a single Tait compartment, giving capacity in an M-T-T-M-G-T-M set of 1320 passengers, including 600 sitting. Does that sound about right?

Also re headways, I wonder if they should be retimed with 30-second headways in mind rather than 20-second? A few years back Chris Gordon produced headway time/distance charts for the down line between South Kensington and Newport illustrating signal locations and aspects, and that showed one or two signals were in fact foul of the claimed headways by about ten seconds. Diagrams like that are useful and I’d like to know how to draw/generate those for all lines, although of course they will be obsolete post-incab signalling.

@John – apparently the new E Class trams have been programmed so that doors cannot be told in advance to open, but rather that function is locked out until the tram has come to a complete stop. Hopefully we won’t see this spread to the heavy rail network – I can’t see any benefit and it adds unnecessary delays.

@Chris Gordon – I’ve transcribed the AM Peak up-direction trains from the 1939 timetable, and generally I’ll use slices of time as a measuring point i.e. 0701-0900hrs or 0730-0829 etc, which sets limits on comparisons.

I don’t suppose anyone knows how to convert scanned PDF’s to spreadsheets similar to the national archives’ text scans of old newspapers?

@TranzitJim – note that most of the pointwork on the Flying Junctions isn’t used on a daily basis. It’s much smarter to have as much trackwork as possible straightrailed, rather than threading everything everywhere.

@David, it’s true – it was common for people to open the doors and hop out of the Tait trains before they’d stopped. I recall doing this myself at St Kilda in the 80s – it was the best way to ensure a seat on the bus to Elwood.

Scan to text – some software that comes with scanners can include searchable text in a PDF when you save it. I’m not sure though it can do this from an existing PDF, but presumably there’d be some OCR software somewhere that can do it. Googling PDF OCR finds a few options.

Linking the western lines with the Caulfield lines makes a lot of sense. The Sunbury and Pakenham/Cranbourne lines provide a far grater patronage than the Upfield and Sandringham lines and the RRL, Newport, Frankston and potentially Sandringham (if there is a metro station that is on the Sandringham line, although that is not looking likely at the moment) lines provide a far greater opportunity for transfer outside the CBD than the northern end of the Craigieburn line and the Frankston line south of wherever the Sandringham line might be linked to it provide. Having almost all the passengers transfer at Flinders St and Melbourne Central, as an Upfield-Sandringham tunnel would do, would likely increase dwell times at those stations and potentially overload the transfer routes.

The St Kilda line should have been extended to Elwood in the late 19th or early 20th Century. Then the St Kilda line (and maybe even the Port Melbourne line) might still be with us. The end of the Railway Trams from St Kilda to Brighton did not help either.

Pitty those Railway trams did not end up under the MMTB. Pitty the current #96 does not go all the way to Brighton Beach. But that is another debate.

“@TranzitJim – note that most of the pointwork on the Flying Junctions isn’t used on a daily basis. It’s much smarter to have as much trackwork as possible straightrailed, rather than threading everything everywhere.”

Even if some of the pointwork isn’t used any more on a daily basis, a lot of it is. The real benefit of the flying junctions allow trains moving in opposite directions to cross paths without intersecting. So one station can have an up-up-down-down layout and the next station can have an up-down-up-down layout.

@Tom – Thinking in terms of Sunbury, Pakenham and Cranbourne lines is part of the commuter network mentality, rather than a modern split of metro vs intercity (defined with Dandenong, Frankston, Broadmeadows etc as cities).

While I’ll always prefer a simple grid of N/S and E/W routes if possible, if we’re still calling the new tunnel the Metro then I’d be less-against linking, say, Southland/Westall/Rowville to some of the shorter western or northern group lines.

I don’t see there being much benefit in trying to shift transfers away from the CBD – after all, people making a U-shaped commute via the CBD could just as easily cut off the tip and catch a tram on one of routes 3, 5, 16, 64, 6, 72, 55-ex-8, if those routes qualify as metro rather than feeder (based on current infrastructure that would mainly be the Dandenong Rd routes).

Re the Upfield Line, it only has a pathetically low patronage because of its pathetically low service. If it was boosted to a 5min service (not possible with current single track restriction), it would probably take a good chunk of the patronage from the Craigieburn line and #19 (solving their crowding issues). Additionally, my preference is to close Upfield station and open a new one under Camp Rd, then swing the line west under Broadmeadows station to Tullamarine airport, serving people who work at the airport but not aimed at air travellers (who would have additional luggage etc, so would be better served by the BZE HSR proposal). Extending the Upfield Line to Roxburgh Park doesn’t make sense considering the need to cross the standard gauge via flyover ($80mil), and the marginal-at-best benefits resulting from such a project.

David Stosser,

“The Siemens trains at crush load can hold 1,586 passengers in a six-carriage set, which sounds impressive, but it’s a problem when you try to squeeze that many people through only two doors even if those doors are around three times wider than those of the Taits.”

The problem is not how many you can squeeze on, but how quickly you can do it (which is probably your point about the number of doors). Plus whether people do actually squeeze into all the available space. The rated load for the Comeng trains (as originally built) was something upwards of 1,400 passengers, a figure that you were only ever likely to see after a late-running stop-work meeting where you had a build up of people wanting to get home. Even today’s overcrowded trains following a cancellation or two or some serious late running would only have around 1,200 passengers on them.

“The main benefit of the City Loop was that it allowed AM Peak trains to arrive at Flinders Street from the western end, then run straight into Jolimont yards (and Macaulay, North Melbourne and Melbourne Yard for the Northern Loop) for stabling…”

True, except for a couple of point. One is that the Melbourne Yard sidings did not exist when the loop was built. They came later. The other is that the Northern trains did not have the problem. When the loop was built, not all trains ran via the loop. So any imbalance between arrivals from and departures to the west (i.e. Northern Group) could be handled by those trains running direct to Flinders Street and shunting east to Jolimont yards.

Regarding the Tait loading of 1320 passengers, I don’t recall ever seeing design/maximum figures for the total load (i.e. including standees). 22 per “compartment” seems a little high, although perhaps it was possible. Each doorway had a pair of facing 3+2 seating, so there’s ten seated. Between each facing seat position another could stand, so there’s another five, at least. In the aisleway connecting “compartments” you could fit at least another two, so we are comfortably up to 17. Another five on top of that? Yeah, I guess that’s possible, although it would be getting tight.

It’s interesting to think about it, though. In today’s trains, people have two places to stand: in the open standing areas (e.g. between doors on opposite sides of the carriage) and in the aisles. Apart from the ends of some carriages where seats face the centre of the carriage and there’s a large space in between, nobody stands /between/ facing seats. But that was the main place people had to stand in the Taits (and swingdoor trains).

“…I’d like to know how to draw/generate those for all lines…”

You would need to know the exact locations of track sections, which track sections control which signals, how long trains took to traverse each of those track sections, and other things like that. In other words, you pretty well need the signalling engineering drawings.

@John of Melbourne,

I have access to an idealised section time calculator taking into account train stats; the only thing it doesn’t take into account is headwind/tailwind and failed motors. Signal positions can be taken from signal diagrams, even if they’re only accurate to within a few metres (which would translate to an accuracy of maybe 10 seconds?)

The main problem with all these systems is that they need to be customised to track blocks, one at a time, and MS-Excel is bad at doing curved lines in graphs. If I could do a spreadsheet with every signal, turnout etc on a given line (and eventually the entire network) then click a button to auto-generate the chart, that would be excellent.

David Stosser: “Brighton Beach platform 1 is not available for passengers, because there is no room for a security fence between track 1 and the sidings so any trains stabled there could not be properly fenced in.”

Nearly forgot about this one: My understanding is that it’s to do with the restaurant on the platform, not the stabling. There are other locations where sidings are not fully fenced, such as Pakenham.

“Signal positions can be taken from signal diagrams…”

Yes, but they won’t show you the track blocks or anything about them.

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