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Image 'Hobson's Bay Railway Pier, Melbourne', 1878

TLF ID R3296

This is a 37.2 cm x 52.5 cm sepia-toned photograph of Station Pier at Sandridge (now Port Melbourne), Victoria. About 60 people stand in the foreground looking up at what must be the photographer, Charles Nettleton, exposing his photographic plate. Various ships, some of which are steam powered, can be seen lining both sides of the wharf, with the ships' masts stretching into the distance. At the lower right of the photograph a steam-powered locomotive can be seen pulling wagon loads of goods.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset features Australia's first railway in action - the 3.6-kilometre line that linked Melbourne with its shipping harbour on Hobson's Bay was constructed by the Melbourne and Hobson's Bay Railway Company in 1854.
  • It illustrates one of the later model Stevenson steam-powered locomotives that worked the railway - imported from England, the Stevensons were rugged long-lived machines.
  • It shows the first steam-worked railway in Australia, built by the Melbourne and Hobson's Bay Railway Company - the company formed in August 1852 and although it raised what appeared to be sufficient capital of £100,000 to build the 3.6-kilometre line across level terrain, the company was forced to double its capital to complete the project; the railway proved to be an instant financial success, as its fares were high and the demand heavy; a half-hourly passenger service operated from the beginning.
  • It shows the Station Pier or Railway Pier at Sandridge, now Port Melbourne, as it appeared in 1878 - Railway Pier was Melbourne's main deep-water passenger wharf and, because the Yarra River was not navigable as far as the city, the railway helped to solve a major transport bottleneck that threatened the economic development of Victoria.
  • It depicts the auxiliary steamer SS 'Wentworth' on the left with the 'True Briton' behind - steamers enabled the fast import and export of cargoes, as well as passengers and their luggage.
  • It reveals that ships built during this period were primarily steam-powered but many also carried a varied complement of sails - the sails were used if the engines broke down, a frequent occurrence, or to provide an extra turn of speed under favourable winds; later, voyages became more regular and predicable in length and the main shipping lines began to settle down to something resembling a regular schedule, not dependant on fickle winds to provide power.
  • It is an example of one of the photographs mounted, captioned and published as a series entitled 'Views of Melbourne' by photographer Charles Nettleton (1826-1902).
  • It is one of 78 photographs from the 'Views of Melbourne' series that were bound together in an album and given as a wedding present - the album was presented to a newly married couple with their embossed monogram 'JAE' on the front cover and an illuminated title page, reading 'Mrs and Mr J.A. Ewen, wedding present from Mrs and Mr F.J. Sargood, 1878', indicating that albums of published photographs were a valued present and that people of the time made an effort to personalise their gifts.
Year level

3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Charles Nettleton
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Charles Nettleton
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements