|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
Formation of Department of Railways I 1858
The first Department of Railways emerged in January 1858, subject to the statutory control of the Board of Land and Works (VA 744). Prior to this, railways matters, which essentially involved the survey of proposed lines of railway, were administered by a Railways Branch of the Surveyor-General's Department (VA 2921) which from November 1857 became a Branch of the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538).
The establishment of a Department of Railways reflected the Government's increased responsibility under legislation for the co-ordination and development of the State's railways.
In particular the Main Trunk Line Act 1857 (21 Vic., No.35) authorized the State to construct main trunk lines of railway from Melbourne to the Murray River and from Geelong to Ballarat. The Railway Loan Act 1857 (21 Vic., No.36) authorized the raising of money by debentures for the construction of certain railways. The Railway Act 1857 (21 Vic., No.38) provided for the general construction of railways within the State. The Railway Supervision Act 1857 (21 Vic., No.40) authorized the State's Railway Authority to inspect and supervise the operations of railway companies for the protection of railway passengers.
Also, in the Acts incorporating the various joint stock railway companies provision was made for the Government to purchase the rights and property of the company after a certain time period.
Role of Board of Land and Works (VA 744)
Although the legislation vested the Board of Land and Works (VA 744) with responsibility for administering the State's railways, functional responsibility effectively rested with the Department of Railways. The Board of Land and Works' statutory responsibility involved deciding matters of dispute and policy matters, making regulations, and generally authorizing the business and finances of the Department.
When the Board of Land and Works met to determine railway matters the Vice-President of the Board presided. Initially there was only one Vice-President who was also the Commissioner of Public Works. However on 23 January 1862, the Commissioner of Railways and Roads was appointed as a second Vice-President of the Board, and thereafter presided over railway matters.
Likewise, the Commissioner of Public Works was the Minister responsible for railway matters until the Commissioners of Railways, and later, Commissioners of Railways and Roads were subsequently appointed. By 1870 the Government had purchased most of the railway companies and vested responsibility for their rights and property with the Board and hence the Department.
Emergence of Combined Department of Railways and Roads 1871
Although there had been a Commissioner of Railways and Roads since December 1861 it is evident that a combined Department of Railways and Roads did not exist until circa April 1871. The Department of Railways and Roads (VA 2875) assumed all functions previously undertaken by the Department of Railways 1.
Location of Records
See List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, section 3.21.0.