Miniature railway cnr Charman rd & Balcombe rd Beaumaris

  libertyRS Junior Train Controller

Location: staring at the water
In the 50's there was a raised 2.5" railway at the location of Charman & Balcombe rd. The track was still there in the early 90's but soon was removed for two units being built. Does anyone know what happened to the rolling stock and track? I heard the loco's survived for many years locked in a shed at the back of the property

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  Coils Junior Train Controller

Location: Victoria
Many years ago (probably about 35) I was introduced to the owner who at that time was an elderly gentleman who I think was known as "Fin". He had built around 8 to 10 locos at least one was a large American articulated type.

Someone told me that ther had been a fire in the workshop/loco shed in the eighties that had casued considerable damage to some of the locos.
  Trainbloke Station Staff

G'day, I was very interested to see this Thread.  My Grandparents house backed onto this railway, and visits to see them usually saw me straight down the back yard and up on the fence to see if the train was running.  This was the 60's and early 70's.  Unfortunately, I was disappointed most of the time, but the owner did occasionaly use it.  It must have been one of the biggest solely 2 1/2" gauge tracks ever built!!  If I recall correctly there were actually 2 tracks.  One went right around the perimeter of the property (a couple of acres at least) and another shorter oval near the house and workshop.  I'm sorry I can't add too much more detail.  I have often wondered what happened to everything, I guess the track (brass rail) just went for scrap, which would be a great shame. In any case the many, many hours that I spent looking over the fence at it, daydreaming, has had a huge influence on my own miniature railway interest.  

Cheers, Simon
  Kimmus Beginner

I first saw this railway in 1955, when I used to trek down to the beach end of Charman Road for a weekly piano lesson. It was on the west side, south of the Balcombe Road intersection, and occupied the land that is now 23, 25 and 27 Charman Road and perhaps part of a still-vacant lot adjoining number 29. There was a track that encircled most of the paddock, and from the Charman Road fence you could see on the far side signals (the old mechanical tilting-arm type) and possibly another track or siding. I think I may have seen the system in operation once. My recollection is that in 1955 it already looked rather weather-beaten, and it might well have dated from a decade or two earlier.

The land apparently belonged to the owners of the house at 29 Charman Road, being unfenced on that side. It was planted with fruit trees and may once have been an orchard. According to Sands and McDougall, number 29 was occupied from 1937 until 1974 (the last year S&McD was published) by a Kenneth Finlay, who would probably be the 'elderly gentleman known as "Fin"' mentioned by Coils. The Melbourne phone directory lists 'Finlay K' at the same address until 1990 — over 50 years altogether!

In 1986, when I was living overseas, I was pleased to find the railway still there when I spent a holiday in Melbourne. I think it disappeared in the 1990s, when the three blocks at 23–27 were evidently sold and built on. A couple of years ago I inquired of the Kingston Historical Website ( whether they knew anything about it. They didn't, though they seemed very interested in it. I would certainly be interested to know when and why it was built.
  Trainbloke Station Staff

I found your post very intersting, Kimmus.  As a kid looking over the back fence there, the property seemed huge, and in my mind I estimated it would've been at least 2 acres, if not closer to five.  I measured it using Google Earth and the whole property would've been just under 1 acre!  Things always look bigger to kids!!  Anyway, it was still a very long 2 1/2" gauge line.  I suppose it was both necessary and possible to fire the locos on the move.  Wouldn't it be great to be able to turn back the clock with things like this!!
  Kimmus Beginner

Three or four suburban lots are still a good deal of space to play with! I lived in the area again in 1987–1989 and whenever I walked down to the beach I used to wonder how much that vacant land could be worth by then, and how long the owner would continue sitting on it.

I don’t suppose you were ever cheeky enough, Trainbloke, to snap a few photos of the railway over your grandparents’ back fence? It would be great to find some photographic record of it.

I can think of a few leads one could follow up.

(1) Descendants, neighbours and friends of the Finlays. They lived in the same house for over half a century, and I think Ken Finlay also owned a shop in Cheltenham shopping centre, up the other end of Charman Road (I’ll check that when I have time). So the family must have been fairly well-known locally.

(2) I had a friend at school in the 1950’s–60’s who was train-mad—his father worked for VR I think. They lived in Cheltenham, and he and/or his dad might have known of ‘Finlay’s railway’ (we need a name for it!). We haven’t been in contact since the 1970s, but I have found his address in Adelaide and might write.

(3) There is something called the Bayside Model Railway Club, which seems to operate from an address in Collins Street, Mentone. That's not far away at all, and some of their members who have lived in the district for a while might well know something about FR (we need an acronym!). Does anyone have any contacts there? I can’t find an email address for them.

  Trainbloke Station Staff

Regrettably no, I didn't take any photos of the line.  I suppose as a kid I just thought it would always be there, certainly having no idea that everything would change as much as it has in recent years. Even taking photos now is absolutely different, taking lots of digital photos of all sorts of things, whereas when I was young the only time we took photos was when we went on a special holiday somewhere, and then my dad would buy a slide film.  But only one, 24 shots only!!

Another thing I wish I had photos of is of the steam loco D3 639 doing the regular Mornington Seaside excursions every Sunday morning during summer.  It used to stop at Bentleigh station, near where I used to live, right across the level crossing.  I used to ride my scooter down to see it, and climb up on the old wooden level crossing gates to get a better view of the cab.  To this day I vividly remember the driver, a larger-than-life gentleman, walking over to pull the whistle to depart. I KNEW what was coming, but everytime I would get a huge surprise just how loud that whistle was!! (and nearly fall backwards off the gates!!) Fantastic memories, but again, no photos. On Sunday afternoons I'd be down visiting my grandparents, normally spent looking over the back fence until it was time to eat my Gran's cake, and I'd hear the long whistle blasts of 639 running express through Cheltenham station on it's way back from the seaside.

Bentleigh station of course has completely changed, long gone are the crossing gates and everything else.  I wonder what ever happened to all that superb mechanism for the gates, that huge wheel the signalman turned.  I went to school every day by train from Bentleigh, the 7.43 stopping at South Yarra, in mostly the red Tait trains, or the blue Harris sets, never giving a second thought to the nostalgia I now feel for those trains, or times.

Sorry I've gone completely 'off topic', but as I said before, I'd love to be able to turn back the clock!

Cheers, Trainbloke
  Kimmus Beginner

Certainly there are times when one could wish to turn the clock back. Nostalgia can fuel a whole range of activities — rereading books, cataloguing old photos, collecting memorabilia, revisiting old schools, researching local history, even writing memoirs! They can be rewarding personally, and sometimes they’re of interest to other people too.

I’ll try and get back to some of the leads I mentioned later in the year when I may have a bit more time. I wouldn’t hold out too much hope of finding the  track or the rolling stock (if any of it survived the fire that Coils heard about), but we may yet find photos and a construction date, perhaps even enough information for an article.

  libertyRS Junior Train Controller

Location: staring at the water
It is great to see these replies to this thread. In the mid fifties we lived in the house on the market garden opposite the 2.5" railway. This was while our new home was built in Cheltenham. I was about 10 or 11 at the time and often used to watch the trains in action.

In the early 1970' s when in the Army at Townsville I bought a pretty rough and unfinished 2.5" gauge NSWGR C36 locomotive and on return to Melbourne took it around to the owner of the railway in order to have it finished. He said that he would have a look at it and over the next few months I would occasionally drop in to see how work was progessing. When I would visit I was never allowed into the workshop and would not even be shown the engine but would have to wait at the front door and have to listen to a torrent of waffle about valve gear design or some such matter. Eventually I realised that I was being given the run-around and demanded to see the engine and found that all that had been done was some minor fiddling about with the valve gear and so I realised that the elderly model engineer was a little demented and that I had been wasting my time.

Years passed and the track remained in situ and I had heard that there had been a fire in the workshop and so one day (this would have been around the early 1990's) I went to the house to inquire about the train. I knocked on the door and could hear someone in the house but no one came to the door. I went to a neighbour and was told that the owner had died, but his daughter stilled lived in the house. However she was mentally unwell and was notable in the area for becoming hysterically aggressive towards anyone who came to the house.

Several years later I saw that the adjoining land was being sold and was to be developed into new housing, so one weekend afternoon I decided to go back and try to buy the rail. Now this track had been built at least in the 1940's and possibly earlier and so when I turned up in the late 1990s to attempt to buy it I found that it had been pulled up and tossed away that very week. There were still some lengths twisted and bent in a nearby skip. This is the story of my life!

To add to this strange story it was reported in the papers and was on TV that the football player, Nicky (or Ricky) Winbar had bought the adjoining land and  had been involved in a fracas with the daughter and she had been on TV, coming across as being rational and hard done by and Winbar was portrayed as being the villian of the affair.

I was told by a neighbour that the mother of the daughter was still alive and was living in Mentone somewhere.

The memories of the railway that I have are that the locomotives were of US types and included an articulated loco and were certainly coal fired.

So somewhere in Melbourne there are a number of 2.5 inch gauge live steamers, possibly damaged by fire. Also, possibly there are photos of the railway and so here's hoping that some more history will appear.
  Kimmus Beginner

There is now an article about Finlay's miniature railway on the City of Kingston historical site at The author, Leo Gamble, lived opposite the Finlays as a child and used to ride the trains from 1939–40, indicating that the railway was built in the late 1930s. No photographs of it, unfortunately. And no clues as to the fate of the rolling stock (sorry libertyRS!).
  GrahamH Chief Commissioner

Location: At a terminal on the www.
There is now an article about Finlay's miniature railway on the City of Kingston historical site at The author, Leo Gamble, lived opposite the Finlays as a child and used to ride the trains from 1939–40, indicating that the railway was built in the late 1930s. No photographs of it, unfortunately. And no clues as to the fate of the rolling stock (sorry libertyRS!).
"Kimmus"  No '.' at the end of the link.
  JennieT Beginner

I can add a little here - much of my childhood was spent playing with Ken Finlay's youngest daughter, Wendy, in the 1950s. I lived at No 7 Charman Road, down nearer the beach. We had the freedom of 'the paddock' as we described the blocks of land the railway ran around. We would often set a bogie (sp?) on the tracks with the metal seat on top, and with a couple of sticks, we'd push ourselves around the perimeter of the track. Mr Finlay hardly ever brought the trains out in those days. He was a painter and decorator, and a very talented man obviously. We would visit him in his shed and wander round while he worked - it was an unbelievable mass of engine parts, paints, all the tools of his trade - and he was a hoarder of no mean calibre!  He also owned the land behind his house, which went back to Wells Road. He was involved with the restoration of Puffing Billy - I remember going with him & Wendy with a sign he had painted for the restoration committee, which was erected somewhere near Ferntree Gully. I would so like to see him remembered and recognised for the talented man he undoubtedly was.
  Sammy D Chief Commissioner

Location: Melbourne, Victoria
I would say there is a good chance someone at the Steam Locomotive Society of Victoria would know more about the railway and possibly what came to be with the locos.

Perhaps one for someone to follow up.

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