Monday, June 03, 2013

Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station In Mumbai?


Can you imagine this beautiful building sitting at the corner of Flinders Street and Swanson Street in Melbourne? This vision is what the rumour about the railway station mix up would have you believe. The story goes that when the Mumbai (then Bombay) and Flinders Street stations were made or designed, in the UK, they were shipped around the same time, and the shipments were labelled wrong. And so Melbourne got Mumbai’s train station, and Mumbai got Melbourne’s intended Flinders Street Station. I don't know where I heard that story, and can't find any reference to it. Another story tells us that the plans were mixed up, with the same result.

That story, that plans for the Bombay and Melbourne Train Stations were mixed up, in the same designer’s office in London. Flinders Street was built between 1901 and 1905, but the designers were British and selected from a public call for the design through a worldwide competition. The designers then sent their plans to the architect connected with the Bombay design for modifications, due to their original design not fitting within the space on the Melbourne corner. The Chhatrapati Shivaji (Victoria) Terminus was completed and operational by 1888, so the timeframes of design and construction seems to refute the story that the final plans come from the same office in London and could have been accidentally switched.

Another of the arguments that supposedly supports the rumour is the idea that Melbourne wanted the station to face Elizabeth Street, rather than Swanson Street as it does. Wouldn't that have changed the vocal point of the Melbourne CBD! I think we can only dream about that gothic dome sitting at the end of Elizabeth Street here in Melbourne!

I am sure that this crazy story was borne out of a Melbournian lusting over the beauty and majestic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus - makes for a great story, and connection to a building on another land, though!

Don't get me wrong, I like our Flinders Street Station, and the commanding presence it has in our city. But I did walk along Flinders Street last week, and dared to dream what this rumour would have us wonder...

7 comments:

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    1. Thanks for reading, and commenting!

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  2. Interesting. Been to both. And have heard variations of the rumour at both ends. The power of urban legend.

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    1. Love a good urban legend story! Activates the imagination, and tests who you believe!

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  3. The story is accurate as I have worked in all the hard to get areas as I upgraded the emergency fire pumps for Flinders street which is located under the end of platform 1. In Flinders street is Victoria stations sister station due to this blunder and had it not been for serious replanning of the original design part of the station would have been in the Yarra river. There are many documents and pictures that adorn the private halls that that the public and most workers cant get to. I have seen almost 99% of the building and even been on the roof and in the roof as I had to isolate all the electrical and check emergency sprayers, the ballroom as magnificent even though it is
    mostly now a locker room for transit and train drivers. You may occasionally se train drivers going up a set of stairs on the end of platform 1 up to the third floor "lockers by the hundred", anyway 100% accurate not a myth, when the blunder was discovered the project in india was 40% complete and even that had minor changes to its design.

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    1. Thanks Justin! What a great insight into the depths of Flinders Street Station!
      I so hope to get to have a look at the Old Ballroom one year for Open House Melbourne - the photos I have seen are so beautiful!

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  4. Thanks for straightening that out Tash. You may be interested in this parallel myth from Maryborough, which has a lovely (earlier) Queen Anne station unique in Australia. The locals supposed their unimportant town must have benefited from a mixup with Maryborough in Queensland.
    http://www.cv.vic.gov.au/stories/a-diverse-state/goldfields-stories-a-station-with-a-town-attached/myths-rumours-maryborough-railway-station/

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