No. 2 Goods Shed situated in the former Spencer Street rail yard’s Flinders Street Extension was the longest single building in Australia at the time of its construction in 1889. The former Victorian Railway Goods shed is now part of Docklands. Docklands was the major transit point for goods in Victoria from 1870’s to the 1960’s and the Victorian Railway’s goods terminal was previously known as Melbourne Yard. The Goods Shed No 2 is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register (HO933) and the National Trust (B6435) for its heritage value.
In 1853 the land for a terminus was set aside around Batman Hill Reserve and was conditionally granted to Melbourne Mount Alexander and Murray River Rail company. In January 1859, a Central station was built in Spencer Street at the Western End of Collins Street. Along with the Offices, Refreshment rooms, platforms, sheds for engines and accessories – a goods shed 300 feet in length and proportionate width was also built. Three more goods sheds were built in the next decades. By 1882, the Spencer Street Railway precinct covered an area of 74 hectares. The railway precinct was located adjacent to Victoria Dock, providing a link between rail and sea transportation and creating thriving industry of associated trades and businesses.
On 2nd March 1872, ‘The Argus’ published from Melbourne reported, “The Goods Shed, Victorian Railways”. The excerpts of the article go as follows
No one going along Collins-street towards the Victorian Railway Station in Spencer street would imagine the brick building of which he obtains a glimpse over the offices of the Engineer-in-chief’s department to be of any great extent, It happens, however, from its extreme length, to be entitled to rank among the greatest buildings which the Government has put up within the last two or three years. The length of the building is 875ft or 292 yards. There are platforms running out from the shed at both ends which increase the length by 200 yards. The shed reaches from Lonsdale Street to Flinders Street. Four separate sheds of wood and iron materials have hitherto been used for goods. They are not capacious enough when the traffic is heavy. In the course of a year or two, probably orders will be given for the pulling down of whole of the old sheds and building up of a second colossal shed.”
In August 1889, The Railway Department accepted the tender of P.Tozer and Co. for £72,943 for the construction of a new goods shed at Spencer-street Station. The Colossal Shed known as No 2 Railway Goods shed formerly known as No.3 or ‘A’ Goods Shed was continually in use from 1889 to 1977, as the central point of Goods distribution. At over 385 metres long and 36 metres wide, it was the largest goods shed in the state. It was also the busiest employing upto 1500 men by 1890s.
The Goods shed has frontages to both Bourke Street and Collins Street. Goods Shed comprised of a central gabled section with a continuous glazed lantern roof and was supported by cast iron columns and wrought iron roof trusses.
Keeping the building as it is for its heritage value, at the priced land areas of Melbourne CBD, was never an appropriate thing to do, so it was necessary to find other uses for the building while keeping the structure intact for later generations.
In early 2000, as a part of the ‘Docklands precinct development’ and to link it to the city grid, central seven bays of the shed were removed to make way for the extension of Collins Street, splitting it into two.
Today, Collins Street extension, which is elevated above Village Street and Arora Lane splits the goods shed into a north and south segment. But viewing from Arora Lane or Village Street, the building still retains structural continuity between north and south segments.
The northern part of the Goods shed underwent a $63 Million redevelopment by Places Victoria. The unique glass facetted five storey, “Lantern Building” was completed in 2013 at the entrance to the fully refurbished Goods Shed South on Collins Street as part of the $1.6bn Collins Square Project. Lantern Building was built to connect the existing shed to the Collins Street bridge. The existing shed was beneath the Collins Street bridge, so the four level Lantern Building was created to provide a connection.
The northern half of the Goods Shed underwent complete restoration and conversion of its vast interior to an innovative, contemporary and ecologically sustainable environment. Redevelopment work began in 2007 on the northern half of the Goods Shed to conserve and restore the existing building fabric and to construct a new entry building. The shed currently retains its 12m-high ceilings and is fringed by mezzanine side bays. The Bourke Street frontage now includes office spaces, a tavern and retail tenancies.
Both the south and north ends of the shed had undergone modification, but partitions have been kept below the truss line to maintain the ability to observe the length and scale of the internal form of the sheds.
In the early 1900’s the Goods shed was an imposing structure for its length and was surrounded by smaller versions of itself. But today it presents itself as diminutive amongst the surrounding towers.
Location: 733 BOURKE STREET and 707 COLLINS STREET DOCKLANDS, MELBOURNE CITY