From Light Railways No.148,
Whitfield Centenary (LR 147)
With reference to the last paragraph o Frank Stamford's article on the Whitfield Centenary, as published in Light Railways No. 147 June 1999), a correction is required.
The Victorian Railways Annual General Report referred to is 1899, not 1898 as mentioned in the article, so it was not a question of reporting a future event.
This Annual Report is for the year ending 30 June 1899 and, on page 9, under the heading of "New Lines", it is stated that the Wangaratta to Whitfield line was opened for traffic on 14 March 1899. On page 14, Appendix 1, is the report of the Railway Construction Branch to the Board of Land and Works, which was the constructing authority for the Whitfield line. This report also states that the line was opened for traffic on 14 March 1899.
On page 16, Appendix 2, is the report of the Engineer for Existing Lines (renamed the Way and Works Branch in 1903) and it is in this report that it is stated that the Whitfield line was opened for traffic on 29 April 1899. It is not known to what event this date refers, and it is possibly an error. Normally this would refer to when that Branch took over the line for maintenance but, in a minute dated 20 March 1899, contained in the Engineer for Existing Lines' records, it is recorded that the Wangaratta to Whitfield line would be taken over for maintenance from 1 April 1899.
In the days when railways were constructed under Contract, it was normal proceedure for whoever constructed a railway to carry out maintenance of the line for a period of time after it had been opened for traffic.
The Victorian Railways Commissioners did open the Wangaratta to Whitfield line for public traffic on Tuesday 14 March 1899, the first train being the 8.45 Up Mixed from Whitfield. This can be confirmed by reference to the Victorian Government Gazette for 10 March 1899, and also Weekly Notice No.37 for the week ending 13 March 1899.
The Whitfield railway was constructed by the Railway Construction Branch of the Board of Land and Works, and not the Public Works Department as stated in the article. Although operated as part of the Victorian Railways system from 14 March 1899, the railway was not vested in the Victorian Railways Commissioners until 6 February 1905, in accordance with the provisions of The Railways Act 1891 (No. 1250 29.12.1891).