Steam train crossing Jubilee Lake bridge. SOURCE: Daylesford & District Historical Society

Two train lines and over 20 trains per day served Daylesford in the 1890s

Two train lines and over 20 trains per day served Daylesford in the 1890s

Opening in 1887 and closing in 1953, the Ballarat to Daylesford railway line ran from the North Creswick railway station northeast across Jubilee Lake to connect with the existing Daylesford-Carlsruhe (Bendigo) railway line, launched in 1880. The construction of these two railway lines was part of the railway-mania that accompanied and fed the property speculation boom of the 1880s. Every town and hamlet agitated for a railway line. They were regarded as both a symbol of progress and a passport to prosperity.

Corruption went hand in glove with the local petitions to build a line, according to historian Michael Cannon: “Hardly a member of Parliament, whose vote could be bought, went without his bribe in the form of a new railway, a spur line, or advance information on governmental plans to enable him to buy choice land in advance – the value of which was enormously enhanced when the line went through. It was a dispiriting chapter in Victorian political morality.”

In the years prior to the motor car, trains ran frequently and passenger traffic was high. An 1891 timetable shows as many as 22 train movements a day involving Daylesford. Many of the tourists would cycle out to Jubilee Lake to picnic on its shores and sample the mineral water at the spring at the southern end of the reserve. As you can see in the photo, the clothing for cycling was vastly different from today.

Jubilee Lake was constructed in 1860 as a water supply for the Daylesford and Hepburn goldfields. The retaining wall collapsed in 1861 after floods and several Chinese miners were killed in the discharge of the water down Wombat Creek. The dam was rebuilt and enlarged and was known as the Hepburn Goldfields Reservoir. Later, the reservoir was drained and the bed washed for gold and then refilled. In 1887 it was re-named Jubilee Lake in honour of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. The walking track heading north into Daylesford was originally a water race for transporting water to wash crushed ore for gold.

The Jubilee Lake area is a declared wildlife sanctuary and is now home to koalas and other local wildlife, including ducks and water hens. There is a picnic area, walking trails, a nearby mineral spring, kiosk, toilets and BBQs. The main fish species in the lake are Rainbow Trout, Redfin and Tench. Jubilee Lake is one of five premier lakes in Victoria. Premier lakes are stocked at least four times per year with larger premier Rainbow Trout (more than 1kg) and advanced yearling Rainbow Trout. 

Today the lake has been developed into a popular destination for recreation and relaxation. The Jubilee Lake Circuit Walk is a 1.8 km, easy walk. Walk to the edge of the lake and turn right onto a track, which follows the bank of the Wombat Creek (southeast corner), pass the pedestrian bridge, go through the gateway and within 100m is Jubilee Lake Mineral Spring. Return on the track across the bridge to follow along the edge of the lake. Water will be noticed flowing across the track in several places. This comes from the old gold mine tunnels under Italian Hill.