Alexander Thomson, a member of the Victorian Legislative Council, introduced and mentored a bill to incorporate the Geelong and Melbourne Railway Company, which was passed in February 1853. Thomson was one of the directors and presided at the first shareholder meeting.
Work began at the Geelong end in 1854 but progress was slow due to a labour shortage caused by the Victorian gold rush, so the Victorian government hired out 100 prisoners to the company at a daily rate of five shillings each. They were housed in prison hulks moored in Corio Bay.
On 25 June 1857, the company opened the line from Geelong to a temporary terminus called Greenwich, on the Yarra River at Newport, where passengers had to transfer to a steam ferry for connection to Melbourne. In 1859, train services were extended through from Newport to Spencer Street station after the Victorian Railways opened the Williamstown railway. However, the company continued to operate at a loss, and in June 1860, was sold to the Government of Victoria for £800,000. The Geelong-Melbourne railway then became part of the network operated by the Victorian Railways, which undertook extensive repairs and refurbishment of the line and its infrastructure.
- "Prospectus of the Geelong and Melbourne Railway Company". The Argus. 29 September 1852. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
- Harrigan, Leo J. (1962). Victorian Railways to ‘62. Melbourne: Victorian Railways Public Relations and Betterment Board. p. 31.
- Serle, Percival (1949). "Thomson, Alexander". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
- "Geelong & Melbourne Railway Co". Museum Victoria. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
- Snell, Edward, The life and adventures of Edward Snell, Tom Griffiths (ed), Angus & Robertson and the Library Council of Victoria, Melbourne, 1988.
- Harrigan, Leo J. (1962). Victorian Railways to ‘62. Melbourne: Victorian Railways Public Relations and Betterment Board. p. 37.
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