A tale of two stations / by Mario Mirabile

Melbourne has an extensive suburban rail system, and despite the best efforts of a string of  governments to corporatise, privatise and generally run the system into the ground, it remains a pivotal part of Melbourne life. The network radiates from central Melbourne like a giant octopus spreading it's tentacles to the outer suburbs, and at the centre of the beast lies Flinders Street Station.

A railway station has existed on the site at the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets since the 1850's, although the current building was completed in 1910. A classically decorative building adorned with elaborate facades and domes and a clock tower at it's main entrances, it quickly became a Melbourne icon. Successive renovations, the addition of modern technology and the invasion of retail outlets have eroded it's classic appeal, but it retains many fine features such as the portico at the Swanston Street entrance. For more than 100 years, Melburnians have arranged to meet "under the clocks" at this entrance, and although the clocks are no longer an accurate indication of train departure times, they still make a fine meeting place.

At the other end of the style scale sits Parliament Station. Constructed in the 1970's as part of the underground loop built to extend the rail service to other parts of the central city, it's style could best be described as utilitarian. It works well enough, but I've never heard anyone express any affection for it, and certainly no one meets there unless they absolutely have to.