In less than a decade, the UBD street directory and the Transperth timetable have been knocked off their respective pedestals, making Google Maps the essential, ubiquitous tool for anyone who needs to get around.
The greatest strength of Google Maps is its wealth of information, but sometimes it’s not entirely accurate. Case in point: railway stations.
Perth’s railway network has changed quite a bit over the years; one such changed took place in Fremantle in the 1980s, with the closure of three shortly lived railway stations: South Beach, Success Harbour, and The Esplanade.
South Beach is the southernmost of Fremantle’s derelict railway stations and sports an average Google Maps rating of 4.7 stars – although I’ll wager they’re all referring to the nearby beach with the same name.
It’s also the most secluded of the three stations; it’s not directly connected to a footpath, so you really have to be looking for it to find it.
Just a stone’s throw from the station are two level crossings, one for cars and one for people, both equipped with gates and electronic warning signals. This suggests the line still sees regular use, but just not from passenger services.
Success Harbour is the second of Fremantle’s three abandoned railway stations. The station, or what’s left of it, isn’t tucked away like South Beach, but its unremarkable nature makes it somewhat hidden in plain sight.
The station comprises a single platform (which will look familiar to regular commuters on the Fremantle Line) a collection of empty lamp posts, and a fitting for some long-gone seating.
If you wait at Success Harbour Station for a train into the city, you’ll be waiting for a very long time. Actually, no, you won’t be, because the station’s fenced off.
The Esplanade is the northernmost of Fremantle’s three abandoned train stations, and arguably the only one that actually looks like a station rather than a curious, fenced-off rail siding.
The station has a fancy brick wall, an undercover area where you can wait for your train, and a sign telling you not to bother doing so. It’s also the only station out of the three that still has lights on its fixtures.
After much research, I was able to track down a photograph of The Esplanade back in its heydey during the America’s Cup, courtesy of the Fremantle History Centre.
So, what have we learned from this nitpicking over online maps? First, Google Maps isn’t perfect – no single information source ever is, especially when it relies heavily on algorithms and the goodwill of its users to keep its records up to date. You’ll be surprised to find that, at the time of publication, Apple Maps doesn’t have any of these abandoned stations listed in their database.
Second, it’s amazing what you can find around your city or town when you take a good look. Every city has these hidden and not-so-hidden spots dotted around the place – you just have to look for them.
Third, there’s an awful lot of information out there that’s not readily available on the internet. For example, I have no idea why the Public Transport Authority saw fit to close and abandon The Esplanade, Success Harbour, and South Beach stations rather than demolishing them three decades ago. I haven’t been able to find the answers online, but I’m sure there’s some document hidden away at the State Library or State Records Office that will tell me why.
You can find out a lot of information by making a couple of online searches, but for a lot of things, you’ll need to go a step further.