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In a nod to history, the Hoppers take a tour

The descendants of a pioneering railway family have been taken on a special behind-the-scenes tour at Hoppers Crossing, more than 100 years after their ancestors looked after the railway gates and maintained the tracks.

A new road bridge is rapidly taking shape over the railway line, with the first 28 concrete beams lifted into place at start of May.

It’s a milestone which heralds the end of an era for the level crossing and its unique place in history.

Paul Hopper, who toured the site last week along with wife Melanie and their four children, is the great, great, great grandson of Stephen and Elizabeth Hopper, a pioneering couple now recognised as the ‘original Hoppers’ of Hoppers Crossing.

He’s now keen to ensure his family grow up with an appreciation the family’s heritage and links to the railway.

Then

About 140 years ago, Elizabeth Hopper was the gatekeeper for what was the only rail route through Skeleton Creek, supervising the crossing and opening and closing a set of large wooden gates whenever a train passed through.

Stephen, her husband, worked as a railway ‘ganger’, meaning he was part of a team that carried out maintenance along the rail line. The couple had 11 children and lived on a remote farm near the railway crossing.

In 1911, the area was named ‘Hoppers Crossing’ and for a long time the history books long gave the impression that the suburb was called after Stephen – a fact today’s Hopper family wants to rectify.

Now

The present day Hopper family have maintained their close ties to the suburb that bears their name. Born and bred in the area, Paul Hopper runs his own business at a location not far from the new road bridge.

Earlier this year major works began to create a 1.2 kilometre road bridge to the east of the current crossing and form at direct connection from Princes Highway through to Old Geelong Road.

A total of 75 beams will be installed, with each weighing in at 60 tonnes and 34 metres long – about two thirds the length of an Olympic swimming pool.

Construction has also started on new pedestrian and cyclist overpass that will allow safe and easy access to the platforms at Hoppers Crossing Station, along with a connection across the rail line.

More than 18,000 vehicles travel through the Old Geelong Road level crossing each day, with the boom gates down for up to 43 minutes of the morning peak.

As part of last week’s tour, the Hopper family were taken to site areas never before accessed by members of the general public, getting close up to the first new sections of the road bridge.

Set to become the fourth dangerous and congested crossing to go the Werribee line since 2019, the Old Geelong Road level crossing will be removed in 2022.

Melbourne - west Level Crossing Removal