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Powered City

Melbourne had become a wired city by 1910. Networks of pipes and cables coursed underground, drooped across streets and snaked up buildings. Increasingly the city was seen as a machine, tended by its engineers.

The new systems changed the way the city worked. Stockbrokers and lawyers could telephone their clients. Clerks were elevated to their offices in lifts Melbourne already had over 1000 by 1907.

Timetables regulated the comings and goings of suburban commuters. Usage of suburban trains and trams doubled between 1898 and 1917.

Flinders Street Station became the city's new gateway. From 1910, the clocks above the entrance to this Edwardian baroque masterpiece acted as pacesetters for the tens of thousands of people who passed beneath daily.

As well as work, entertainment drew people to the city. About ten cinemas were operating by 1913, mostly in Bourke Street. The mechanised, jerky look of early films reflected the tempo of the city.


Swanston Street looking South
magnifySwanston Street looking south

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