Victorian Railways grew to service all parts of the state, even extending some lines into New South Wales under the 1922 Border Railways Act. In the late 19th century the railways became something of a political football with politicians demanding new lines to be built in places where traffic levels never justified it. In 1864 there was just 254 miles (409 km) of railway. The system expanded rapidly to reach 2,900 route miles (4,670 km) by 1891 and to its greatest extent of 4,755 route miles (7652 km) in 1939. The result was that by the beginning of the 20th century, no Victorian (apart from those in the mountain regions) were more than 25 miles (42 km) from a railway line. The period from the end of the 1930s saw a slow decline in route mileage as unprofitable branches were closed.

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