Named for the woods that once occupied its rolling hills – a thick stand of eucalypts with even thicker undergrowth – Burwood is a study in contrasts. It is almost a village unto itself, and yet, it has strong connections to the rest of the city: Burwood Highway is a major east-west throughfare and although the Burwood train station is less well-used than many others, it remains a part of the daily commute of hundreds of Melbournians. It was once the opposite way around: Burwood station sat on the Outer Circle line, and trains carrying people from Fairfield to Oakliegh passed through it hourly during daylight, while Burwood Highway itself ended at the train line. (Curiously, it ended between stations rather than at one). The last and thickest part of the old Burr Wood – named from its incredible range of seeds, thistles and burrs, all of which anyone passing through could expect to collect in abundance on their clothing – stood to the west of the train line, running back across the hill to Tooronga, and broken only by the dark and narrow track that would one day be Burke Road.
It was not until the 1940s that Toorak Road, which once stopped at the corner of Tooronga, was extended through to connect with Burwood Highway – rumour has it that the owners on the Toorak Drive-In, located at the terminus of Toorak Road, were the movers and shakers behind the extension, seeking to open up the more easterly suburbs to their place of business. It succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, and the Toorak Drive-In would be one of the most profitable in Melbourne until it was killed by the coming of the multiplexes.
Burwood itself attained a new lease of life from the road connection. Easier access to the city meant that the land there became more attractive, and in the post-war years, Burwood was one of the fastest growing areas of Melbourne. And even as the Outer Circle railway line slowly died, the trams were extended down Camberwell Road to meet the Burwood Highway and then travel along its length – and to be extended on several occasions since then. (One day the Burwood Highway tram actually will reach all the way to Ferntree Gully.) The railway line, at the same time, diminished in stature, and today only the Alamein line south of Camberwell remains – with Burwood station still one of its stops.
Suburbs near Burwood: