Although the place itself existed for a long time – ever since there was rail motor stopping place on the Melbourne-Geelong line, there’s been a general store and at least a few houses there – it was only in the 1960’s that the modern suburb of Hoppers Crossing began to assume its current shape and name. Prior to that, it was simply ‘the Crossing’.
As a name, this was somewhat ironic, as there was no actual crossing there – just the plan for one. The men who built the railways in this part of Melbourne, the Tone-Herr brothers, originally planned for branch lines to divert from (and cross over) the main line at the site, following the alignment of what is today Hoppers Lane, but continuing to meet the bay to the south and east, and the Melbourne-Ballarat line to the north and west.
A combination of lack of funds, feuding local governments and the untimely deaths of the Tone-Herr brothers meant that the branch lines were never constructed, but the plan was well-known, and the name of ‘the Crossing’ was commonly, if unofficially, used to describe the area.
It was only later that the area would become known as Hoppers Crossing. There are rumours that it was named for the huge mobs of kangaroos who inhabited the area when it was first settled, or that the name derives from a particularly savage locust plague in the 1920’s. It is even rumoured that the suburb was named after early settlers named Hopper. All of these theories, and one other, are incorrect.
The name was actually, if indirectly, the result of severe flooding in 1903. The Werribee river and many of its tributaries burst their banks, and the flood tide ran high enough to topple the railway bridges, even as trains passed over them carrying grain from the wheat harvest.
When it came time to rebuild the train line, there was little money for the reconstruction of the railway bridge. As an economy measure, some of the sturdier freight carriages were bulldozed into an upside down position and used as bridge pylons. These carriages were of the type known as hoppers, and the bridge thus constructed was the Hoppers Crossing.
In the mid-1970’s, the final theory regarding the name of the region came into being. The film “Mad Dog Morgan” was shot in the vicinity of Hoppers Crossing, and its star, Dennis Hopper, made his home there during and after the shooting of the film. He was presented with the key to the suburb (like the key to the city, but cheaper and nastier), and it is claimed that the steep increase in alcohol sales in the area at this time was also his doing (albeit, more through influence than direct consumption, although his consumption was considerable). The rumour that the area experienced a small but statistically significant population increase beginning nine months after Hopper’s arrival and concluding nine months after his departure is almost certainly merely coincidental.
Suburbs near Hoppers Crossing: