UPDATE: 11.45am: HERITAGE and history experts across Ballarat have reacted in "shock and horror" at the destruction of the Lydiard Street gates at Ballarat Station overnight.
The southern gate was destroyed when a train travelling from Melbourne to Wendouree careered into it at 11.30pm on Saturday night.
V/Line has announced it is investigating the cause of the crash, but at this stage it is not known how long train services to Wendouree, Ararat and Maryborough will be effected.
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The impact from the crash sent debris flying, with some lodging in the beam of a nearby tower and another piece breaking a window at the nearby Provincial Hotel. The train eventually came to rest about 700m down the track near Doveton Street.
Save Our Station spokesman Gerald Jenzen, who surveyed the damage this morning, said he was upset at the destruction.
"This is the oldest and only set that were hand operated left in the state," he said. "There was a lot of controversy about them, because originally they were set to be replaced with boomgates.
"They date from the turn of the 20th century or just before.
"By the look of what has been broken, it's not going to be easy to replace. The cast iron in particular will be very difficult to replace unless there are specific plans as you have to make a certain kind of mold to do. You just can't buy one in the shop."
The crossing was first constructed with the opening of the western line to Maryborough in 1873. While debate raged at the time as to whether the line should be constructed under Lydiard Street, it was eventually decided to build the line at street level with hand-operated gates.
In 1885, the crossing was upgraded with the introduction of the McKenzie and Holland interlocking system including the sector type level crossing gates. The signals gantries installed in the early 20th century were the largest surviving of their type.
The gates, along with the Kyneton gates of 1891 are the only two remaining of their type in Australia, however the Kyneton gates are not associated with a major station complex, leaving Ballarat the only operational of its kind.
Cr Samantha McIntosh said it was an upsetting event which highlighted the importance of history in Ballarat.
"How very sad on heritage weekend to see something happen to something so important to our community," Cr McIntosh said.
"Let's hope there is a way to reassemble and restore as best we can.
"With anything in history, there is a way. Firstly we need to look at restoration, and if that's not possible, look at replication.
"I've been down to the site this morning and it's a very very sad thing to see. But through that, the people down there were so concerned about doing everything right and I have full confidence that the knowledge and understanding of history is there.
"We can't take the easy way out. Let's hope we can restore, if not replicate as best we can."
Mr Jenzen said it was a sad day in Ballarat's history on what was Ballarat's Heritage Weekend.
"It's absolute shock and horror," he said. "It's an integral part of the railway station and the precinct.
"We've been trying to get some money from from the government to do some work on the station as a whole, we never figured something would happen to the gates."
UPDATE 10.30am: Residents living near the historic Lydiard Street gates, which were partially destroyed overnight say they were not sure whether it was wind or a train incident when the accident occurred around 11.30pm last night.
The southern gates were destroyed and one man in his 40s was taken to hospital in a stable condition with a head injury and neck and back soreness.
The Courier has spoken to a number of nearby residents this morning.
Jeremy Abetz said he was "half asleep at the time" but had heard a train coming by around 11.30pm.
"It did sound a little bit louder, than usual but, I thought it might have been a cargo train coming through which made the louder noise."
Another resident who asked not to be named said he had lived in the area for a number of years, but this was the first type of incident involving the newer model V/Locity trains he had seen.
"I knew straight away something had happened and I went down to check," he said. "It must have come down the hill and not been able to stop.
"I think it's ended up about 700m down the road.
"It's made an awful crash for that split second and the boom was gone."
The resident said it was a miracle the incident happened late at night.
"I'm just so relieved there was no-one on the crossing, or not bus or car coming through. Imagine if someone had have been running to catch the train," he said.
Another resident said they thought they heard something, but put the noise down to high winds, which she said had dislodged her front gate in the evening.
In a statement this morning V/Line said:
"An incident at the Lydiard Street level crossing in Ballarat involving the 10.16pm Southern Cross Station to Wendouree service last night (Saturday 30 May) at approximately 11.30pm is currently under investigation.
"Two passengers were on board the service, along with the driver and conductor. All were assessed on site by emergency services.
"Trains are today operating through the area with traffic management in place.
"Services did not operate beyond Bacchus Marsh yesterday evening following the incident, with alternative transport provided.
"The safety of our staff and passengers remains our first priority and an external investigation by the relevant authorities will be undertaken."
EARLIER: A MAN in his 40s has been injured and another three people were treated after a train crashed through gates in central Ballarat late last night.
The Melbourne to Wendouree V/Line train crashed at Clyde Street in Soldiers Hill before coming to rest hundreds of metres down the line near Doveton Street.
Ambulance Victoria has confirmed this morning that one man in his 40s was injured in the crash. He was transported to the Ballarat Base Hospital with a head injury, neck and back soreness and cuts and abrasions in a stable condition.
Three other people were also treated at the scene, but did not need transportation to hospital.
Police said this morning the Road Safety Transport Authority was investigating the cause.
V/Line has been contacted for comment
More to come.