According to the official papers on the line's construction, when the line first opened for trains between Sydney and Sutherland construction was not quite complete, so excursion services initially ran on weekends only until the entire line was handed over. The first official train ran within the modern-day suburban area on 9 December 1885, although the line was closed once again between December 1885 and January 1886 to permit testing on the new bridge over the Georges River.
 Amplification and electrification
The old and new Como Bridges over the Georges River, facing east. The newer (1972) bridge is in the front.
The line was originally constructed as double track between Illawarra Junction and Hurstville with single track thereafter; however, its rising use meant that the line required duplication soon afterwards. The line was duplicated between Hurstville and Loftus Station (then called Loftus Junction) (with the exception of the Como Bridge over the Georges River) in April 1890, then southward to Waterfall by 12 December of that year. The section of track between Illawarra Junction and Hurstville was quadruplicated between 1913 and 1925.
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