Architect Zvi Belling in front of a banner for the End to End Ofices to be built in Easey Street, Collingwood.

Architect Zvi Belling in front of a banner for the End to End Offices to be built in Easey Street, Collingwood. Photo: Justin McManus

APART from football and the weather, Melbourne's two big obsessions are public transport and architecture - and an extraordinary building going up slowly in Collingwood satisfies both.

The End To End Offices in Easey Street will be ready in about a year. At the moment the site is a hole in the ground opposite radio station 3PBS in the heart of the hipster inner-north. Approval has been given to build. Next week the slab goes down.

The crowning glory of this unique building is the trains; three silver Hitachis, which not that long ago were in use on Melbourne's train system. They are not just for decoration - they form part of the working space of the building. Each of the six owners or tenants will get half a train each. Lifts will go from the basement car park straight into them.

When done it will hold six offices over five floors. Zvi Belling, of ITN Architects, says four are sold or ''spoken for''. Two are for sale at around $1.5 million each.

He hints that two of the half trains may become an art gallery and a bar.

The story of how they will become part of the building is as odd as the building itself.

In 2002 a train enthusiast and entrepreneur from rural Molong in New South Wales named John Horne bought 120 carriages for $2600 each from the Victorian state government when the fleet was to be scrapped.

Then, in 2007, the state government decided they needed some of the trains back to ease overcrowding and he sold three back for $20,000 each. In 2008 they were pulled out of service because of rust.

Skip to 2010 and an idea for a boutique office block at 48 Easey Street was being hatched by Melbourne firm ITN Architects, a young company which includes several musicians and strong links to the street-art, graffiti and hip-hop subcultures. South African-born Mr Belling is a director. His firm is also co-developer of the project.

''It was just one of those absurd things,'' he says. The architects were sitting around looking at drawings, as architects do. ''Someone said, 'I wonder what it would look like with trains on top?'

''I made some calls and by the end of the week we had organised to buy three trains.''

He says the offices will be the second in a trilogy of ''hip-hop'' themed buildings. The first, The Hive Graffiti Apartments in Carlton, is built around concrete graffiti-style text. The Easey Street trains symbolise hip-hop and graffiti culture.

A large concrete ''P'' with an arrow on the front of the building is a reference to old-school graffiti writers who would use those same symbols to point to their work on moving trains.

The door handles on the front will be made from train tracks. Yellow stripes on the balconies will mimic station platform lines while raised dots, or ''tactile indicators'' also used on platforms, will be used decoratively.

The train exteriors will remain while the insides will be made over - possibly, Mr Belling says, in his favoured 2001: A Space Odyssey sci-fi style of white rubber minimalism.

Mr Horne sells the trains for $10,000 to $15,000 each. He has sold others for use as a bed-and-breakfast in Queensland, a food van on the Hume near Liverpool and a training ''train'' for Victoria Police.

''I've sold one to the architects, got a deposit on the second and the third is going to happen,'' he says. ''When they contacted me and said what they wanted to do I was gobsmacked, to be totally honest with you. It is an unusual looking building, I'll give them that.''

Yarra Council approved the building in part because it ''recycled'' the trains. Councillor Geoff Barbour said the council was into preserving the heritage of the history-rich area, as well as encouraging ''interesting new design''.