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Port Augusta : major industries : railways

Port Augusta was the central hub for the Commonwealth Railway, the Trans Australian Railway that linked Western Australia with the eastern seaboard. The industries and work which the railway provided included washing of laundry, supply of fresh food such as meat and fish, as well as train crew, engineers, general tradesmen, and the Workshops located in Port Augusta where locomotive and rolling stock repairs were undertaken. The South Australian Railway also used Port Augusta as a central point in its northern rail network.

1878 - Northern Railway (now known as the Ghan)

The building of the Northern Railway (now known as the Ghan) and the Pichi Richi railway in 1878 brought a great influx of people and also increased business activity in the town, with Augusta's population reaching two thousand by November 1878. Already large quantities of wheat wool and copper were being directly exported from Port Augusta to England, and the construction of the railway anticipated a further increase in trade.

It was meant to be the first stage of the Great Northern Railway that was intended to link Port Augusta with Darwin.

The line was completed from Port Augusta to Quorn in 1879, and was extended to Oodnadatta in 1891. Oodnadatta remained the terminus of the line until 1929 when the line was extended to Alice Springs. The line was finally extended to Darwin in 2004.

The line between Port Augusta and Quorn through the Pichi Richi pass became the only common section of east west and north south railways. The Trans Australian (which runs from Adelaide to Perth) and the Ghan travelled the route until the line was fully bypassed by alternative routes and closed in 1956.

This section, between Port Augusta and the Oodnadatta line was disused for 17 years until the Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society was formed in 1973, to open the line up between Quorn through the Pichi Richi Pass to Port Augusta as a tourist railway offering steam train rides.

1912 East West Line or the Trans Australian line

In 1912 the Commonwealth government commenced the construction of the East West Line which was designed to connect Port Augusta with Kalgoorlie across the Nullarbor Plain. Construction was completed in 1917. This line was built as part of the conditions Western Australia put up before it would join the Federation of Australian in 1901. You can read more about this at: http://john.curtin.edu.au/railway/earlytravel/kalgoorlie.html

When the Kalgoorlie/Perth railway line was finally converted to standard gauge in 1970, the service seamlessly traveled from Sydney to Perth without the tedium of 'break-of-gauge' changeovers and the passenger service became known as the Indian Pacific.

Indian Pacific

The Indian Pacific is a twice weekly passenger service which runs the route between Sydney and Perth. The train first ran in 1970 after the entire 4352 kilometres route between Sydney and Perth was converted to standard gauge.

It utilises the line for the Trans-Australian Railway across the Nullarbor from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. From Port Augusta the line diverges south to Adelaide, then returns along the same track to Crystal Brook before travelling east to Sydney via Broken Hill and Parkes.

Further references:

Anderson, RJ, Solid town: the history of Port Augusta, Port Augusta: RJ Anderson, 1988

Mayes, Reginald John, Pictorial history of Port Augusta, Adelaide: Rigby, 1974

Historical souvenir of Port Augusta : sixty years of progress, 1876-1936: diamond jubilee and state centenary celebrations, June 27th-July 11th, 1936, [Port Augusta, S.A.: Port Augusta Diamond Jubilee and State Centenary Celebrations Committee, 1936] see pages 30-34

If you would like to see the current train routes please see Australia's great train journeys 

To find out more about the Pichi Richi railway please see the Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society web site  

A World port : Port Augusta the magnetic city ...images
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A World port : Port Augusta the magnetic city ...images
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A World port : Port Augusta the magnetic city ...images
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Commonwealth Railways : [menu]
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First passenger journey Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie
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Interview with Ron Fitch [sound recording]
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John Henry York : Railway memories
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Map of the mines of South Australia, 1863
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Map shewing lines of railways in South Australia
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Port Augusta : the railway, shipping and distributing
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South Australian railways [map]
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Trans-continental railway from Kalgoorlie, ...
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