Central Australia Railway (Retired - The Old Ghan)

Central Australia Railway (Retired - The Old Ghan)
The former Central Australia Railway was originally a 1241 km narrow gauge (3'6") railway between Adelaide and Alice Springs. A standard gauge line replaced the southern section from Port Augusta to Maree in 1957 although utilised a new nearby route. The current standard gauge Adelaide-Darwin railway (Ghan), however uses an alternative route up to 200 km to the west. A small southern section of the original line between Port Augusta and Quorn has been preserved as the Pichi Richi Tourist Railway. A small section just south of Alice Springs has also been preserved
Central Australia Railway Naming
Whilst officially the Central Australia Railway, it has been known by a number of names.
It was originally referred to the Port Augusta-Oodnadatta railway before the line was extended towards Alice Springs and it was also referred to as the North-South Railway in possible anticipation to extend the line to Darwin.
It has also often been referred to as the Great Northern Railway in the 1890s and into the twentieth century. The most southern part of the line between Port Augusta and Quorn is now referred to as the Pichi Richi Tourist Railway.
Another name that has been re-purposed was The Ghan, after the passenger train that utilised the line. It is suggested that The 'Ghan name is in recognition of the Afghan Cameleers that plied their trade in the area well before the railway; however, see The Ghan (Etymology) for alternatives. This colloquial term for the railway appears to have been widely in use from at least the early 1930s, it may have been in use prior to this.
The new Adelaide-Darwin railway initially used The New Ghan as a trading name. It has now reverted to The Ghan, relegating the original line name colloquially as The Old Ghan.
Central Australia Railway History
Construction in the 1870s was by South Australian Railways as a 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) narrow gauge railway. The final part of the line closed in 1980 when the standard gauge line opened on a new alignment from Tarcoola to Alice Springs.
Oddnadatta to Alice Springs
The Northern Territory Act (Cth 1910) required the building of a North-South railway although no date was specified. Two unballasted routes were shortlisted with a Standard gauge line from Kingoonya to Alice Springs estimated at 4.5m pounds and the 1.7m pound narrow gauge extension from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. The 270 miles 65 chain extension was passed after a number of debates in Federal Parliament.
Railway workers were paid 5 pounds, 8 shillings a week and a request for this to be raised to 6 pounds per week was refused by Sir John Quick in the Federal Arbitration Court on 11 March 1927.
Concerns were raised regarding local Aboriginals with media reporting ""It is intended to ask the State and Federal Governments to endeavour to keep the wilder natives and especially those from the Musgrave and Everard ranges in their fastnesses for a few years."
The first train consisted of 12 carriages including Mail and Fruit vans. There were 60 first class and 60 second class passengers and left on 5 August 1929 however an official ceremony to be attended by the Prime Minister was cancelled due to the cost of running a special train.
Construction of CAR
←Construction starts 18 Jan 1878
←Quorn reached 1879
←Marree reached 1884
←Oodnadatta reached 1891
←Line handed to Commonwealth Government (1911)
←Commonwealth Railways commence line operations 1926
←Rumbalara reached (1928)
←Alice Springs reached 6 Aug 1929
←Hawker reached 1880
←Farina reached 1882
←Coward Springs reached 1888
  • 1957: South: Standard gauge line from Stirling North (near Port Augusta) to Marree opened replacing line via Quorn. The section between Beltana to Brachina is closed as well as Leigh Creek to Marree.
  • 1958: Brachina to Leigh Creek closed
  • 1972: Port Augusta to Hawker closed
  • Some sections of the narrow-gauge line remain in operation as the Pichi Richi Railway
  • 1980: Line closed, replaced by Tarcoola-Alice Springs line
  • 2016: Telford Cut line mothballed after mine close
Central Australia Railway Flooding and Damage
Flooding occurred on a regular basis with a number of significant closures including...
  • 1936 A works train engine dived nose-first into Camel Creek near Rodinga with a fireman sustained a broken leg after the 30 foot Camel Creek bridge was undermined. The train was an engine and three carriages and was repairing tracks from recent floods. The driver also sustained unspecified injuries.
  • 1936 16 Passengers and railway engineers were stranded at Finke River will "have to remain there for some days" with water 'four feet over the line'.
  • 1937 Reports of flooding delaying trains for at least 3 days
  • 1939 Reports of six weeks of disruptions and headlines of "Train Weeks Late". Food shortages in Alice Springs after the train was delayed 34 days.
  • 1963 (May) 114 of the 140 Ghan passengers were airlifted to Alice Spings on five special flights after a week of delays. The floods "were the worse since 1938" and bread was dropped to the train.
  • 1967 The track was closed for approximately 27 days after the track was breached in more than 32 places including destroying the Finke River Bridge. A "minor Berlin airlift" was required for Alice Springs. There were three proposals to improve the line were mentioned by the Commissioner of Commonwealth Railways. This included a new route from Tarcoola to Alice Springs which the current Adelaide–Darwin railway may be based on,
  • Extending the Standard gauge from Marree to Alice Springs
  • Improving the existing narrow gauge line.
  • 1974 All roads cut around Alice Springs.
Central Australia Railway List of Stations
The Route on a Signboard at Quorn Station
Port Augusta
Port Augusta racetrack
Stirling North
Woolshed Flat
Pichi Richi
Hookina (the siding was actually at the nearby town of Wonoka)
Mern Merna
Commodore (Meadows)
Nilpena (Originally Blackfellows Creek)
Copley (Originally Leigh Creek)
Farina (Originally Government Gums)
Marree (Originally Hergott Springs)
Alberrie Creek
Lake Eyre
Stuart's Creek (Curdimurka)
Margaret Siding
Coward Springs
Strangways Springs
William Creek
Anna Creek
Box Creek
Duff Creek
Edward's Creek
Peake Creek
Mount Dutton
North Creek
Wire Creek
Mount Sarah
Mount Rebecca
Mount Emery
Bloods Creek
Wall Creek
Crown Point
Mount Squire
Deep Well
Mount Polhill
Mount Ertiva
Alice Springs
Alice Springs Abattoirs
Central Australia Railway Conditions of the Track
The tortuously curving narrow-gauge line between Marree and Alice Springs was notoriously prone to delays, often caused by flash floods washing away bridges and tracks. Some track was laid on sand without ballast, and wood sleepers were used, serving as food for termites, causing unstable tracks.
Central Australia Railway on Film
Shortly before the closure of the narrow gauge line in 1980, BBC Television filmed an episode of the television series Great Railway Journeys of the World featuring the original route of the Ghan (and the infamously slow speed of the train).
Central Australia Railway Communities after closure
One major change with the building of the new line (and resulting closure of the old) was that Oodnadatta and other communities along the route of the original line lost their railway service.
Central Australia Railway Heritage trail
The old railway route is now a heritage trail
Central Australia Railway (The Old Ghan) Overview
Service Type: Transcontinental passenger rail
Status: Abandoned
Locale: Australia
First Service: 1878 (to Quorn)
Last Service: 1980
Former Operator(s): Commonwealth Railways
Australian National
Route Start: Adelaide
Route End: Port Augusta
Track Gauge: 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) & 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge
Central Australia Railway (The Old Ghan) Route
1243km Alice Springs abattoirs
1241km Alice Springs
1237km Heavitree
1232km Macdonnell triangle
1231km Start of preserved line
1231km Macdonnell
1224km Mount Ertiva (Mount Ertwa)
1224km End of preserved line
1208km Ewaninga
1192km Pohill Siding
1175km Ooraminna
1163km Deep Well
1163km Deep Well triangle
1141km Rodinga
1125km Maryvale
1099km Bundooma
1076km Engoordina
1060km Mount Squire
1044km Rumbalara
1044km Rumbalara tri/stockyard
1028km Musgrave
1014km Finke (Aputula)
1012km Finke Stockyards
997km Crown Point
981km Duffield
965km Wall Creek
962km Northern Territory South Australia  border
945km Abminga
945km Abminga triangle
929km Bloods Creek
908km Ilbunga
895km Mount Emery
876km Pedirka
859km Mt Rebecca
841km Mt Sarah (Stevenson Ck)
825km Macumba
811km Alberga
804km Wire Creek
792km Todmorten
771km Oodnadatta triangle/sidings
770km Oodnadatta
744km North Creek
729km Mount Dutton stock yards
729km Mount Dutton
728km Mount Dutton triangle
715km Algebuckina Bridge
714km Algebuckina
698km Peake Ck Siding
683km Warrina Siding triangle
682km Warrina Siding
666km Edwards Creek triangle
666km Edwards Creek
666km Edwards Siding
650km Duff Creek (Weedina)
632km Boorthana
616km Box Creek
600km Anna Creek
588km Douglas
574km William Creek
573km William Ck Triangle
554km Irrappatana
537km Strangways Springs
525km Beresford
501km Coward Springs
501km Coward Springs Triangle
489km Margaret Siding
473km Curdimurka (Stuart's Ck)
453km Lake Eyre
440km Bopeechee
425km Alberrie Creek
407km Wangianna
387km Callanna
373km Marree SG-NG i/change
373km Marree stockyards
372km Marree
359km Mundownda
Witchelina Siding
339km Wirrawilla
320km Farina triangles
320km Farina
294km Lyndhurst
Old Mine loop
271km Telford
End of Leigh Creek Line
Telford Cut Mine
262km Copley
Leigh Creek
247km Puttapa
232km Beltana
212km Nilpena (Black Fellows Ck)
196km Parachilna fettler cottages
195km Parachilna
183km Commodore (Meadows)
173km Brachina Siding
163km Edeowie
137km Mern Merna
124km Hookina (Wonoka)
105km Hawker
89.6km Wilson
73.0km Gordon
57.5km Willochra
Depot Creek
40.1km Peterborough–Quorn Railway
40.0km End of Pichi Richi railway
39.8km Quorn
38.8km Pichi Richi workshops
32.4km Summit
29.6km Pichi Richi
23.6km Woolshed Flat
18.2km Saltia
Goods Yard
6.8km Leigh Creek Line underpass
6.5km Stirling North
4.1km Port Augusta Racetrack
0km Port Augusta
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