Railway History of South Australia

South Australian Railway History


The first Ordinance, or Act of Parliament, regulating the construction of railways in South Australia, was passed in March 1847, barely ten years after the start of the colony. It did not authorise construction of a particular line, but it set out the conditions which would apply to any company interested in building or operating a railway. Until very recently, no private company ever constructed or operated a line in South Australia. Instead it has been a government enterprise right from the start.


Accidents did happen occasionally.

With the start of the first horse drawn tramway between Goolwa and Port Elliot in 1852 to the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs line in 1929, railways have been important to South Australia. Railways either opened up the country ahead of settlement or followed it. It reduced transport cost and isolation for the many farmers, pastoralists and miners, making it possible to compete on world markets.


So did floods!

After years of operating three different railway gauges South Australians opted for road transport and many of the lines, including the famous GHAN, were closed and taken up. Very few new lines have been added to the system since.


Riding Piggy-back to solve the different gauge problems.

Today the South Australian Government once more hopes that the line from Adelaide to Darwin can finally be completed. Steamtrains now provide trips, for tourists and railway enthusiasts, through the Pichi Richi Pass, the Adelaide Hills and from Goolwa to Victor Harbour.

It is now more than 150 years since the passing of the 1847 Act and finally some of the railways in South Australia are owned and operated by private companies.

The good news is that after 125 years, when almost everyone had given up hope, the line is being extended to Darwin and will be operating by the end of 2003.

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