Rail Transport

As the colony developed, and particularly with the discovery of copper to the north of Adelaide, the slow, rough and often impassable tracks led to a strong push for railway lines. This was aimed to improve access to Adelaide for transport of both people and goods. Export products such as wheat could be shipped from the various local ports along the gulfs, but with no export markets the destination of livestock was Adelaide. Meinig(Pascoe JJ, History of Adelaide and Vicinity, Hussey & Gillingham, Adelaide, (1901)) reports that in 1860 the rail reached Kapunda, and soon after this time lines from the hinterlands were being constructed to the ports along Spencer’s Gulf. By 1884 there was a broad gauge

Photo No.: 103768 Title: Alice Springs cattle train. Date: May 1959

(5 feet 3 inches) line to Terowie and a narrow gauge (3 feet 6 inches) line from there to Farina, reaching Oodnadatta by 1891 and then extended to reach Alice Springs by 1929. This gave access to the southern markets for the northern SA and central Australian cattle.

From the 1890’s cattle were thus able to be moved by rail to the Adelaide markets from the north. In 1887 the broad gauge line to Victoria was completed. The changing of gauges meant cattle had to be unloaded, rested and reloaded - both increasing bruising, and travel time plus it was also a costly exercise out of the control of the pastoralist.

1980’s changeover of the narrow gauge northern line to standard gauge by laying a new line further west accentuated the move to road transport from the northern cattle properties. The line skirted the western edge of the northern cattle properties and once loaded on trucks it was more efficient to send the cattle directly south to the saleyards or abattoirs.

Page Last Reviewed: 20 Nov 2017
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