Adelaide River railway station
|Line(s)||North Australia Railway|
|Distance||124 km (77 mi)|
Adelaide River railway station is a disused railway station and museum on the former North Australia Railway, in the Northern Territory, Australia. The station is located 124 km (77 mi) from the terminus of the line in Darwin and was the only station with refreshments available on the line. The shell of former Commonwealth Railways locomotive NSU 63 was relocated and displayed at the station from Wishart Siding in 2003.
North Australia Railway 1889 – 1976
The station officially opened in 1889, following the completion of the bridge across the Adelaide River in December 1888. The station building featured staff accommodation and a refreshment room for passengers. At the rear of the building, a reservoir and overhead water tank were provided for the steam locomotives working the line. In 1911, when administration of the Northern Territory was transferred to the Commonwealth Government, South Australian Railways control of the line and stations were assumed by Commonwealth Railways.
From 1918, an annual picnic was held at the station, which was shut down for the day to allow railway workers a day of rest and relaxation by the river. The tradition eventually became a public holiday in the Northern Territory even after the closure of the line, with the Picnic Day holiday falling on the first Monday in August each year. Traditional railway picnics are still held at the station by the Friends of the North Australia Railway organisation to mark the occasion. Several improvements were made to the station precinct during the 1920s and 30s. These included a turning triangle for locomotives and livestock loading facilities as well as the addition of post office, telephone exchange and banking services at the station.
During World War II, the township of Adelaide River became an important military base, and a large field hospital was established near the railway station. A siding was added to serve a Hospital train. A large depot was also established on the northern side of the river, served by trains delivering supplies to the military camps from the Port of Darwin, and a spur line constructed to the armoury at Snake Creek. At this time, the traffic on the line had increased eight times compared to the pre war years. As many as 247 per week were using the line by 1943, with Adelaide River station servicing most of this traffic. On 15 March 1941, a No. 12 Squadron Wirraway crashed near the railway station, killing both crew members.
Following the war, use of the North Australia Railway began to decline. A hotel and liquor licence were granted to the operators of the station refreshment rooms in the 1940s, however with the introduction of diesel locomotives the stopping times at the station were reduced considerably and the licence was transferred to another site. By 1958, the single weekly train to Larrimah only stopped at the station for ten minutes in the evening.
The yard surrounding the station was rationalised in 1967, with many of the wartime sidings removed. The rails were upgraded and the loop siding extended to accommodate the heavy ore trains from Frances Creek, now the only significant traffic on the line. Following the failure of this venture and damage caused by Cyclone Tracy in 1974, the decision was made to close the line in 1976, and the last passenger service stopped at the station on 29 June.
The station was abandoned following the closure of the line and began to fall into disrepair. In 1985, the building was added to the now-defunct Register of the National Estate, due to the station's historical significance in the early settlement and wartime defence of the Northern Territory. Restoration works were completed on 16 July 1988 and the building was open to the public as a museum.
In 2001, the Friends of the North Australia Railway society was formed  and currently operate the museum, known as the Adelaide River Railway Heritage Precinct on behalf of the National Trust. The society maintains the main station building as well as some rolling stock, memorabilia and associated infrastructure around the Adelaide River yard and other locations along the former line. A goal for the society is to restore a section of track north from the station to the Snake Creek armoury and run a tourist train, however little progress has been made on this since the opening of the Adelaide-Darwin Railway on a similar alignment through the town.
In 2004, The Adelaide to Darwin standard gauge railway line was opened, with the tracks passing through the former yard at Adelaide River. The new alignment was built on top of the original third siding, with two of the original narrow gauge tracks preserved for use by the museum.
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