Dry Creek-Port Adelaide railway line

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Dry Creek-Port Adelaide railway line
Type freight only since 1988
Status Operational
Locale AU-SA
Termini Dry Creek railway station
Port Dock originally, now Outer Harbor
Opened 1 February 1868 (1868-02-01)
Converted to dual gauge 1982
Passenger service ended May 1988
Extended across Port River August 2008
Track gauge dual gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge and 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)
Old gauge 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)
Route map
*  = Broad gauge 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) only.
Dry Creek
Gawler line
to Gawler
Gawler line (1600 mm)
to Adelaide
Adelaide-Crystal Brook line
to Crystal Brook
Adelaide-Crystal Brook line (1435 mm)
to Melbourne
Magazine Road
Barker Inlet
Australian National Route A13.svg South Road
Crossing Loop - Bishop
(Closed 1987) Wingfield
Railway Terrace
Hanson Road
Cormack Road
(Closed 1987) North Arm Road
One Steel
North Arm Road
Rosewater Loop (Disused)
Finsbury line to Woodville
(1600 mm, closed 1979, dismantled 1985)
Eastern Parade (Closed 1987)
Eastern Parade
Grand Junction Road (Closed 1988)
Grand Junction Road Grand Junction Road
Bedford Street
Newcastle Street
Port River Expressway Port River Expressway
Rosewater (Closed 1988)
Kerry Logistics
Container Terminal
Canning Street
Perkins Drive
Russell Street
Outer Harbor line
to Adelaide (1600 mm)
Western Mining
Grand Junction Road Grand Junction Road
Port Adelaide 'A' Cabin
Viterra Grain Silos
National Railway Museum
Port Adelaide
Commercial Road
until 1981
Mary MacKillop Bridge
Port River
Outer Harbor line
to Outer Harbor (1600 mm)
Jenkins Street
Nelson Street
Elder Road
Birkenhead Loop (Closed 2008)
Stirling Street
M Berth Access Road
Mobil Oil Sidings
Elder Road
Caltex Access Road
Willochra Street
Coal Gantry (Closed)
Electric Works (Closed)
ICI (Closed 1980)
Penrice Soda Products
(Closed 2014)
to Outer Harbor line at Osborne
facing Midlunga
Hamilton Avenue
Bolvay Road
Vietch Road
Viterra Grain Terminal
Pelican Point Crossing Loop 1550m
Pelican Point Road
Dubai Ports
Container Terminal
Mckenzie Intermodal Terminal

The Dry Creek to Port Adelaide railway is an eight-kilometre east–west line running through Adelaide’s north-western suburbs. The line is managed by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) and is an important link between Port Adelaide, Pelican Point and the main interstate rail routes which link Adelaide with Melbourne, Perth, Darwin and Sydney. Prior to 1988, a limited local passenger service operated, stopping at five intermediate stations along the line. Since May 1988, the line has been freight-only.

The main traffic using the Dry Creek to Port Adelaide line today is:

  • Intermodal freight trains (import/export containers)
  • Bulk grain trains from agricultural areas of South Australia for export via Port Adelaide
  • Other freight trains servicing industrial installations on the Le Fevre Peninsula (such as the Mobil oil terminal)


The route is mainly single track and is dual gauge throughout. Both broad gauge 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) standard gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) trains regularly use the line. The section between Dry Creek and Gillman Junction is particularly busy, with the ARTC opening a crossing loop at Wingfield in 2009 to help ease delays.[1][2]

Heading from Dry Creek, the line divides at Gillman Junction. The mainline heads northwest to the eastern bank of the Port River, where another branch heads to the rail yard & wharves at Port Flat[3][4]

The mainline continues over Perkins Drive towards the Mary MacKillop Bridge, over the port river and onto the Lefevre Peninsula. This section of the line was completed in 2008, along with the Port River Expressway project.

From here the line follows the western side of the Port River through Birkenhead and Osborne to the new container facility and grain terminal at Pelican Point and wharves at Outer Harbor.[3]

The other branch, known as the Rosewater Loop, has been disused since late 2008. The line curves south-west through the suburbs of Ottoway and Rosewater to join Adelaide Metro's suburban line to Outer Harbor at Port Adelaide Junction ('A' Cabin), just north of Alberton.[5][6]

Trains on this route continued along Adelaide Metro tracks over the Port Adelaide Viaduct and through the stations at Port Adelaide and Ethelton before branching off just south of Glanville station.

From Glanville an industrial line, the Birkenhead Loop, followed the southern side of Semaphore Road where it joined the current route just north of the Mary Mackillop Bridge. This line was closed and pulled up in 2008 with the completion of the new line over the Port River.


The Dry Creek to Port Adelaide railway opened on 1 February 1868. Its original purpose was to allow goods and minerals from South Australia’s mid-north and the River Murray (at Morgan) to reach the Port without needing to travel via Adelaide. This line ran directly into Port Dock station (now closed) which was Port Adelaide’s main rail yard in the 19th century.

Over the years, various alterations were made to the line as branch lines and goods yards opened and subsequently closed. One of the most important additions was the Rosewater Loop, which opened on 14 November 1915. The Rosewater Loop was built to help alleviate congestion at Port Dock yard. It linked at Port Adelaide "A" Junction with a new route to Glanville via the Commercial Road viaduct and Ethelton and helped divert all through trains away from the Port Dock bottleneck. This relatively new addition to the railway infrastructure became the main line.

The station and goods yards at Port Dock closed in 1981 and the original route into Port Adelaide through the Gillman marshalling yards closed when the Gillman yards were removed in the early 1990s.The old Port Dock is now the site of the National Railway Museum - Port Adelaide and is still connected to the Adelaide Metro network, although rarely sees any use.

In 1978, ownership and control of the Dry Creek to Port Adelaide line shifted from the State Government controlled State Transport Authority (STA) to the Federal Government controlled Australian National (AN). However the STA continued to operate local passenger trains over the route.

In 1982, the line was converted from broad gauge to dual gauge track. This coincided with AN’s conversion of the Crystal Brook to Adelaide line to standard gauge that same year.

Following conversion of the Adelaide to Melbourne corridor to standard gauge in 1995, a south-to-west triangle was constructed at Dry Creek. This link allows trains from Melbourne and the Islington Freight Terminal to travel directly to Port Adelaide without reversing in Dry Creek yard. This section of track is standard gauge only.

In August 2008, work was completed on two new bridges across the Port River at Port Adelaide, downstream of the inner harbour.[7] One of these, the Mary Mackillop Bridge, diverted trains away from the Rosewater Loop and allows them to completely bypass the suburban rail network in Port Adelaide. The other bridge is for road traffic on the Port River Expressway, which has been built parallel and closer to Port Adelaide.

The new bridges have caused a substantial change (and improvement) in road and rail traffic patterns around Port Adelaide. In particular, all rail freight to and from the Le Fevre Peninsula now travel along the Gillman Junction to Port Flat line and access the existing line to Pelican Point via the new bridge. Expanded handling facilities were constructed at Pelican Point and Outer Harbor, including a bulk grain handling terminal and overall rail tonnage is expected to increase.

Passenger services[edit]

Apart from a short stretch at the western end, the Dry Creek to Port Adelaide line travels through either industrial areas or undeveloped swampland. This has meant there has never been much significant passenger traffic on the line, apart from a couple of trains in the morning and another couple in the afternoon for workers commuting to various industrial premises.

In the early years passengers were carried along the line in carriages attached to goods trains. With introduction of Brill railcars to secondary services during the Webb era (the 1920s), things improved and several return trips ran each weekday between Dry Creek and Port Dock using the new railcars. Intermediate stops were available at:-

  • Wingfield (3.5 km from Dry Creek)
  • North Arm Road (4.5 km)
  • Eastern Parade (5.0 km)
  • Grand Junction Road (6.0 km)
  • Rosewater (7.0 km)

None of these stops had any substantial passenger facilities. They were either short platforms or small step-down structures by the lineside.

With the opening of the Holden car factory at Elizabeth in 1959, extra trains were added from Port Dock running through to GMH Elizabeth at shift-change time. By 1969, trains no longer stopped at Grand Junction Road or Eastern Parade stations. When Port Dock station closed in 1981, these trains were diverted to run to or from Outer Harbor via Commercial Road station.

By 1987, the STA had decided continued operation of the route was uneconomic. Trains ceased to call at Wingfield, North Arm Road and Eastern Parade stations after 31 May 1987. All passenger trains were withdrawn one year later and Rosewater and Grand Junction Road stations closed after the last train on 29 May 1988.


  1. ^ New rail loop in memory of a hard working Aussie Australian Rail Track Corporation 1 April 2009
  2. ^ News in Brief 20-26 May 2009 Archived 16 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Rail Express 27 May 2009
  3. ^ a b "Pelican Point Line" (PDF). SA Track & Signal. Retrieved 14 May 2016. 
  4. ^ D4 Mile End to Dry Creek to Outer Harbor Australian Rail Track Corporation
  5. ^ Port Line SA Track & Signal
  6. ^ Cheltenham - Etherton SA Track & Signal
  7. ^ Premier Mike Rann opens the Diver Derrick and Mary Mackillop road and rail bridges at Pt Adel ABC News 1 August 2008
  • Rails Through Swamp and Sand – A History of the Port Adelaide Railway. M. Thompson pub. Port Dock Station Railway Museum (1988) ISBN 0-9595073-6-1