Pichi Richi Railway

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Pichi Richi Railway
Pichi Richi Railway logo.png
NM25 w22 quorn.jpg
Two of Pichi Richi Railway's preserved locomotives (NM25 and W916) with a special-event train at Quorn station
Overview
StatusWorking heritage railway
Owner1879–1911: South Australian Railways
1911–1926: Commonwealth Railways (operated by SAR)
1926–1973: Commonwealth Railways
1973–present: Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society
LocaleFlinders Ranges, South Australia
Termini
StationsWoolshed Flat and Stirling North
Websitewww.pichirichirailway.org.au
Service
TypeHeritage railway
SystemSection of the former Central Australia Railway
Rolling stockLocomotives and carriages of:
South Australian Railways
Commonwealth Railways
Western Australian Government Railways
Silverton Tramway
History
Opened1879
Closed1957
Reopened1974 as heritage railway
Technical
Line length39 kilometres (24 mi)
Track gauge1067 mm (3 ft 6 in)
Highest elevationQuorn: 293 m (961 ft)
Summit: 406 m (1332 ft)
Port Augusta: 14 m (46 ft)
Route map

Pichi Richi Railway (narrow gauge)
km
39.8
Quorn
Quorn Pichi Richi Depot
32.4
Summit siding
23.6
Woolshed Flat
18.2
Saltia siding
Northern Power Station
0.0
Port Augusta
Pichi Richi Depot

The Pichi Richi Railway is a 39 kilometres (24 miles) narrow-gauge heritage railway in the southern Flinders Ranges of South Australia between Quorn and Port Augusta. For much of its length it lies in the picturesque Pichi Richi Pass, where the line was completed in 1879 as work proceeded north to build a railway to the "Red Centre" of Australia – the Central Australia Railway. The Commonwealth Railways ran trains through the pass until 1980, when it ceased its by then meagre services.

In 1973 the not-for-profit Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. was incorporated, initially to ensure conservation of the fine stonework and bridges in the Pichi Richi Pass. Soon the prospect of operating heritage trains became evident, and after undertaking restoration of deteriorated sections of the line, the society operated trains, at first tentatively, from 1974. Further track repairs allowed trains to travel to Stirling North – at that time the western termination of the line – by 1979. A newly built extension to Port Augusta was opened in 2001. The society continues to be managed and staffed by its volunteer members and operates its own restored steam and diesel hauled trains on a variety of services.[1]: 8–9, 51–56, 60  [2]: 13  [3]

Background[edit]

The line was built under severe cost restraints as part of the South Australian Railways' Port Augusta and Government Gums Railway. It started in 1878 at Port Augusta, proceeded through the Pichi Richi Pass (being opened at Quorn in 1879), and reached Marree (then named Hergott Springs) in 1884. In keeping with the intention to extend it to become a north–south transcontinental line, it was named the Great Northern Railway in 1882. When the Commonwealth Railways took over operations in 1926 it had the more prosaic name, given a year earlier, Central Australia Railway. Completed as far as Stuart (renamed in 1930 as Alice Springs) near the centre of Australia, the 1,225 kilometres (761 miles) line never went further north. Nevertheless, it served for a century as a lifeline for isolated outback communities, a vital link for supplies in World War II, and the setting for the famous passenger train, The Ghan.[1][2]: 8, 9  The Pichi Richi section also became the feeder route to the east–west Trans-Australian Railway from 1917 to 1937. It had the steepest gradients of the whole route, necessitated by the refusal of decion-makers to heed the advice of surveyors and engineers to stay west of the Flinders Ranges, giving priority instead to servicing promising copper prospects and expected agricultural wealth in the locality.[2]: 6 [1]: 5, 6  This source of decades of operational nuisance and expense has become, in the line's old age, the source of enjoyment for travellers as locomotives work hard to ascend the grades.

Locomotive W934 at Woolshed Flat in 2012
Diesel-electric locomotive NSU 52, unlike the railway's steam locomotives, is able to operate on days of high fire danger

The headquarters of the PRRPS is at the Quorn railway station, where restoration and repair work is undertaken by volunteers at the locomotive depot. Trains variously operate through the Pichi Richi Pass to Woolshed Flat and Port Augusta, and in also operates out of Port Augusta to Quorn. The volunteer organisation has fully restored a fleet of South Australian Railways (SAR), Commonwealth Railways (CR) and Western Australian Government Railways (WAGR) steam and diesel locomotives, passenger and freight rolling stock.


Pichi Richi (1974) (elevation 344 m or 1,129 ft), Woolshed Flat (1979) (elevation 269 m or 883 ft) and Stirling North (1999) on the original alignment, and to Port Augusta (2001) on a new alignment between Stirling North and Port Augusta.[4][5]

Pichi Richi is the name of the pass through which the railway travels, and is also the name of the former township located in the pass, after which the society is named. The name Pichi Richi is believed to come from the region being a traditional centre in the production of pituri, a mixture of leaves and ash chewed as a stimulant by the First Nations people in Australia.

Current operations[edit]

The PRRPS continues to expand the type and number of services as more rollingstock and track is restored and rehabilitated.

The Afghan Express is a return trip to Quorn from Port Augusta (78 kilometres return). This train usually consists of Ghan carriages from the 1920s and is often hauled, wherever possible, by an original Ghan steam locomotive, NM25, and recreates the type of travel experienced on the Ghan in the 1930s and 1940s.[6]

Flinders Ranges Visitor Information Centre, located in Quorn station, together with Museum, souvenir shop & ticket office.

A shorter journey, the Pichi Richi Explorer, is a return service to Woolshed Flat departing from Quorn (32 kilometres return). Travel on this train is either in South Australian Railway carriages circa 1900 to 1915 hauled by a steam locomotive, or in a 1928 SAR diesel railcar. The use of older SAR rollingstock on this train replicates what it was like to travel by country rail in South Australia in the very early 1900s to the 1960s. Much of this rolling stock was in service until the end of narrow gauge passenger operations by the South Australian Railways.[7]

Other special services include occasional "double header" steam trains, and dinner trains originating in Port Augusta and stopping at the track-side Willows Brewery Restaurant en route to Quorn. A new service introduced in 2010 saw guests dining on the train in a first class dining carriage, with a 3-course meal prepared in the carriage's kitchen by a local hotel's chef. Trains and carriages are also available for private hire, suiting a range of different occasions from weddings to tour groups.[8][9]

Major projects[edit]

The PRRPS has completed a number of major projects since its inception in 1973. These include return to service of steam locomotives and heritage rolling stock, rebuilding large sections of railway line and permanent way and the restoration of historic buildings.

Rebuild of steam locomotive NM25[edit]

Former Commonwealth Railways steam locomotive NM25 was built in 1925 and was used on the narrow gauge train line between Port Augusta and Alice Springs. It is one of only two surviving examples of this class of steam locomotive. NM25 had remained static from 1965 until 1989, when PRRPS acquired it with the intention of restoring it to operational condition. An overhaul commenced in 2000. The locomotive was recommissioned on 26 April 2003.[10][11]

Track extension to Port Augusta[edit]

History of the project[edit]

During the Commonwealth Railways era (from 1937 to 1957), the train line between Stirling North and Port Augusta was dual gauge. Narrow gauge served the line to Quorn and the standard gauge, which branched at Stirling North, was for the line to Port Pirie and also to Marree. A new standard gauge line to Marree was built in the 1950s on a new route west of the Pichi Richi Pass, with the purpose of bypassing the narrow gauge section of the Central Australia Railway to Marree, through Quorn and Hawker. The narrow gauge component of the section dual gauge track between Stirling North and Port Augusta was removed once the standard gauge line to Marree was in full operation, and the narrow gauge route from Hawker to Marree had been closed and removed. This meant that the remaining narrow gauge line from Stirling North to Hawker via Quorn was now isolated. On the occasions that a narrow gauge train needed to travel to Port Augusta or to Marree, the train would need to utilise a piggy back system. This arrangement saw the entire narrow gauge train loaded on top of a standard gauge train of flatcars and transported via standard gauge, then unloaded at the destination on to the existing narrow gauge.[12]

The first stage of returning narrow gauge train services to Port Augusta was the completion of 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) of track rehabilitation between Woolshed Flat and Stirling North. This work included the complete replacement of sleepers and rail, re-timbering of several bridges and the construction of a turning triangle at Stirling North. Part of the $1.35 million Pichi Richi Railway Development Plan project, it was completed in 1999. The extension was opened on 24 October 1999 by former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia Tim Fischer.[13][14][15]

It was announced in 2000 that funding was available through the State Government of South Australia, and the Port Augusta City Council to extend the train line from Stirling North in to Port Augusta railway station. However, there were significant works required for to complete this project.

Crossing the standard gauge[edit]

Because the existing narrow gauge between Stirling North and Port Augusta had been removed many years earlier, the challenge for the PRRPS was to develop an effective means of reinstating the narrow gauge in to Port Augusta. The greatest aspect to this challenge was how to cross over what remained of the standard gauge line to Marree, which had since been truncated at Telford Cut coal mine near Leigh Creek with the opening of the newer standard gauge line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs in 1980. This line to Leigh Creek was exclusively used for transporting coal from Leigh Creek to Northern Power Station, and branched off the main standard gauge network at Stirling North. Many options for crossing this line were investigated, including a draw bridge arrangement, diamond crossovers and an underpass. The final decision was an underpass, passing below the Leigh Creek coal train line, which greatly reduced the amount of safe working interfacing with the standard gauge line.[12] Diagram.[16][17]

Project completion[edit]

The remainder of the narrow gauge line was constructed parallel to the standard gauge into Port Augusta, arriving at Platform 2 at Port Augusta station. The rail for this project was sourced from the dismantled Cambrai to Apamurra railway line in South Australia's Murray Mallee region.[18] A turntable relocated from Kapunda was installed near the station, and a depot and sheds were constructed next to the Port Augusta station for housing a locomotive and rolling stock for Pichi Richi Railway operations originating at Port Augusta.

Other route extension works[edit]

Other works included:[19]

  • earthworks requiring the excavation and placement of approximately 25,000 m3 (33,000 cu yd) of material
  • dismantling, transporting and relaying of 1300 lengths of 12.2 m (40 ft) long rail totalling 500 tonnes (490 long tons; 550 short tons)
  • constructing six turnouts at Port Augusta to provide a run-around loop and access to the storage shed and turntable
  • laying about 11,500 redgum and steel sleepers
  • using 30,000 second-hand dogspikes, 10,000 screwspikes and 5,200 fishbolts
  • transporting, distributing and tamping 8,000 tonnes (7,900 long tons; 8,800 short tons) of track ballast
  • designing, manufacturing, transporting and installing 13 large precast concrete culvert crowns and base sections for the underpass – achieved in 60 hours to avoid disrupting coal trains from Leigh Creek
  • installing about 1600 pieces of pin-crib[20] walling[21] to the underpass at Stirling North.

The extension was officially opened 15 September 2001 by the local state MP, Graham Gunn, the then state Tourism Minister Joan Hall, and Port Augusta Mayor Joy Baluch.[22]

The extension to Port Augusta won the 2002 Permanent Way Institute (SA Section) Trackwork Achievement Award[12][23]

Other projects[edit]

Significant projects completed by Pichi Richi Railway in recent years[when?] include:

  • overhaul and return to service of WAGR steam locomotive W934
  • overhaul and return to service of WAGR steam locomotive W916 (rebuilt as W22)
  • rebuild of several original Commonwealth Railways narrow-gauge carriages, including:
    • NABPA class passenger carriage, numbers 25, 26 and 27
    • NIA class passenger carriage number 36 – distinguished as the vehicle that in World War II carried United States General Douglas MacArthur, his wife, son and amah from Alice Springs to Adelaide via Quorn after they had escaped the Japanese advance of the Philippines (it was at Terowie that MacArthur made his famous declaration, "I came through and I shall return" [24] from the end platform of the car)
    • NSS class special service observation carriage number 34, used by the Duke of Gloucester on a royal train during his 1934 visit to Australia[25]
    • NYAB class composite brake van carriage number 15
  • restoration of SAR Brill railcar trailer 305
  • restoration and return to service of motor inspection car MIC 126, a 1937 Morris 25 Morris motor vehicle that runs on railway wheels
  • restoration of SAR refreshment carriage Light
  • rebuild of SAR passenger carriage number 5
  • tyre replacement and crank journal machining of loco W934.

Ongoing projects:

  • rebuild of SAR steam locomotive Yx141
  • cylinder profiling and new pistons NM25
  • acquisition of former SAR 830 class locomotives 843 & 846
  • tyre repairs and bogie overhaul NT76
  • rebuild of SAR Long Tom passenger carriage number 470.

Future projects:

  • tyre replacement on W22 (W916)
  • restoration of SAR locomotive T186 to working order.

Rolling stock[edit]

Motive power[edit]

As of June 2022, the society's operational motive power was three steam locomotives, two diesel locomotives, a diesel railcar and a steam motor coach, among a total fleet as follows:[26]

Class Number Former Operator Wheel arrangement Condition Comments
W 916 WAGR 4-8-2 Operational Rebuilt as W22
W 931 WAGR 4-8-2 Stored
W 933 WAGR 4-8-2 Stored
W 934 WAGR 4-8-2 Operational
W 22 ST 4-8-2 Stored ex Silverton Tramway
T 186 SAR 4-8-0 Stored
Yx 141 SAR 2-6-0 Overhaul
Wx 18 SAR 2-6-0 Stored Disassembled
3 BHP 2-6-2T Stored Tank locomotive
NM 25 CR 4-8-0 Operational
NB 30 CR C Operational Diesel hydraulic locomotive, used for shunting and occasional maintenance train duties.
NSU 51 CR A1A-A1A Stored
NSU 52 CR A1A-A1A Operational
NSU 54 CR A1A-A1A Stored
NT 76 CR Co-Co Operational used for shunting, train operations and occasional maintenance train duties.
DE 10 BHP Bo-Bo Stored
SMC 1 SAR/CR 2-2-0WT Operational Steam Motor Coach No.1 "Coffee Pot"
RC 106 SAR - Operational Diesel railcar

Carriages[edit]

Restored carriages were as follows:[27]

Class Number Former Operator Description Comments
5 SAR Short Tom (157 type)
74 SAR Short Tom (American type)
90 SAR Short Tom (American type)
167 SAR Short Tom (157 type) Commissioner's carriage named "Flinders" by SAR 1929-30
169 SAR Short Tom (157 type) Officers Sleeping carriage named "Sturt" by SAR 1929-30
170 SAR Short Tom (157 type) Officers Kitchen and Dining carriage named "Light" by SAR 1929-30
175 SAR Short Tom (157 type) Officers Sleeping carriage named "Lincoln" by SAR 1929-30
207 SAR Long Tom
209 SAR Long Tom Named "Wandana" by PRRPS after rebuild, guards unit.
305 SAR Brill Railcar trailer Formerly number 219 on broad gauge, numbered "305" by PRRPS
4891 SAR Composite bogie brake van
4894 SAR Composite bogie brake van Power Brake
Alberga SAR Broken Hill Express carriage Sleeping carriage
Coonatto SAR Broken Hill Express carriage Sleeping carriage
Nilpena SAR Broken Hill Express carriage Sleeping carriage
NYAB 15 CR Composite brake van Rebuilt by PRRPS in a different format to the original
NABPa 25 CR Composite sitting
NABPa 26 CR Composite sitting
NABPa 27 CR Composite sitting
NSS 34 CR Special Service Car No. 3 First class sleeping, dining and observation carriage. Used for special hires.
NIA 36 CR Composite first class sleeping Includes kitchen and dining area

Awards[edit]

Pichi Richi Railway has received many significant awards, including the following:[28]

Year Award
1984 South Australian Association of Regional Tourist Organisations Inc, Harry Dowling Award for Tourism Excellence
1984 Flinders Ranges Regional Tourist Association Inc, Tourism Award Winner for the Most Significant Tourism Enterprise
1987 State Bank South Australian Tourism Awards, Tourist Attractions category
1987 Flinders Ranges Regional Tourist Association Inc, Tourism Award Winner for the Most Significant Tourist Enterprise
1992 State Bank South Australian Tourism Awards, Judges' Commendation - Significant Local Attractions category
1997 Yellow Pages South Australian Tourism Awards, Award of Distinction - Heritage and Cultural Tourism category
2002 Permanent Way Institution SA Section, Trackwork Achievement Award
2014 South Australian Regional Awards, StatewideSuper Tourism Award
2019 Nominated Finalist in South Australian Tourism Awards
2021 Winner of the Tourist Attraction category in the South Australian Tourism Awards

Visiting operators[edit]

PRRPS has hosted vehicles of other heritage railway operators.

The first occasion, in October 1981, was when Steamtown ran a train to Quorn. This was the last steam-hauled train and last passenger train to travel on the Peterborough–Quorn railway line all the way to Quorn. Although the Quorn station yard and line to Peterborough was still under the control of Australian National at this time, the Steamtown trip became the last steam-hauled train and last passenger train to travel the entire Peterborough to Quorn railway line. Steamtown's ex WAGR Pmr720 was the only Pacific type steam locomotive to ever visit Quorn.[29]

The Australian Society of Section Car Operators negotiated an access agreement with PRRPS and subsequently its members used the railway between Quorn and Stirling North to operate their section cars on the weekend of 22 and 23 March 2003.[30]

Former BHAS locomotive "Peronne" and Short Tom carriage 144 from the National Railway Museum have operated on Pichi Richi Railway.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Babbage, Jack; Barrington, Rodney (1984). The history of the Pichi Richi railway (2nd ed.). Quorn, South Australia: Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. ISBN 0959850961.
  2. ^ a b c Anchen, Nick (2019). Outback railwaymen: life on the Commonwealth Railways. Melbourne: Sierra Publishing. ISBN 9780992538880.
  3. ^ "Pichi Richi Railway". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society. 2022. Retrieved 29 June 2022.
  4. ^ "PRR Steams in to Port Augusta, line officially opened". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 29 June 2022.
  5. ^ "Port Augusta track extension project". Pichi Richi Railway. 2003. Retrieved 29 June 2022.
  6. ^ "Afghan Express Train Service Information". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  7. ^ "Pichi Richi Explorer Train Service Information". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  8. ^ "Dinner Train Service Information". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Archived from the original on 9 April 2010. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  9. ^ "Private Train Hire Information". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  10. ^ "The NM25 Restoration Project". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  11. ^ "Outback icon returns to steam on Pichi Richi Railway". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Archived from the original on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  12. ^ a b c "Port Augusta Track Extension". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society.
  13. ^ "Stirling North Opening". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society. 24 October 1999. Archived from the original on 27 July 2011.
  14. ^ "The Pichi Richi Railway Extension". ARHS Bulletin. No. 751. Australian Railway History. May 2000. p. 163.
  15. ^ "Pich Richi Extension". Railway Digest. June 2000. p. 47.
  16. ^ "Port Augusta track extension project". Pichi Richi Railway.
  17. ^ "Stirling North Opening". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Archived from the original on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  18. ^ "Stirling North Opening - Part 5: May 2001". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  19. ^ "Pichi Richi". Port Augusta City Council. Archived from the original on 4 May 2010. Retrieved 3 February 2010.
  20. ^ "PINCRIB" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  21. ^ "Lumber Retaining Wall - Crib Wall". Retainingwall Design.
  22. ^ "Official Opening of Port Augusta Extension". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  23. ^ "The Pichi Richi Railway Port Augusta Extension Project, 2002 Trackwork Achievement Award Submission" (PDF). Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  24. ^ "I came through; I shall return". The Advertiser (Adelaide). Vol. LXXXIV, no. 26, 040. (Original, Adelaide. Digital reproduction, Canberra: National Library of Australia – Trove digital newspaper archive). 21 March 1942. p. 1. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  25. ^ "Commonwealth Railways Special Car no. 3, NSS34". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Archived from the original on 19 February 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  26. ^ "Locomotives and railcars". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 29 June 2022.
  27. ^ "Carriages". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 29 June 2022.
  28. ^ "Awards". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 29 June 2022.
  29. ^ Evans, J. (2009). Proceed to Quorn. Railmac Publications. ASIN B0032AHIBO.ISBN 978-1-86477-066-X
  30. ^ George, N. (March 2003). "Pichi Richi Railway". Trackside. No. 18. Australian Society of Section Car Operators. ISSN 1446-7461.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 32°20′42″S 138°02′28″E / 32.34512°S 138.04114°E / -32.34512; 138.04114 (Quorn)