Tea and Sugar Train

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Tea & Sugar
Tea and sugar.jpg
Residents of trackside camps along the Trans-Australian Railway enter the Provision Store wagon on the Tea & Sugar train
First service1917
Last service30 August 1996
Former operator(s)Australian National
StartPort Augusta
Distance travelled1,692 kilometres
Train number(s)4205/4280
Line(s) usedTrans-Australian Railway

The Tea & Sugar was a dedicated train that serviced isolated Australian towns on the Nullarbor Plain between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie along the Trans-Australian Railway. The train was significant because it provided all the supplies used by remote towns in South and Western Australia.


The Tea and Sugar began in 1917 as a supply train for workers constructing the Trans-Australian Railway. Railway workers depended on the train for every necessity as the rail link was the main form of regular transport into the region.

After the line was completed, settlements began to grow along the line route, and there became a growing need to transport city luxuries to these isolated areas. Livestock were brought on this train as food for the settlements, and the train had its own butchering facilities. There was even a movie car that allowed townspeople to view the latest movies inside the train car when the train pulled into town.

Each time the train crossed the Nullarbor Plain, it brought along different cars to suit the different needs of outback residents throughout the year. On some trains there was a bank car, which allowed residents to make financial transactions, and in December there was a Christmas car, with a Santa that travelled from town to town.

In the late 1970s, the Flinders Medical Centre travelled occasionally on the train to provide care for those in the outback. The Tea & Sugar was withdrawn in August 1996. Some carriages have been preserved at the National Railway Museum, Port Adelaide.[1][2][3][4]

It originally operated a 1,692 kilometre journey from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. A 1985 timetable saw the westbound service depart Port Augusta at 12:00 on Wednesday arriving at Kalgoorlie at 14:15 on Saturday, with the eastbound service departing at 15:00 on Wednesday arriving at 18:55 on Friday.[5]

This was later cut back to an 822 kilometre journey from Port Augusta to Cook. The east bound journey was known as The Bomber in recognition of the supplies it provided to the Maralinga and Woomera atomic bases in the 1960s.[6]


  1. ^ Tea & Sugar Train ABC News 28 June 2009
  2. ^ Tea & Sugar Butcher's Van FA640 National Railway Museum
  3. ^ Tea & Sugar Provision Van National Railway Museum
  4. ^ Tea & Sugar Pay Car PA281 National Railway Museum
  5. ^ "South Australia" Railway Digest December 1985 page 376
  6. ^ "Tea & Sugar Bites the Dust" Railway Digest October 1996 page 21

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