Trans-Australian Railway celebrates centenary

HISTORY: A commemorative monument acknowledging the centenary of the Trans-Australian Railway was unveiled on Sunday, October 22.
HISTORY: A commemorative monument acknowledging the centenary of the Trans-Australian Railway was unveiled on Sunday, October 22.

A CROWD of about 2000 people gathered at the Port Augusta Railway Station on Sunday, October 22 to celebrate the centenary of the Trans-Australian Railway opening.

The event marked the 100-year anniversary of the first passenger train that departed Port Augusta for Kalgoorlie on the same day in 1917. Kym Welsby, who organised the celebrations, said the event was a long time in the making.

“We’ve probably been working on it for 18 months now,” Mr Welsby said. 

“The last three or four months have been fairly hectic, but worthwhile because it turned out well.

“We’ve had people from interstate come back, from Adelaide, from south of Adelaide and from all over and that’s been the good thing. It has brought a lot of people back and a lot of memories.”

Those in attendance had the chance to tour the Pichi Richi Special Train, Pichi Richi Shuttle Train and Genesee & Wyoming Standard Gauge Train, gaining knowledge in the evolution of the train industry.

Former railway workers, together with state member for Stuart Dan van Holst Pellekaan, officially unveiled a commemorative monument at the Railway Station to mark the anniversary.

The Royal Australian Mint honoured the historic event by creating centenary coins, while Australia Post produced special stamps and postmarks.

Mr Welsby said the Trans-Australian Railway was significant in the history of both Port Augusta and Australia.

“It was the beginning of Port Augusta becoming a real town. We had gone from boom to bust all the way up until the early 1900’s and this changed it,” he said.

Mr Welsby, who worked in the railways for 14 years, said the Trans-Australian Railway was something that brought the community together.

“You knew a lot of people, a lot of families, everybody knew someone who worked in the railways and that was part of life,” he said.

“It was good growing up in Port Augusta for that very reason.”

The Port Augusta Music Club, SA Police Dixie Band and Desert Voices all performed at the event.

The ‘Living and Working on the TAR’ exhibition will run until the end of the month at the Platform Gallery.