Characterized by the problems of break-of-gauge, rail in Australia developed independent
systems in each State. Later some of these rail systems overflowed into the neighboring
States creating change of gauge points on the main line in every state.
Railroads In Australia
Narrow Ga./Standard Ga.
That is an old problem rapidly being consigned to history. As the older lines close and
the few new lines are constructed as standard gauge lines come on line as standard gauge,
the Australian Railway scene approaches a uniform rail gauge throughout. The 1420km
Darwin to Alice Springs, line was completed in December 2003 and trains began operating
early in 2004. The first concepts had begun in 1911. Constructed to standard gauge the
new line contrasts with the old line south from Darwin, built by South Australia in their
1066mm tradition. The original line never reached Alice Springs. The new connection
allows trains from Darwin to serve connections in every mainline capital city of
Australia without change of gauge.
When railway construction began in Melbourne and Sydney during the early 1850's, the
then-colonial construction companies brought engineers from England to supervise the
In the Victoria the broad gauge dominated for more than 100 years before the standard gauge
was built into Melbourne completing the connection to Sydney. Adelaide's standard gauge
connection to Melbourne waited until the mid-90's to eventuate. Once re-gauging began it
was completed quickly. No three rail track: the line was re-gauged across Victoria in quick
time via Geelong, Ballarat and the old border terminal of Dimboola. After months of
preparation rail traffic stopped for only two weeks while the rail was re-laid.
The rail lines of Victoria now include a healthy traffic on the western lines of New
South Wales. Built across the Murray river 70 years ago into the grain growing areas
of southern NSW. These are nearer to the port of Geelong, in Port Philip Bay, than to
Sydney Cove, or any other port in NSW.
Other operating equipment at Korumburra includes Bluebird RDCs from South Australian
Rail and X class diesels from Vic Rail.
Isolated from the new standard gauge lines, today historic equipment operates through
Leongatha and Korumburra on the old broad gauge. The picturesque mining area where once black
coal and gold were worked is now home for the operating steam museum. An example of the
proud old locos, K-class #190 shown here was photographed in May 2000 at the SteamRail
siding at the former Newport Workshops.
K190 was moved from Leongatha for major overhaul prior to the weight limitations
being applied to the connecting line north. It has been unable to return since.
[ Ian Petherick : photo]
In New South Wales an Irish engineer selected 1600mm (5ft 3 in). Victoria, politically a
subsidiary of New South Wales, agreed to operate matching broad gauge equipment but
then New South Wales reconsidered when their newly appointed Chief Engineer opted for the
emerging English standard gauge 1435mm (4ft 8.5in). Melbourne continued with the prior
agreement and refused to change. Other States chose 1066mm (3ft 6in), whilst South Australia
hedged its bets by installing both 1600 and 1066 gauges.
Three rail operation still exists in several capital cities where the national standard
and the local gauges co-exist. Around Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, the 1600mm and
1066mm gauges worked well and was seen at many places still operating in 1997. The mix of
1600 and 1435 never worked as well and is rarely seen, although in Melbourne and some
other yards in Victoria this mix of 'Standard' and 'broad' gauge has operated since the
Interstate connection opened in the early 1960's.
Western Australia was a late starter into Railroads. Initially the small gauge working railroads
served the timber logging areas.
On the remaining lines, after numerous route closures, diesel locos have been to sold to new
commercial operators, and the right of way maintenance is contracted out.
During 100 years of operation the system spread across the south west corner of the State
then shrank to only a few short lines.
Today at Kwinana, Narrow gauge trains serve the nearby industrial areas
and oil refinery. Since the photo was taken further changes have proceeded, due to privatisation.
Now there are no Government operated freight lines in the State.
Ian Petherick : photo
West Rail has operated more than 100 years from Midland in the eastern suburbs of Perth. The
standard gauge line across Australia connected only to Perth; no branch lines extend from
that city and in the far north the mining company owned railroads adopted standard gauge with
1000 km separation from the Government owned lines. Years ago bogie (truck) exchange was
adopted to move the locos from the standard through the narrow gauge to reach the north
west mining developments.
At Pinjara 60 km south of Perth The loco sheds and workshop of the Hotham Valley Railway are now
home for a wide range of operating steam and diesel locos. These power tourist train specials
from Perth in the south west of Western Australia. |
The S-class narrow gauge (1066mm) loco shown here is typical of the advanced, modern design
steam locos that were operating in the final steam days on the WAGR.
More than 100 years ago, the planners did not expect the railways to ever connect with the
interstate capitals, and it took 40 years for rail to connect Sydney and Melbourne, then
another 20 years to connect to Perth in the West.
Not until the Commonwealth Railways were authorized by national parliament was there
a start on the truly Australia-wide system which now exists.|
Construction of the Trans Australian Railway was started in 1913 and was not completed until the third quarter
of 1917, finally connecting the Eastern States with West Australia's Government Rail at Kalgoorlie.
It took 70 years more to get the transcontinental connection of the Indian Pacific
train as a single gauge trip across the country from Sydney to Perth. On its journey
it crosses a perfectly straight stretch of 500 km (297 miles) on the Nullabor plain.
Although this banner named train has an excellent usage it has been a financial loss
for the government and in 1998 it was sold to a private operating consortium.|
The passenger trains are expected to continue but the freight trains keep earning real
money for the line. Elsewhere in Australian rail operations the government has sold
its publicly held operations. Australian National railways was sold to three different
operators including American corporations.
The former Australian National Railway [ AN ]
was sold in 1997 to three different organizations.
The South Australian portion went to a consortium led by US short-line operator
Genesee and Wyoming, the Trans Australian passenger
business to the Macquarie Bank-backed Great Southern Railway,
and the Tasrail business to Australian Transport Network
(Wisconsin Central / Tranzrail)
Under the sale arrangements the Leigh Creek line infrastructure was
assigned to Optima Energy, the South Australian power generation corporation.
Genesee and Wyoming, founded in 1895 remained a local line
(in USA) until recent years when the company's expansion took in short lines in the American
States of Oregon, Illinois, Louisiana, New York and Pennsylvania. Later they have invested
internationally including in Australia.
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