Built as a narrow gauge (3'6" - 1067mm) line from Gladstone to Laura in 1884, it was extended to Booleroo Centre in 1910 and to Wilmington in 1915. There were proposals to extend the line to Port Augusta or to Quorn but these never reached the planning stage.
The line was single track with passing loops at most locations. There were no signals on the line with Train Order Working in operation.
The 1964 working timetable had six scheduled freight services each week, three of which ran "when required". Three of the six services terminated at Booleroo Centre.
A late night passenger service to Wilmington ran Mondays to Saturdays, returning early the next morning (Tuesdays to Sundays), making connections with a broad gauge (5'3" - 1600mm) service at Gladstone to and from the state capital Adelaide.
Passenger services ceased in 1969 when the Port Pirie-Broken Hill Line was converted to standard gauge (4'8.5" - 1435mm) which isolated the line from the rest of the narrow gauge network.
The 1982 working timetable had just a single freight service to Wilmington each week.
The line was closed in 1990 and, apart from a few places of historical significance, the track has since been removed. The section from Wilmington to Melrose is now a cycling and walking "rail trail".