SAR Port Augusta-Hawker

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Hawker Line Location Index Scenarios
Woolshed Flat - Hawker Section
Woolshed Flat


Junction for Quorn Line





Coal Loco Coal Stage Fuel Bunker C Oil Fuel Point
Loop Crossing Loop WYE Turning Triangle or WYE
Turntable Loco Turntable Shed Loco Shed
Water Loco Water Tank  
Passengers Passengers Passengers Station closed or inactive
Goods Goods Grain Grain
Oils_Fuels Oil and Fuel Stockyard Livestock (Cattle and Sheep)
Minerals Minerals Wool Wool Bales

Line History:

Opened:  1879-1891
Length:  81km - 50¼mi (Woolshed Flat to Hawker section)

Closed (in sections):  1956, 1972
Reopened (in sections):  Port Augusta to Quorn 1974-2001 as a Heritage Railway

Built as a narrow gauge (3ft6in - 1067mm) line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. It reached Quorn (39km, 24mi) in 1879, Marree (372km, 231mi) in 1883 and Oodnadatta (770km, 478mi) in 1891. Originally known as the  Northern Line , it was transferred from the SAR to the Commonwealth Railways (CR) in January 1911. The SAR continued to operate the line until 1926 when the CR took over. In 1926-29 the line was extended to Alice Springs (1241km, 771mi) near the centre of the continent and then became known as the  Central Australia Railway .

Despite crossing some of the driest parts of the continent the line was often damaged by severe flooding. It was not unusual for trains to be stranded for days by flood waters and track washouts. But even during dry times delays and late running were common. It was often said that a calendar, not a watch, was a better "on time" running guide.

The route of the line in its southern section had more to do with politics than good practice. The route from Port Augusta to Quorn took it through the Flinders Ranges via the Pichi Richi Pass which required steep grades and tight curves. The route of the northern section was largely dictated by the availability of reliable water sources. In dry periods a water tanker was often added to the consist to provide water for the loco. The line was frequently considered for closure.

The most famous of the passenger trains on the line was "The Ghan" which ran, originally, from Port Augusta to Alice Springs. The Ghan still runs today but as a modern luxury tourist train from Adelaide to Alice Springs and on to Darwin on the northern coast of the continent.

In the 1950s a new standard gauge (4ft8½in, 1435mm) line was built from Port Augusta to Marree which bypassed the Flinders Ranges, Quorn and Hawker. Passengers and freight to Oodnadatta and Alice Springs changed trains from standard gauge to narrow gauge at Marree. Today, the entire track to Alice Springs is standard gauge on a completely new alignment up to 300km west of the previous routes (both narrow gauge and standard gauge) bypassing Marree and Oodnadatta.

In 1956 the sections of the original narrow gauge line from Hawker to Marree and from Port Augusta to Quorn were closed leaving the section from Quorn to Hawker (the  Hawker Line ) still operating. Occasional special passenger excursion trains from Peterborough continued to use the line from Quorn to Summit in the 1960s.

Prior to the closures, the line between Quorn and Hawker saw several through workings each day. After the closures this had been reduced to just two return freight services each week and no passenger services. In the 1960s that was reduced further to just a single weekly return freight service, with an additional service that ran "only if required". It was mineral traffic, barytes or barites (barium sulfate) ore, that kept the line open after 1956. It was transported 70km by road from the mine to Hawker and then loaded into rail wagons for the trip to Quorn. At Quorn it was crushed and bagged for shipment around the country. Rail transport was used because of the poor condition of the roads between Hawker and Quorn.

After the 1956 closures, Port Augusta to Quorn was serviced by a weekly passenger road bus service and a weekly freight road service. Occasionally a special passenger excursion train from Peterborough ran from Quorn to Hawker. The Hawker Line was closed in 1972.

The Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society was formed in 1972 and was operating steam and heritage diesel trains from Quorn to Summit by 1974, and then onto Woolshed Flat by 1979. The track used to restore the line to Woolshed Flat was taken from the closed Hawker Line.

The line from Peterborough to Quorn was closed in 1987.

By 2001 the Pichi Richi Railway had restored the entire narrow gauge line from Quorn to Port Augusta. They now operate steam and diesel hauled heritage passenger services between Quorn, Woolshed Flat and Port Augusta.

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