The International Steam Pages
The Pichi Richi Railway, Australia 2016
James Waite reports on another of his flying visits on Saturday/Sunday/Monday 11th - 13th June 2016, the latter being the Queen's Birthday holiday. For further information on the railway see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pichi_Richi_Railway and https://www.pichirichirailway.org.au/. James would like to thank Jeremy Browne for his help in making the visit so rewarding.
This is an absolutely magnificent railway in every way. The line has a complicated history. It runs from Port Augusta, on the Sydney to Perth transcontinental line, for 24 miles up through the Pichi Richi pass in the South Flinders Ranges to Quorn. It was opened in 1879 by the South Australian Railways as the first part of a north/south transcontinental route to Darwin, at a time when the Northern Territory was a part of South Australia. By 1911 it had got as far as Oodnadatta, roughly halfway to Alice Springs, and in that year South Australia surrendered the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth government who still run it now. Part of the deal was that the Commonwealth would also take over the railway and would complete it through to Darwin, and in the meantime the SAR continued to work it on behalf of the Commonwealth . No work was done on this until the mid-1920's when the Commonwealth also took over operation of the railway. By the mid-1930's it had reached Alice Springs but that was as far as the narrow gauge route ever got. A standard gauge line to Darwin, on a completely different route much further to the west, opened to Alice Springs in 1980 and on to Darwin in 2004. The line through Quorn closed in 1972 and reopened as a heritage railway two years later.
The black loco in these photos is 4-8-0 no. NM25, one of a series of these 4-8-0's built by Thompsons of Castlemaine, Victoria (their no. 51/1925) for the Commonwealth Railways when they took over operation of the line. They continued to work nearly all services until diesels arrived in the 1950's. The coaching stock was all also built for the Commonwealth Railways in the 1920's so this is in all respects an authentic train for the line. Note the coach with the curved end windows in some of these photos. This is the commissioner's saloon, a magnificent vehicle with armchairs, sleeping compartments and a boardroom. It's also the only coach I've ever seen which has stained glass windows over some of the doors!
The green 4-8-2 in some of these photos is a recreation of W22, one of the Silverton Tramway's four W class locos. They shared their design with the 60 W class locos built by Beyer Peacock for the Western Australian Government Railways save that they were fitted with cowling over the chimney and dome. The Pichi Richi line has five of the WAGR locos and also the "real" W22 (BP 7418/1951), one of the original Silverton ones, the Silverton line being effectively an extension of the SAR line eastwards over the state border with New South Wales for 35 miles as far as Broken Hill so it was very much a part of the local scene. In the light of this the preservation society very much wanted to restore W22 but it needed major work doing to it and so they used one of the Western Australian locomotives instead (W916, BP 7393/1951) and fitted it with W22's cowling and name and number plates.
The star here undoubtedly is the steam railmotor whose survival is little short of miraculous. The locomotive part was built for the SAR by Kitsons in 1905 (works no. 4356) with the coach part being built by the Birmingham RC&W. It spent its entire working life based at Quorn shed, working over the Pichi Richi route to Port Augusta and also north for another 40 miles or so to a town called Hawker. It was sold to the Commonwealth Railways when they took over operation of the line at the beginning of 1926 and withdrawn from service in 1931, after which it spent more than 30 years in store at Quorn shed. In the 1960's it was plinthed at Alice Springs but returned to Quorn for restoration in the 1970's soon after the preservation society had got going. It ran from the 1980's for about 20 years and returned to service earlier this year after major overhaul.
W22 was running with a train of SAR coaches, also quite authentic as one of its duties during its working days was to work the narrow gauge portion of the Broken Hill Express over its final stretch from the NSW border after it had arrived from Terowie, a break of gauge station north of Adelaide. The SAR's coaches, on both the broad and narrow gauges, were certainly distinctive. There must have been some rhyme or reasoning as to why some were painted green and cream and some brown but I haven't yet found out what it was. They seem to have run like this for many years.
The Pichi Richi Railway really is a superb line - well worth going to visit.
The Railmotor heading south from Quorn
Little and large at Summit Station.
W22 and NM25 together at Quorn.
The boiler on the flat wagon comes from a SAR W class 2-6-0 no Wx18 (BP 1820/1879) and its chassis is behind. These locos worked over the line in its early days. The restoration of this one was almost finished a few years ago but the loco had to be dismantled after it was found that one of the cylinders had cracked. Replacement cylinders were cast in 2014 and have now been machined and fitted to the chassis and with luck the loco should be back in action within the next couple of years.
This is T class 4-8-0 no. 186 (James Martin, Gawler 198/1909). These locos worked up to the end of steam on the SAR narrow gauge in 1970 and the opportunity to preserve it played a role in setting up the line's preservation society. It is in theory still in working order but is an oil burner and expensive to run and has been in store since about 2002.
The old Morris car was converted to an inspection saloon by the CR in the 1930's. It's now fitted with a Holden engine but is otherwise in original condition.
Not strictly part of this report is SAR 4-8-2+2-8-4 Garratt no. 409 in the museum at Port Adelaide, an excellent place. There were ten of these Garratts, built in 1953, mainly for the Broken Hill to Port Pirie ore trains where they worked until the line was converted to standard gauge in 1970. Towards the end of their careers they were permitted to work over the line from Peterborough to Quorn but only one is believed ever to have got there.
The other pictures are grouped by subject, click on the thumbnail for the full sized version.
This is the railmotor in action, universally known as 'Coffee Pot', on the Sunday, it worked from Quorn to Woolshed Flat where it was turned on the triangle. All three scheduled trips for its 2016 return to service were sold out and an extra run added.