The 100th anniversary of the completion of the Trans Australian Railway line will occur on 17th October, 2017.

Regional Development Australia Whyalla and Eyre Peninsula (RDAWEP) is assisting the National Railway Museum with arrangements to ensure that the centenary is appropriately celebrated.
The construction of the Trans-Australian Railway provided nation-building infrastructure that not only linked the east and western coasts of Australia, but also provided the platform for successful negotiations to encourage Western Australia to join the Commonwealth of Australia and establish the Australian Federation.
The railway line provided a supply chain to outback areas of South Australia; and was particularly important for developing the land between Port Augusta and the Western Australian border. This infrastructure is a legacy that still benefits Australia and South Australia today.
RDAWEP, as the agency responsible for driving regional economic development across the Eyre Peninsula, appreciates the infrastructure investment provided by the early settlers and previous generations, and believes that the benefits resulting from this legacy should be acknowledged.
The Trans-Australian Railway was completed on 17th October 1917 when the rail lines constructed simultaneously from Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta were linked at 1.45pm, at a site approximately 4kms west of Ooldea.
A 50th commemoration of the rail linkage was held on 17th October 1967 at the exact time and place that the rails were joined.  The rail link site was marked by the unveiling of two identical monuments placed north and south of the railway line as part of the 50th anniversary celebration.
The monuments were designed, constructed and installed by the Commonwealth Railways.  The main structure was comprised largely of a timber frame sealed with plywood, which supported rail steels and commemorative signage. However, the timber fabric was not sufficiently robust to withstand the environmental conditions and the monuments have since deteriorated and collapsed.





RDAWEP’s role to support the centenary is to project manage the process to replace the monuments, which will be unveiled during the centenary celebration.
The intention is to have a South Australian sculptor design and build two identical sculptures that use the existing concrete and steel bases of the original monuments. The sculptures will be constructed in robust, long lasting materials – preferably steel – and will be based on a design concept that uses the linking of the railway as a symbol or motif to represent economic development and regional growth.
A project brief for the sculptures is currently being prepared.
The centenary celebration will achieve national prominence.  The National Railway Museum will release the event details at the Australasian Railway Association AusRAIL Conference in Adelaide in late November 2016.
Other organisations are also working on celebrations that focus just on Port Augusta, over the weekend of 21st and 22nd October 2017, including the re-enactment of the first train from Adelaide to Port Augusta, and the subsequent departure of the first standard gauge train to Kalgoorlie on 22nd  October 1917.
Arrangements are being progressed with the Pichi Richi Railway group for a steam train re-enactment from Quorn to Port Augusta on the same weekend.
Regardless of the proposed celebrations at Port Augusta, the most historically significant element of the celebrations is the importance of unveiling the two monuments near Ooldea on 17 October 2017 to commemorate that heroic achievement in the development of the nation.  The logistical arrangements for the event are in progress.

People and organisations interested in attending or supporting the celebration should register their names with RDAWEP on 8682 6588.
Further information about the celebration can be provided by the RDAWEP Special Projects Manager, Bob Ramsay, on 8623 0516.

38 thoughts on “Trans-Australian Railway Centenary

  1. I really feel the Maralinga and Yalata Communities should be heavily involved in the Celebrations, Ooldea played a huge part in the development of the building of the rail through that part of the country. The local Indigenous people who lived at the Ooldea Mission sold artifacts to the travelers on the trains as they pulled up to fill up with water, even today Ooldea is a very special place to the Aboriginal people of the area.

    1. Thank you for your comment Jack.

      Maralinga Tjarutja has been advised about the pending celebration, and arrangements will be pursued to possibly accommodate some of the celebration visitors at Maralinga Village. The Maralinga Tjarutja Council will certainly be invited to participate in the celebration. The arrangements for coordinating the celebration are at the very early stages, but will be progressed through 2017.

      It is not known if any Aboriginal people actually participated in the construction of the railway line, but this will be researched. Much of the Aboriginal involvement (e.g. selling artefacts etc.) occurred after the railway line was completed.

      RDAWEP is acutely aware of the cultural importance of Ooldea to Aboriginal people, and is also aware of the impact on Ooldea from railway use of water from Ooldea soak.

      The preliminary papers about the railway centenary acknowledge the importance and connection of the railway to Aboriginal people.

  2. As a long time employee of the Commonwealth Railways/Australian National (1960 – 1992) I would be interested in hearing of progress in relation to the celebrations to mark completion of the Trans-Australian Railway.
    My wife also served the Commonwealth Railways between 1960 and 1976.
    Geoff Hall

    1. Hi Geoff. Thanks for commenting. We have added you to our Trans-Australian Railway communications list which receives updates as they happen. Please keep an eye out for information in the near future. Thanks, RDAWEP.

  3. gday. A group of us is very keen to attend the centenary of the completion of the railway celebrations on October 17. we would appreciate any information about the event as preparations continue.
    looking forward to the event,
    Reg Baldock

    1. Hi Reg, Thanks for the comment. We have added you to our Trans-Australian Railway communications list which receives updates as they happen. Please keep an eye out for information in the near future. Looking forward to seeing you at the event. Thanks, RDAWEP.

  4. My Grandfather Tom Ash, was a travelling ganger during the works and Superintendent of works during the last year of building the line . He was based at Ooldea. The railway museum at Port Adelaide has a daily work diary which was kept during 1917. Grandfather was present at the
    Inking of the line and notated the date time linkage etc. He was injured in Nov 1917 and after his recovery was based at Ooldea for a few years. He untertook exploration on behalf of the Commonwealth Railways of surrounding areas. In 1920 the person in charge of the railways contacted him to organise a corroboree for the Prince Of Wales who was due to come through on the train. He and another chap organized this but it was attributed to Daisy Bates. I would live to be able to be contacted regarding any upcoming celebrations.
    Yours sincerely Helen Schofield.

    1. Hi Helen. Thank you for the comment. What a fantastic connection to the railway. We have added you to our Trans-Australian Railway communications list which receives updates as they happen. Please keep an eye out for information in the near future. Looking forward to seeing you at the event. Thanks, RDAWEP.

  5. Can you please add Grant Fiedler to the communications list please. He was an employee at the Oak Valley Anangu School and would be interested in attending the ceremony at Ooldea.

  6. We would really like to attend the celebration at Ooldea. Would appreciate being added to the communications list.
    Thanks John & Carol Darwin

    1. Hi John and Carol. Great that you would like to attend. We have added you to our communications list. Please keep an eye out for information in the near future. Looking forward to seeing you at the event. Thanks, RDAWEP.

  7. It is good that this event is being celebrated and I am glad to see the level of local involvement In Australia we do not celebrate such events as well as the Americans at Promontory in the USA were the trans line was joined Australia was able to do this with a fraction of the population and other than some farming and basic industry ie Salt and Gold mining there was very little for 1058 miles no towns or permanant rivers what a feat for 1917 I look forward to see this important milestone being recognised in October 2017

    1. Hi Noel. Thank you for your comment. We are looking forward to celebrating the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Trans-Australian Railway Line. It will be a fantastic event and yes an important one to celebrate. Regards, RDAWEP.

  8. it is great to see the 100th anniversary of a great engineering marvel of Australia been celebrated. the 4×4 club i am in are wishing to attend this event and would love to be kept informed of the progress of the celebration. a great event for those that can attend in Australias history.

    1. Hi Anthony. We are pleased that you and the 4×4 club would like to attend. We have added you to our communications list. Please keep an eye out for information in the near future. Looking forward to seeing you at the event. Thanks, RDAWEP.

  9. I would like to attend the celebrations at Ooldea. Please add me to the list for communications. Thank you.

    1. Hi Deane. We have added you to our communications list. Please keep an eye out for information in the near future. Thank you, RDAWEP.

  10. I did register my interest but I am not sure if got through. I spent 25 years running tours on the Nullarbor.

    1. Hi, Steve. Yes, you are registered on the event database and should have been receiving project updates by email. Please advise if this is not the case. We do need a mobile telephone number to complete your data entry. This can be emailed to Regards, RDAWEP.

  11. I have registered to attend the Oodea celebrations. In November last year I released a book titled “The Nullarbor Then and Now” which tells the history of the Nullarbor since Edward John Eyre’s epic crossing in 1841. The building of the railway is well documented in the book containing 370 photos over the period. Copies will be available on the day.

    1. Hi John. Thanks for registering. Your book sounds amazing! We are looking forward to picking up a copy at the celebrations. Thank you, RDAWEP.

  12. Hi there. Is there a train service that will be stopping at Ooldea for the event.?
    Could you please add me to coomunications list.
    Lynda Smith

    1. Hi Lynda. The prospect of having a train at Ooldea for the centenary event is still being pursued with Pacific National. If this is successful, the train will provide a background setting only, and will not offer a passenger service. Our Special Projects Officer Bob Ramsey has contacted you via email as well. Regards, RDAWEP.

  13. Hi , We are looking for information relating to the construction of the east west line and in particular the construction equipment as in the two track laying machines and also the two McDonald Tractors used for carting boring equipment , supplies etc .These tractors went ahead of the line looking for water by sinking bores etc. Does anyone know what happened to this machinery? Some say they may have been left out at Ooldea and are now covered in sand! We believe the track layers were scrapped but not sure about the tractors. Will there be any historians at the 100 yr event who may be able to help?
    Thanks Monte

    1. Hi, Monte. The National Railway Museum (NRM) has an archive of historical railway documents and should be able to answer your questions. Bob Sampson, the CEO, and other NRM members will be attending the centenary and be operating a book stall. In the meantime, please try the contacting NRM via its website: Regards, RDAWEP.

  14. Could you add me to the list . My ex husband (Ronald Johnson) and I lived at Ooldea in 1981 for several months and it was one of the best locations I have lived.

  15. My late husband Tony and I lived at Ooldea for three years from 1978. He started there as a fettler, then became ganger before we moved to Tarcoola. What wonderful memories the 100 year anniversary brings back. I still have photos of the monuments that commemorate the joining of the rails. Sad to hear they have fallen into disrepair , but am happy to hear they will be replaced, as they commemorate a very important milestone in Australia’s rail history.

    1. Hi Glenda. The unveiling of the new (all steel) monuments will be the key action at the TAR centenary event. The event has attracted more people than was first envisaged. Over 400 people from across Australia are expected to attend, with representation from every State except the NT and Tasmania. From this end, holding the event in such a remote location has become a logistical nightmare, due to the need to provide infrastructure (toilets, and wood for camp fires) and ensure that safety and duty of care obligations are met.
      Thank you for your interest and comment. RDAWEP.

    1. Hi Terry and Jill. Our Special Projects Officer, Bob Ramsey, has added you to the list. We look forward to seeing you there. RDAWEP.

  16. My grandfather, John ‘Jack’ Harold Bright worked as a ganger on the Transline approx. 1923 – 1930 when he asked to be moved so his daughters (my mother and aunty, Dolly and Joan Bright) could go to school at Mern Merna. While on the Transline they seemed to move a lot and lived in many places but all I can remember is Loongana and that my mother was actually born ‘in a tent’ at Immarna. Apparently the houses weren’t ready, but the baby definitely was! Many years later Grandpa moved to the old Ghan line (?) at Williams Creek and the rest of the family to Quorn so they could go to High School there. I never knew my grandpa but my mother had many stories of travelling on the train to Kalgoolie to see the dentist and doctor as a child, of fresh fruit and vegetable boxes being delivered by train and having a butcher on board to butcher meat as needed so it didn’t spoil. Her love affair with trains lasted a lifetime and she and Dad went on the Indian Pacific just to see the Nullabour. I won’t be able to attend any of the 100 year celebrations – its just by accident I saw this website – I was looking at APY lands and the Maralinga lands when I found this.
    I’m sure the old hands and their families that worked to create such a ‘modern miracle’ as the Transline will be smiling to see the PitchiRitchi train run to recognize their toil and I hope that the celebrations go well.
    My only regret is the possible disservice the trains delivered by using the local water supplies, and building on aboriginal land with little if any agreement. We must not forget they were there for thousands of years before we ‘discovered’ it.

  17. Hi there, could we please be added to your mailing list for the event thanks.

    Shirley McLean and Mick Searle

  18. Please include me in you mailing list. I only heard about the Centenary this morning on Maca’s Australia All Over (ABC radio). I worked at various sites on the Nullarbor from June 1967 till September 1968 as a fettler. I did work on the Long Stretch and was 16 years old at the time. I am hoping to go back over to the trans-line to some of the camps where I worked, but I believe there is not much out there anymore. When I left from Cook to live in Brisbane, there was a hospital and airstrip. I’m hopeful that when I go back over next year, I can go from Euchla to Forrest.
    Allan Clarke

    1. Hi Allan. What a fantastic link you have to the railway. Our Special Projects Manager – Bob Ramsay will add you to the list. Thanks.

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