My last post for this trip is about another train journey. This time a step back in time.
In 1878, construction commenced on the Port Augusta and Government Gums Railway. The line was extended to Oodnadatta in 1891 and further to Alice Springs in 1929, establishing an important rail link to Central Australia.
The famous Ghan passenger train travelled this way from 1923 to 1956, and on the northern part of this route until 1980. Such a pity the Ghan doesn’t stop here now ut would be a great place to break the journey.
This historic train bring back the romance of train travel, as it was in its heyday a century ago. The name “Pichi Richi” came from the section of track between Port Augusta and Quorn, through the Pichi Richi Pass, which was first opened back in 1879.
During the war years this was a major junction for trains carrying troops. At one point 43 trains came through a day. The local women would feed the men in the local hall during a break in the trip. Quorn would have been a bustling town.
So the train is old. Today it is run entirely by volunteers. And what a variety of train enthusiasts offer their services to keep this historic train ride operating.
David, one such enthusiast met us at our assigned carriage to clip our ticket and welcome us aboard.
We settled into our bench seats with other train buffs on this sellout Sunday morning short run through the Pichi Richi pass to Woolshed Flats.
David gave us a run down on the train and it’s history, speaking faster than the train was moving !
He told us that the carriage we were in named Warana was the one Mel Gibson sat in for the scene for the movie Gallipoli.
Many movies have used Quorn and this train in their scenes. Gallipoli, The Shiralee, The Water Diviner, Wolf Creek, Sundowners, The Tourist, to name just a few.
It’s such a popular attraction people stop their cars by the side of the road to watch & wave to those on board. Today with the marathon on with runners having started in Port Augusta it was extra busy.
We moved through the countryside through the pass and arrived at Woolshed Flat. Here you disembark and have morning tea while the engine is detached and moved around, in a move to then put it at the front of the train. Great to watch.
We spent half an hour chatting to other train buffs watching the engine manoeuvres. Our driver, an 82 year old man is assisted by his son and his 18 year old grandson who shovelled the coal. Trains run in the family.
David welcomed us back on board for the return journey. Our fellow passengers had bonded over the journey. There were four sisters away for a weekend who were joking, laughing and having a ball. A few caravaners on holidays and a family with two little children. The two year old boy was hooked. He loved this Thomas the Tank engine experience.
If you are in this area do yourself a favour and do a Pichi Richi train trip. At $61 it was a great experience and the money goes directly to its maintenance.