South Australian Railways
South Australian Railways built and operated railways in South Australia
South Australia
South Australia is a state of Australia in the southern central part of the country. It covers some of the most arid parts of the continent; with a total land area of , it is the fourth largest of Australia's six states and two territories.South Australia shares borders with all of the mainland...

 from 1854 to the incorporation of its non-urban railways into the Australian National Railways Commission
Australian National Railways Commission
The Australian National Railways Commission was a government owned railway operator in Australia. ANRC was also known as Australian National Railways in its early years and was later rebranded as Australian National .-History:...

 (ANRC) in 1975, together with the former Commonwealth Railways
Commonwealth Railways
The Commonwealth Railways were established in 1912, as part of a government department, currently called the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, by the Government of Australia to construct the missing link in the east-west transcontinental railway and...

 and the former Tasmanian Government Railways. The Adelaide urban lines
Railways in Adelaide
The rail network in Adelaide, South Australia, consists of five lines and 81 stations, totalling 125.9 km. It is operated by Adelaide Metro, and is part of the city-wide Adelaide Metro]public transport system. Apart from the Glenelg Tram, Adelaide's railway system is serviced entirely by...

 were transferred to the State Transport Authority
State Transport Authority (South Australia)
The State Transport Authority was the government agency which controlled public transport within the State of South Australia between 1974 and 1994....

, which was incorporated into TransAdelaide
TransAdelaide was a publicly owned corporation which provided suburban train and tram services in Adelaide, South Australia, under contract to the Government of South Australia....

 in 1994.

South Australia is one of the few places in Australia, if not the World that has all three major rail gauge
Rail gauge
Track gauge or rail gauge is the distance between the inner sides of the heads of the two load bearing rails that make up a single railway line. Sixty percent of the world's railways use a standard gauge of . Wider gauges are called broad gauge; smaller gauges, narrow gauge. Break-of-gauge refers...

s, in addition to other uncommon gauges.


The beginnings of the railway were in the Port Adelaide railway line. This suburban main line linked the harbour area of Port Adelaide to the colony, and was laid with Irish gauge
Irish gauge
Irish gauge railways use a track gauge of . It is used in* Ireland * Australia where it is also known as Victorian Broad Gauge* Brazil where it is also known as Bitola larga no Brasil....

  track. This line was opened in 1856. Later on, branch lines in the state's north in the mining towns of Kapunda and Burra
Burra, South Australia
Burra is a pastoral centre and historic tourist town in the mid-north of South Australia. It lies east of the Clare Valley in the Bald Hills range, part of the northern Mount Lofty Ranges, and on Burra Creek. The town began as a single company mining township that, by 1851, was a set of townships ...

 were linked through to the Adelaide metropolitan system. From here, a south main line extended to meet the horse tramway from Victor Harbor to Strathalbyn, and towards to SA/Victorian Border.

With the metropolitan systems being broad gauge, the mid north and south east of the state were originally laid with narrow gauge track. These systems were closely based on British practice, as was the broad gauge system prior to 1926. Locomotive
A locomotive is a railway vehicle that provides the motive power for a train. The word originates from the Latin loco – "from a place", ablative of locus, "place" + Medieval Latin motivus, "causing motion", and is a shortened form of the term locomotive engine, first used in the early 19th...

s and rolling stock were bought from Britain and the USA, from builders such as Beyer, Peacock and Company
Beyer, Peacock and Company
Beyer, Peacock and Company was an English railway Locomotive manufacturer with a factory in Gorton, Manchester. Founded by Charles Beyer and Richard Peacock, it traded from 1854 until 1966...

, Dübs and Company
Dûbs and Company
Dübs & Co. was a locomotive works in Glasgow, Scotland, founded by Henry Dübs in 1863 and based at the Queens Park Works in Polmadie. In 1903 it became part of the North British Locomotive Company.-Preserved locomotives:...

, their successors, the North British Locomotive Company
North British Locomotive Company
The North British Locomotive Company was created in 1903 through the merger of three Glasgow locomotive manufacturing companies; Sharp Stewart and Company , Neilson, Reid and Company and Dübs and Company , creating the largest locomotive manufacturing company in Europe.Its main factories were...

, and Baldwin Locomotive Works
Baldwin Locomotive Works
The Baldwin Locomotive Works was an American builder of railroad locomotives. It was located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, originally, and later in nearby Eddystone, Pennsylvania. Although the company was very successful as a producer of steam locomotives, its transition to the production of...

. Nine broad gauge tank locomotive
Tank locomotive
A tank locomotive or tank engine is a steam locomotive that carries its water in one or more on-board water tanks, instead of pulling it behind it in a tender. It will most likely also have some kind of bunker to hold the fuel. There are several different types of tank locomotive dependent upon...

s plus the frame of a tenth were bought second-hand from the Canterbury Provincial Railways
Canterbury Provincial Railways
The Canterbury Provincial Railways were an early part of the railways of New Zealand. Built by the Canterbury Provincial government to the broad gauge of 5 feet 3 inches , the railway reached most of the Canterbury region by the time the province was abolished in 1876...

 in New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 when it converted to narrow gauge.

In 1922, after the SAR's worst financial deficit, the government appointed American railroad manager William Webb
William Alfred Webb
William A. Webb was an American railroad engineer who was appointed Commissioner of the South Australian Railways in 1923. He retired in 1930.He rejuvenated and modernised this system, amidst a lot of controversy, especially regarding the cost....

, from the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad
Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad
The Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad was incorporated May 23, 1870. In its earliest days the MKT was commonly referred to as "the K-T", which was its stock exchange symbol; this common designation soon evolved into "the Katy"....

 (the KATY, for short) as Chief Commissioner. When Webb arrived in Adelaide with his young family, he found a railway system unchanged since the late 19th Century. The locomotives and rolling stock were small, wagons and carriages were of wooden construction, the track and bridges were unsuitable for heavy loads, the workshops had antiquated machinery and the signaling system was inflexible. These attributes drove up the ratio of operating costs to revenue.

Webb introduced a rehabilitation plan based on American railroad princilpes of large, standardised locomotives and steel bodied freight wagons, with automatic couplers to enable a significant increase in productivity. Lightly patronised passenger trains would be replaced by self propelled rail cars, enabling faster, more frequent and more efficient services. He recruited Fred Shea as his Chief Mechanical Engineer and had him prepare specifications for this new equipment. This resulted in orders being placed for 1,200 wagons of four types from American Car and Foundry, 12 petrol mechanical railmotor cars from the Service Motors Corporation, Wabash, Indiana, and 30 locomotives based on ALCO plans but built by Armstrong Whitworth & Co.
Armstrong Whitworth
Sir W G Armstrong Whitworth & Co Ltd was a major British manufacturing company of the early years of the 20th century. Headquartered in Elswick, Newcastle upon Tyne, Armstrong Whitworth engaged in the construction of armaments, ships, locomotives, automobiles, and aircraft.-History:In 1847,...

 in the UK
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. These were of the Mountain
Under the Whyte notation for the classification of steam locomotives, 4-8-2 represents the wheel arrangement of four leading wheels on two axles , eight powered and coupled driving wheels on four axles, and two trailing wheels on one axle...

, Pacific
4-6-2, in the Whyte notation for the classification of steam locomotives, represents the wheel arrangement of four leading wheels on two axles , six powered and coupled driving wheels on three axles, and two trailing wheels on one axle .These locomotives are also known as Pacifics...

 and Mikado
Under the Whyte notation for the classification of steam locomotives, 2-8-2 represents the wheel arrangement of two leading wheels on one axle , eight powered and coupled driving wheels on four axles, and two trailing wheels on one axle...

 wheel arrangement
Wheel arrangement
In rail transport, a wheel arrangement is a system of classifying the way in which wheels are distributed beneath a locomotive.. Several notations exist to describe the wheel assemblies of a locomotive by type, position, and connections, with the adopted notations varying by country...

s, 10 of each type, which became the 500, 600, and 700, class locomotives.

To carry the heavier trains, the rehabilitation plan included the strengthening of track and bridges, and the conversion of the mid north narrow gauge system (the Western division) to broad gauge. The antiquated Islington Workshops were demolished and replaced with a thoroughly modern railway maintenance and manufacturing works, a large new round house was built at Mile End
Mile End, South Australia
Mile End is an inner western suburb of Adelaide, located in the City of West Torrens, around 2 kilometres from the Adelaide city centre. It has a census area population of 3,918 people...

, near Adelaide, and several 85 foot turntable
Turntable (railroad)
A railway turntable is a device for turning railroad rolling stock. When steam locomotives were still in wide use, many railroads needed a way to turn the locomotives around for return trips as their controls were often not configured for extended periods of running in reverse and in many...

s were installed throughout the state to enable the much larger locomotives to be turned. Efficient train operations were facilitated by the adoption of American train order
Train order
Train order operation, or more accurately Timetable and Train order operation, is a largely obsolete system by which the railroads of North America conveyed operating instructions before the days of centralized traffic control, direct traffic control, and the use of track warrants conveyed by radio...

 working on country lines, and Adelaide railway station was replaced with an imposing new building, opened in 1927. This grand building now acts as the casino of Adelaide.

When the two shiploads of new locomotives arrived in 1926 they caused a sensation with the public and throughout the railway industry in Australia. The 500 class "Mountain" was over twice the size of the biggest pre-Webb engine, and was the most powerful locomotive in Australia. Henceforth double heading broad gauge trains became a rarity in South Australia. The massive locomotives were unloaded at Port Adelaide and taken off the pier by horses (the locomotives weight alone exceeding the docks maximum loading capacity). Apart from some initial teething problems (mainly to do with overheating bearings and rough riding due to excessive play allowed on driving axles) the new locomotives settled in nicely to their assigned positions. After the success of the original locomotives, ten more 700 class locomotives, with larger tenders, were locally built using the facilities of the new Islington Workshops. These were the 710 class.

The 500 class was rated to haul 400 tons over the Mount Lofty ranges immediately east of Adelaide, where a 19 miles (30.6 km) continuous 1-in-45 (2.2%) gradient faced trains heading for Victoria. Two years after their introduction, the class was modified by the addition of a booster engine
Booster engine
A booster engine for steam locomotives is a small two-cylinder steam engine back-gear-connected to the trailing truck axle on the locomotive or, if none, the lead truck on the tender. A rocking idler gear permits it to be put into operation by the engineer...

 which required replacement of the rear two wheel truck with a four wheel truck. This altered the wheel arrangement from 4-8-2 to 4-8-4
Under the Whyte notation classification of steam locomotives, 4-8-4 represents the wheel arrangement of four leading wheels on two axles , eight powered and coupled driving wheels on four axles, and four trailing wheels on two axles .Other equivalent classifications are:UIC classification: 2D2...

, however the term Mountains stuck with the locomotives. Reclassified 500B class, their maximum load to Mount Lofty was increased to 600 tons, or eleven passenger cars. In the pre-Webb era the South Australian Railways Rx class - a 4-6-0
Under the Whyte notation for the classification of steam locomotives, 4-6-0 represents the wheel arrangement of four leading wheels on two axles in a leading truck, six powered and coupled driving wheels on three axles, and no trailing wheels. This wheel arrangement became the second-most popular...

 with a Belpaire firebox
Belpaire firebox
The Belpaire firebox is a type of firebox used on steam locomotives. It was invented by Alfred Belpaire of Belgium. It has a greater surface area at the top of the firebox, improving heat transfer and steam production...

 was rated at 190 tons for this line, with three of them required to lift a heavy Melbourne Express - two at the front and one banking
Bank engine
A bank engine or helper engine or pusher engine is a railway locomotive that temporarily assists a train that requires additional power or traction to climb a grade...

 from the rear.

Webb retired in 1930, having revolutionised the SAR, but the broad gauge system was largely the focus of his rehabilitation scheme. The narrow gauge systems north of Terowie and on the Eyre Peninsula remained untouched, as did the South Eastern division (although it was subsequently converted to broad gauge in the early 1950s).

In 1936 for the centenary year of the state, a fleet of ten new 620 class
South Australian Railways 620 class
The South Australian Railways 620 class is a class of 10 4-6-2 Pacific steam locomotives built in the late 1930s, designed to operate on lightly laid 60-pound lines.- Development of the 620 class :...

 Pacific type locomotives were introduced. These locomotives, with streamlining based on that of the LNER's P2 class
LNER Class P2
The London and North Eastern Railway Class P2 was a class of 2-8-2 steam locomotives designed by Sir Nigel Gresley for working heavy express trains over the harsh Edinburgh to Aberdeen Line...

 Cock O' the North locomotive, were able to traverse branch lines laid with 60-pound rail, as well as the mainline 80-pound rail, and were used to power the East-West Express between Adelaide and Port Pirie from 1937, after the extension of the broad gauge line north from Red Hill. Concurrently, the Commonwealth Railways
Commonwealth Railways
The Commonwealth Railways were established in 1912, as part of a government department, currently called the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, by the Government of Australia to construct the missing link in the east-west transcontinental railway and...

 extended their standard gauge Trans-Australia line south from Port Augusta, and a new transfer station was opened at Port Pirie Junction.

Other additions to the big power locomotive fleet after the Depression included the 720 class, Berkshires
In the Whyte notation, a 2-8-4 is a railroad steam locomotive that has one unpowered leading axle followed by four powered driving axles and two unpowered trailing axles. This locomotive type is most often referred to as a Berkshire, though the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway used the name Kanawha for...

 based around the 700 and 710 class locomotives, the 740 class based around the 700 class, and the 520
South Australian Railways 520 class
The South Australian Railways 520 class is a class of 4-8-4 steam locomotives that were built at Islington Workshops, the first entering service in 1943 through to the last of this class in 1947...

, a modern light lines locomotive, styled after the Pennsylvania Railroad T1, and more than able to handle all mainline passenger services except the heaviest services over the Mt Lofty Ranges.

SAR steam locomotives

  • Minor Classes of the South Australian Railways, Includes the A, B, C, I, J, L, N, O & Tx classes of Broad Gauge, and the K of the Narrow Gauge. Note that all these have 5 or less members. Also includes those locomotives without a class, i.e. 1, 2, 3, 97, 98, 154, 155, 205 of the BG, and 0, 107 (Sandfly, later NA1) & 260 of the NG.

See also

  • North Terrace-Glenelg railway line
    North Terrace-Glenelg railway line, Adelaide
    The North Terrace to Glenelg railway line was a railway in western Adelaide.The line started in the city from the Adelaide Railway Station, and then headed west...

  • Bob the Railway Dog
    Bob the Railway Dog
    Bob the Railway Dog is part of South Australian Railways folklore. He travelled the South Australian Railways system in the later part of the 19th century, and was known widely to railwaymen of the day.-Story:...

External links

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