Victor Harbor railway line
South Australia's first railway venture was the opening of the Goolwa to Port Elliot horse tramway in 1854. The line ran from Goolwa on the Murray River to an ocean harbour at Port Elliot, later extended to a safer harbour at Victor Harbor. This line was used to move freight between the shallow-draft vessels navigating the Murray, and coastal and ocean-going vessels, without either having to traverse the narrow and shallow mouth of the river with unpredictable currents. The line was extended northwards to Strathalbyn in 1869, the connection from Adelaide reaching the town in 1884 and completing the link. Until 1884 trains south of Strathalbyn were hauled by horse power, but between 1883 and 1885 the section to Currency Creek was rebuilt to steam railway standards.
Australian National operated freight services on the Strathalbyn to Victor section were withdrawn in 1980, and remaining freight trains to Strathalbyn were stopped in October 1987. In the early 1980s, AN general manager Don Williams announced that the Victor Harbor line would close, despite enormous public opposition. Several factors were noted for the closure of the line, such as a detoriating track condition, a long time-consuming route compared with a more direct road journey, and declining passenger numbers. Over 50,000 return journeys were made during 1977/78 but this dropped to only around 16,000 by 1982/83. The last AN passenger service ran on 30 April 1984, when loco 942 pulled 7 steel cars from Adelaide to Victor Harbor and return. Despite many people using the service in the last few months leading into the closure, it wasn't enough for passenger services to be retained. The SteamRanger Tourist Railway established in 1986 to operate tourist trains on the line. In late 1989 AN declared the Mt Barker Junction-Strathalbyn section unsafe and Steamranger-operated services from Adelaide to Strathalbyn were cancelled. That section was eventually renewed during 1990-91 with funding from the State Government, AN and other resources. First the lines beyond Strathalbyn were operated by SteamRanger train crews, later extending to the entire line. In 1995 gauge conversion of the Adelaide-Melbourne railway cut the broad gauge Victor Harbor line off from the rest of the network, and volunteers took full responsibility for maintaining the track from Mount Barker Junction to Victor.
|Steamranger Victor Harbor Line Heritage Services
Broad Gauge (Red), Standard Gauge (Blue)
The Victor Harbor Line Harvey, Dean Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin July;August;September 1992 pp155–169;179–195;207–220