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Pichi Richi Railway

The Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society (PRRPS) is a non-profit railway preservation society and operating museum formed in 1973.[1] The society, managed and staffed by volunteer members, operates heritage steam and diesel trains on the restored 39 kilometre section of track between Quorn and Port Augusta in South Australia.

Pichi Richi Railway
NM25 w22 quorn.jpg
NM25 and W916 at Quorn station in May 2004
TypeHeritage railway
SystemSection of the former Central Australia Railway & Transcontinental lines
StatusOperating as a heritage railway
LocaleFlinders Ranges, South Australia
Port Augusta
StationsWoolshed Flat, Stirling North
ServicesSee timetable
Reopened1974 as heritage railway
Operator(s)Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society (Commercial operations prior to 1957: South Australian Railways & Commonwealth Railways)
Rolling stockSouth Australian Railways
Commonwealth Railways
Western Australian Government Railways
Silverton Tramway
Line length39 kilometres (24 mi)
Track gauge1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)
Old gauge1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)
Highest elevation406 m (1,332 ft)
Route map
Miles from Adelaide via Terowie
234mi Quorn station
Mill Crossing
Pichi Richi Workshops
Dairy Crossing
Dog Crossing
239mi Summit
Summit Siding
Summit Crossing
French's Bridge
Pichi Richi
Access Road
S-Bend Bridge
Waukarie Creek Bridge
244mi Woolshed Flat
Access Road
Lattice Bridge
Dipper Road
Saltia Bridge
247mi Saltia
Saltia Crossing
Crusher Crossing
Smokers Bridge
254mi Stirling North
Dump Road
Leigh Creek line underpass
Harris Rd Crossing
Footner Rd Crossing
Racecourse Rd Crossing
Augusta Highway Overpass
Stirling Rd Crossing
Hospital Rd Crossing
Carltion Pde Crossing
Pichi Richi Depot
259mi Port Augusta

The line was built in 1878 as part of the South Australian Railways' Port Augusta & Government Gums Railway,[1] once formed a part of the Commonwealth Railways Central Australia Railway and east-west Transcontinental line, and is the oldest remaining section of track of the former narrow gauge Ghan. It is now the only operational section of the Central Australia Railway.



W934 at Woolshed Flat in April 2012

The PRRPS is based on the site of the Quorn locomotive depot and operates through the Pichi Richi Pass to Woolshed Flat and Port Augusta, and also operates out of Port Augusta to Quorn (elevation 293 m or 961 ft). The volunteer organisation has fully restored a fleet of South Australian Railways (SAR), Commonwealth Railways (CR) and Western Australian Government Railways (WAGR) steam and diesel locomotives, passenger and freight rolling stock.

The society has progressively restored the railway to Summit (1974) (elevation 406 m or 1,332 ft[2]), Pichi Richi (1974) (elevation 344 m or 1,129 ft), Woolshed Flat (1979) (elevation 269 m or 883 ft) and Stirling North (1999) on the original alignment, and to Port Augusta (2001) on a new alignment between Stirling North and Port Augusta.[3]

Pichi Richi is the name of the pass through which the railway travels, and is also the name of the former township located in the pass, after which the society is named. The name Pichi Richi is believed to come from the region being a traditional centre in the production of pituri, a mixture of leaves and ash chewed as a stimulant by Australian Aborigines.

Current operationsEdit

The PRRPS has continually expanded the type and number of services over time as more rollingstock and track is restored and rehabilitated.

The Afghan Express is a return trip to Quorn from Port Augusta (78 kilometres return). This train usually consists of Ghan carriages from the 1920s and is often hauled, wherever possible, by an original Ghan steam locomotive, NM25, and recreates the type of travel experienced on the Ghan in the 1930s and 1940s.[4]

Quorn station, now used by the PRRPS as a shop & ticket office

A shorter journey, the Pichi Richi Explorer, is a return service to Woolshed Flat departing from Quorn (32 kilometres return). Travel on this train is either in South Australian Railway carriages circa 1900 to 1915 hauled by a steam locomotive, or in a 1928 SAR diesel railcar. The use of older SAR rollingstock on this train replicates what it was like to travel by country rail in South Australia in the very early 1900s to the 1960s. Much of this rolling stock was in service until the end of narrow gauge passenger operations by the South Australian Railways.[5]

Other special services include occasional "double header" steam trains, and dinner trains originating in Port Augusta and stopping at the track-side Willows Brewery Restaurant en route to Quorn. A new service introduced in 2010 saw guests dining on the train in a first class dining carriage, with a 3-course meal prepared in the carriage's kitchen by a local hotel's chef. Trains and carriages are also available for private hire, suiting a range of different occasions from weddings to tour groups.[6][7]

Major ProjectsEdit

The PRRPS has completed a number of major projects since its inception. These include return to service of steam locomotives and heritage rolling stock, rebuilding large sections of railway line and permanent way, and the restoration of historic buildings.

Rebuild of Steam Locomotive NM25Edit

Former Commonwealth Railways steam locomotive NM25 was built in 1925 and was used on the narrow gauge train line between Port Augusta and Alice Springs. It is one of only two surviving examples of this class of steam locomotive. NM25 had remained static from 1965 until 1989, when PRRPS acquired it with the intention of restoring it to operational condition. An overhaul commenced in 2000. The locomotive was recommissioned on 26 April 2003.[8][9]

Track extension to Port AugustaEdit

History behind the projectEdit

During the Commonwealth Railways era (from 1937 to 1957), the train line between Stirling North and Port Augusta was dual gauge. Narrow gauge served the line to Quorn and the standard gauge, which branched at Stirling North, was for the line to Port Pirie and also to Marree. A new standard gauge line to Marree was built in the 1950s on a new route west of the Pichi Richi Pass, with the purpose of bypassing the narrow gauge section of the Central Australia Railway to Marree, through Quorn and Hawker. The narrow gauge component of the section dual gauge track between Stirling North and Port Augusta was removed once the standard gauge line to Marree was in full operation, and the narrow gauge route from Hawker to Marree had been closed and removed. This meant that the remaining narrow gauge line from Stirling North to Hawker via Quorn was now isolated. On the occasions that a narrow gauge train needed to travel to Port Augusta or to Marree, the train would need to utilise a piggy back system. This arrangement saw the entire narrow gauge train loaded on top of a standard gauge train of flatcars and transported via standard gauge, then unloaded at the destination on to the existing narrow gauge.[10]

The first stage of returning narrow gauge train services to Port Augusta was the completion of 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) of track rehabilitation between Woolshed Flat and Stirling North. This work included the complete replacement of sleepers and rail, re-timbering of several bridges and the construction of a turning triangle at Stirling North. Part of the $1.35 million Pichi Richi Railway Development Plan project, it was completed in 1999. The extension was opened on 24 October 1999 by former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia Tim Fischer.[11][12][13]

It was announced in 2000 that funding was available through the State Government of South Australia, and the Port Augusta City Council to extend the train line from Stirling North in to Port Augusta railway station. However, there were significant works required for to complete this project.

Crossing the standard gaugeEdit

Because the existing narrow gauge between Stirling North and Port Augusta had been removed many years earlier, the challenge for the PRRPS was to develop an effective means of reinstating the narrow gauge in to Port Augusta. The greatest aspect to this challenge was how to cross over what remained of the standard gauge line to Marree, which had since been truncated at Telford Cut coal mine near Leigh Creek with the opening of the newer standard gauge line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs in 1980. This line to Leigh Creek was exclusively used for transporting coal from Leigh Creek to Northern Power Station, and branched off the main standard gauge network at Stirling North. Many options for crossing this line were investigated, including a draw bridge arrangement, diamond crossovers and an underpass. The final decision was an underpass, passing below the Leigh Creek coal train line, which greatly reduced the amount of safe working interfacing with the standard gauge line.[10] Diagram.[14][15]

Completing the projectEdit

The rest of the narrow gauge line was constructed parallel to the standard gauge in to Port Augusta, arriving at Platform 2 at Port Augusta station. The rail for this project was sourced from the dismantled Cambrai to Apamurra railway line in South Australia's Murray Mallee region.[16] A turntable relocated from Kapunda was installed near the station, as well as a depot and sheds constructed adjacent to the Port Augusta station for housing a locomotive and rolling stock for Pichi Richi Railway operations originating at Port Augusta.

Other works includedEdit

These included:[17]

  • earthworks requiring the excavation and placement of approximately 25,000 m3 (33,000 cu yd) of material,
  • dismantling, transport and relaying of 1,300 lengths of 12.2 m (40 ft) long rail totalling 500 tonnes (490 long tons; 550 short tons),
  • Construction of six turnouts at Port Augusta to provide a run around loop and access to the storage shed and turntable,
  • Laying of approx 11,500 sleepers comprising approximately 10,000 Redgum timber and 1,500 steel sleepers,
  • Using 30,000 second hand dogspikes, 10,000 screwspikes and 5,200 fishbolts,
  • Transport, distribution and tamping of 8,000 tonnes (7,900 long tons; 8,800 short tons) of track ballast,
  • Design, manufacture, transport and installation of 13 large precast concrete culvert crown and 14 base sections for the underpass, and completing installation in 60 hours to ensure no disruption to coal supplies from Leigh Creek,
  • Installation of around 1,600 pieces of pin-crib[18] walling[19] to the underpass at Stirling North.

The extension was officially opened 15 September 2001 by the local state MP, Graham Gunn, the then state Tourism Minister Joan Hall, and Port Augusta Mayor Joy Baluch.[20]

The extension to Port Augusta has since won the 2002 Permanent Way Institute (SA Section) Trackwork Achievement Award[10][21]

Other projectsEdit

Significant projects completed by Pichi Richi Railway in recent years include:

Sign about the Old Ghan railway at Quorn station
  • Overhaul and return to service of WAGR steam locomotive W934
  • Overhaul and return to service of WAGR steam locomotive W916 (rebuilt as W22)
  • Rebuild of several original Commonwealth Railways Ghan Carriages, including:
    • NABPa class passenger carriage, numbers 25, 26 and 27
    • NIA class passenger carriage number 36, used by United States General Douglas MacArthur on his trip from Alice Springs to Terowie via Quorn after leaving the Philippines in World War II. It was on this trip (at Terowie) he made his famous speech "I came out of Bataan and I shall return"[22]
    • NSS class special service observation carriage number 34, used by the Duke of Gloucester on a Royal train during his 1934 visit to Australia,[23]
    • NYAB class composite brake van carriage number 15
  • Restoration of SAR Brill railcar trailer 305
  • Restoration and return to service of motor inspection car MIC 126, a 1937 Morris 25 Morris motor vehicle that runs on railway wheels
  • Restoration of SAR refreshment carriage Light (completed in April 2012)
  • Rebuild of SAR passenger carriage number 5 (almost completed May 2016)

Ongoing projects:

  • Rebuild of SAR steam locomotive Yx141
  • Tyre replacement on W934

Future projects:

  • Tyre replacement on W22 (W916)



PRRPS currently has 4 operational steam locomotives, 2 operational diesel locomotives, as well as a diesel railcar available for use.

Class Number Former Operator Wheel arrangement Condition Comments
W 916 WAGR 4-8-2 Operational Rebuilt as W22
W 931 WAGR 4-8-2 Stored
W 933 WAGR 4-8-2 Stored
W 934 WAGR 4-8-2 Undergoing mechanical overhaul
W 22 ST 4-8-2 Stored ex Silverton Tramway
T 186 SAR 4-8-0 Stored
Yx 141 SAR 2-6-0 Operational
Wx 18 SAR 2-6-0 Stored Disassembled
3 BHP 2-6-2T Stored Tank locomotive
NM 25 CR 4-8-0 Operational
NB 30 CR C Operational Diesel hydraulic locomotive
NSU 51 CR A1A-A1A Stored
NSU 52 CR A1A-A1A Operational
NSU 54 CR A1A-A1A Stored
NT 76 CR Co-Co Operational
DE 10 BHP Bo-Bo Stored
SMC 1 SAR/CR 2-2-0WT Operational Steam Motor Coach No.1 "Coffee Pot"
RC 106 SAR - Operational Diesel railcar

Restored carriagesEdit

Class Number Former Operator Description Comments
5 SAR Short Tom (157 type)
74 SAR Short Tom (American type)
90 SAR Short Tom (American type)
167 SAR Short Tom (157 type) Commissioner's carriage named "Flinders" by SAR 1929-30
169 SAR Short Tom (157 type) Officers Sleeping carriage named "Sturt" by SAR 1929-30
170 SAR Short Tom (157 type) Officers Kitchen and Dining carriage named "Light" by SAR 1929-30
175 SAR Short Tom (157 type) Officers Sleeping carriage named "Lincoln" by SAR 1929-30
207 SAR Long Tom
209 SAR Long Tom Named "Wandana" by PRRPS after rebuild
305 SAR Brill Railcar trailer Formerly number 219 on broad gauge, numbered "305" by PRRPS
4891 SAR Composite bogie brake van
4894 SAR Composite bogie brake van
Alberga SAR Broken Hill Express carriage Sleeping carriage
Coonatto SAR Broken Hill Express carriage Sleeping carriage
Nilpena SAR Broken Hill Express carriage Sleeping carriage
NYAB 15 CR Composite brake van Rebuilt by PRRPS in a different format to the original
NABPa 25 CR Composite sitting
NABPa 26 CR Composite sitting
NABPa 27 CR Composite sitting
NSS 34 CR Special Service Car No. 3 First class sleeping, dining and observation carriage. Used for special hires.
NIA 36 CR Composite first class sleeping Includes kitchen and dining area

Awards receivedEdit

Pichi Richi Railway has received many significant awards since formation.[24]

Year Award
1984 South Australian Association of Regional Tourist Organisations Inc, Harry Dowling Award for Tourism Excellence
1984 Flinders Ranges Regional Tourist Association Inc, Tourism Award Winner for the Most Significant Tourism Enterprise
1987 State Bank South Australian Tourism Awards, Tourist Attractions category
1987 Flinders Ranges Regional Tourist Association Inc, Tourism Award Winner for the Most Significant Tourist Enterprise
1992 State Bank South Australian Tourism Awards, Judges' Commendation - Significant Local Attractions category
1997 Yellow Pages South Australian Tourism Awards, Award of Distinction - Heritage and Cultural Tourism category
2002 Permanent Way Institution SA Section, Trackwork Achievement Award
2014 South Australian Regional Awards, StatewideSuper Tourism Award

Visiting operatorsEdit

PRRPS has hosted heritage vehicles from three heritage railway operators.

The first occasion was when Steamtown ran a train to Quorn over the weekend of 17 and 18 of October 1981. This was the last steam hauled train and last passenger train to travel on the Peterborough–Quorn railway line all the way to Quorn. Although the Quorn station yard and line to Peterborough was still under the control of Australian National at this time, the Steamtown trip became the last steam-hauled train and last passenger train to travel the entire Peterborough to Quorn railway line. Steamtown's ex WAGR Pmr720 was the only Pacific type steam locomotive to ever visit Quorn.[25]

The Australian Society of Section Car Operators, Inc. negotiated an access agreement with PRRPS and subsequently its members used the railway between Quorn and Stirling North to operate their section cars on the weekend of 22 and 23 March 2003.[26]

Former BHAS locomotive "Peronne" and Short Tom carriage 144 from the National Railway Museum have operated on Pichi Richi Railway.


  1. ^ a b Barrington R, Babbage J; 1980 The History of the Pichi Richi Railway PRRPS ISBN 0-9598509-6-1
  2. ^ Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society (1975), The Pichi Richi railway, Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society, ISBN 978-0-9598509-0-1
  3. ^ "PRR Steams in to Port Augusta, line officially opened". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 2010-01-29.
  4. ^ "Afghan Express Train Service Information". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  5. ^ "Pichi Richi Explorer Train Service Information". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  6. ^ "Dinner Train Service Information". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  7. ^ "Private Train Hire Information". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  8. ^ "The NM25 Restoration Project". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  9. ^ "Outback icon returns to steam on Pichi Richi Railway". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  10. ^ a b c "Port Augusta Track Extension". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society.
  11. ^ "Stirling North Opening". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society.
  12. ^ "The Pichi Richi Railway Extension" ARHS Bulletin issue 751 May 2000 page 163
  13. ^ :"Pich Richi Extension" Railway Digest June 2000 page 47
  14. ^ Diagram
  15. ^ "Diagram of underpass arrangement at Stirling North". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  16. ^ "Stirling North Opening". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  17. ^ "Pichi Richi". Port Augusta City Council. Retrieved 3 February 2010.
  18. ^ PINCRIB
  19. ^ retaining wall design
  20. ^ "Official Opening of Port Augusta Extension". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  21. ^ "The Pichi Richi Railway Port Augusta Extension Project, 2002 Trackwork Achievement Award Submission" (PDF). Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  22. ^ "Commonwealth Railways NRC36/NIA36". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  23. ^ "Commonwealth Railways Special Car no. 3, NSS34". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  24. ^ "Awards". Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  25. ^ Evans, J 2009; Proceed to Quorn Railmac Publications ISBN 978-1-86477-066-X
  26. ^ George N: 2003 Pichi Richi Railway Trackside #18, March 2003. Australian Society of Section Car Operators Inc. ISSN 1446-7461

External linksEdit