Passenger and mixed (Goods and Passenger) Trains...

Introduction
We should go back a bit in history and examine what passenger trains had ever been running, and which were progressively axed through cost-cutting exercises. When discussing the form of this article with a close friend who is in what these days is euphemistically called "human resource" managment I was reminded of some earlier South Australian history of which I had forgotten.


My friend pointed out to me that South Australian Premier Sir Thomas Playford, during his thity odd years of running the State, had lunch at least twice a week with the leader of the parliamentary opposition Labour Party (Hon. Mick O'Halloran), and that together they would plan the great things that happened in this part of the nation during their joint government during a bygone era when parliamentarians were statesmen, were altruistic in their outlook, and didn't belittle each other as a matter of course.

Long after his retirement, the Labour Party Premier of the late sixties and seventies (Don Dunstan) said in eulogy about Tom Playford over the radio that the two of them would often meet and discuss important matters when Dunstan was Premier, and that Dunstan would ask Playford for his advice, and would often take it. I can remember Dunstan saying that, as I drove home from work on the day Playford's death was announced.

Playford caused much of the development of the South Australian hinterland by setting up road, rail, water and electricity infrastructure, to keep people in the country, gainfully employed, adequately educated, with medical facilities to raise their families.

It was Playford and his predecessors who ensured the railways' growth at a time in history when they were in as poor a state as they are now, through importing an American, Webb, to get the system back working with the technology of that age. It was Playford who set the ball rolling for expansions in Whyalla and Port Pirie after World War Two, who encouraged General Motors to build a new car plant at the proposed site of a planned new northern suburban satellite city, to be called Elizabeth after the new Queen, and who ensured rail siding access was available to service all industry throughout the State. It was he who encouraged Chrysler Australia to build two new manufacturing plants south of Adelaide, both serviced by sidings, and the one at Tonsley served by a new railway line as well. Playford, as a conservative, nationalised the electricity undertakings and formed the Electricity Trust of South Australia, to develop the distribution of electric power far and wide into the interior - into the Flinders Ranges, into the wheat growing lands of the mid-north, across the Eyre and Yorke Peninsulars, and further north to the rocket range being built at Woomera in conjunction with the peace-time conversion of the Penfield munitions factory.

One of the hallmarks of the South Australian road system, very noticeable as one entered or left South Australia during Playford's period, was the superiority of their construction and surface compared with country roads in New South Wales and Victoria. Even the graded dirt road linking Ceduna and Norseman (the latter being in Western Australia) was better on his side of the border, and while sealed road surfaces in country SA were always two lanes wide with a white line down the centre, those into the adjoining states heading towards their capitals were frequently only one vehicle wide, with the necesity of drivers putting the left hand side set of wheels into the soft dirt edge when a vehicle came the other way. This was noticeable to the writer on the Coolgardie-Esperance Highway on his first trip to the West by road, in 1969, and it was still the case in 1970/71 on a return trip to Adelaide and back again to Perth.

The extension of the railway line to Redhill on into Port Pirie was, of course, part of this forward thinking for the benefit of the whole community which was enjoyed in those days of statesmen who governed, and who were not at each others' throats seeking a quick cheap political point-score.

However, the proliferation of cars was a major contributor to the demise of passenger train services. The ease with which anyone aged over twenty-one could run a road truck over five tons capacity brought about freight rail demise because without contributing a realistic amount towards the cost of constructing and maintaining the roads, the infrastructure cost was borne as a general taxation burden rather than as a portion of the cartage tariff which would have been better economics. This problem is not unique in Australia, nor indeed in the so-called "Western World"; it is related to the verbal input applied to governments by road transport operators right around the world.

Some passenger services which eventually ceased...
The "Iron Triangle Limited"
The "Blue Lake",
The "Mount Gambier Mixed"
The "Slow Mixed" - "Tea and Sugar" or train no 521
The "Maree Mixed"
The "Broken Hill Express"
The "Explorer"

The "Iron Triangle Limited" was an attempt by AN in the 1980s to run a competitive service linking Adelaide, Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Whyalla, using Budd RDC-1 cars from the old Commonwealth Railways which had been purchased nearly forty years before. Private buses had cornered the market over this route some thirty years before, and they had the added advantage of operating out of a central Adelaide location; the AN terminal at Keswick would have to be one of the most difficult spots to reach by any traveller, even with an in-depth knowledge of the city's geography and facilities.

AN persevered with the service for several years, eventually ceasing, being unable to compete with the road operators who did little to pay towards the cost of the road infrastructure. A point worth noting was the total and deliberate refusal by both the national railway company and the suburban railway company (both government owned) to build a connecting pedestrian connection between the adjacent Keswick suburban platforms and the interstate passenger terminal, although lobbied by passengers on both systems.

At least the terminal at East Perth was designed with suburban interchange in mind; this was very apparent to all at the arrival of the inaugural "Indian Pacific" from Sydney on 26th February 1970, although photographs taken by the author at the time of construction (12 months before) clearly show the space allocated for the as-yet unbuilt suburban island platform close to what had been the East Perth locomotive service facilites.

two views of Perth Terminal, with dates

The "Blue Lake" railcar service linked the south-eastern town with the unique blue water lake - Mount Gambier - with Adelaide. Previously, the "Mount Gambier Mixed" train was loco hauled from the Mount as far as Belair in the Adelaide hills, where the train was divided, the passenger portion continuing to the Adelaide station, and the freight portion following it to Mile End Goods. By the time AN had taken over, and the move of passenger facilities made to Keswick, the Mt Gambier passenger train had become Bluebird dmus, and most of the freight was carted by road transport haulier Scotts. In fact, the first departure from the new Keswick terminal was the Mount Gambier Bluebird at 8am on the morning of the arrival of the first "Overland" from Melbourne.

last departure from Adelaide, first Keswick arrival/departure

The world-famous "Tea and Sugar" train, which has been featured in documentaries from a number of countries, was an unique mode of transport. It had several purposes, one of which was the obvious one, to pick up empties or loaded wagons at any of the many sidings along the route, and leave wagons with goods for delivery or empty wagons to be loaded at such locations. Interestingly, the "Slow Mixed" only ever ran from east to west, all the pickups being collected and taken to Parkeston, the Commonwealth Railways terminal east of Kalgoorlie, for remarshalling to either go on into Perth with a Western Australian train, or back east with a Commonwealth train.

Illustrations

Mixed, of course, meant it would carry passengers as well as goods (freight). Those who were hardy enough to travel as fare-paying passengers would have to fend for themselves in the kitchen that was part of the dormitory car provided for the trainís crew, which in those days was two sets of driver, driverís assistant (called the "observer") and guard, the latter who was rather like the old-time American "Freight Conductor". The guard was actually in charge of the train, and it was usually regarded as his fault when things beyond his control happened! The crew worked on a system called "relay", where they alternated working and resting rosters, and were actually paid all the way through the journey, which was financially attractive for the workers although involving days at a time away from their families, but fewer days than if they slept at rest-houses en route, which were established early on, and were used at one time. The relay system seemed the best way to run through an area where there is zero population on a three-day journey. It's a bit hard to book off and have some R & R under those circumstances!

The second reason for the train running at all was the provisioning of the various workers' camps along the route, which originated during the construction of the line. Train number 521 Mixed (the 5 signifying day of the week number five, the 2 representing the part of the 24-hour day, and the 1 (odd number meaning a westbound train, the first departure within that time period), left Port Augusta at 5am every Thursday, year in, year out. The last portion of the train originally carried a grocer's shop, a fruit and vegetable shop, and a butcher's shop, each vehicle being specifically built. There was also a modified louvre van as a store-room, with a concertina connection from the provision van, a very unusual arrangement for a bogie goods vehicle! Two such consists were built, because there wasn't enough time to get the vans back to Port Augusta after they reached Parkeston before the following Thursday departure, such was the leisurely schedule of no 521. Eventually, towards the end of 1979, Port Augusta build a pair of really "swish" supermarket cars. It didn't seem the same any more!

On arrival at Parkeston, the "tea and sugar" portion was hitched to the next express goods back to Port Augusta, and the Butcher and Storekeeper would travel back on that night's express passenger service in passenger accomodation, which would have been a welcome relief from their cots on the way over. Parkeston being the CR's terminal, it was only passenger trains that went on into Kalgoorlie, stopping in a terminal or dock road at the eastern end of the station, and passengers disembarked and crossed to the waiting narrow gauge "Westland" express the other side of the platform. This meant that the few passengers who ever travelled on the "Slow Mixed" were actually stranded on their arrival at Parkeston; however someone would usually offer them a lift into "Kal".

shopping on the T&S

I used to buy from the "Sugar" regularly every week for the three years I worked at Woomera; just about everything was cheaper and fresher than from the military mess shop ("ASCO") that operated in the community. As the number of gangs stationed out on the track reduced with the advent of concrete sleepers, so did the number of stops of train 521, and eventually when almost all the gangs were withdrawn, so was the "Sugar", first introduced around 1912 to supply the construction workers as the railhead moved slowly westward. A sad day, because with its withdrawal, the town of Cook (roughly in the middle of Australia) also went; no employees, so no children any more, so no school, no Royal Flying Doctor Base and hospital, nobody at all, just diesel oil tank cars in a siding for locomotive and power van replensihment. An end of an era.

A seldom realised need for the Slow Mixed was the transporting of special vans and special service people. Regular doctor-nurse trips went in a community service car, a non-airconditioned saloon converted for the purpose. Once every three months the Port Augusta office of South Australia's Education Department ran a prolongued tour up the track with the RICE programme - an acronym for "Rural and Isolated Childrens' Exercise". All sorts of activities were conducted by their team at all the camps, and often musicians would take their art with them, both indiginous and western style. One should remember that while satellites existed, they couldn't be accessed by the public. There was no television, seldom a reliable radio broadcast station could be heard except at night time when several would be there on the same frequency due to propagation vagiaries. Consequently there was also a cinema car which would make monthly trips with latest releases, all courtesy of Commonwealth Railways who looked after their people, even if some of them were deliberately incognito, avoiding law enforcement officers!

In 1978, while at Woomera, the author and the Chief Traffic Manager at Port Augusta explored the possibility of a handful of children of railway employees from up the track as far as Cook being involved on a monthly basis with the Scout Troop at Woomera, where the author was a leader. Most of the logistical details were worked out, including billeting and the childrens' attendance at the Woomera school on the day of the scout meeting, with two overnight trips in sleeping cars provided gratis by the Commonwealth railways for its employees' children. Eventually the plan had to be abandoned because of the potential dangers that children could be exposed to while travelling unaccompanied. It shows the type of society into which we had deteriorated.

Illustration stabled at Pimba

The "Maree Mixed" was the name given to the service from Port Augusta to Maree, which connected with the narrow gauge "Ghan" at Maree. The "Maree Mixed" was not a pickup goods, the title for that being the "Slow Mixed". Previously it had been called the "Fast Mixed" which was also the rather euphemistic timetable name for the "Ghan" for so many years.

Budd & trailer at Pt Augusta

There are several different reasons given for naming the train to Alice Springs the "Ghan", and the one most people will offer is that it was named after the Afghan cameleers who provided the more or less co-ordinated freight service from wherever the railhead happened to be on along the telegraph line track which ended up at the township of Stuart which eventually became known as Alice Springs. Oodnadatta, where the railhead was for twenty years during what was called the "long pause" was so named after an Aboriginal word meaning the "blossom of the mulga", more or less pronounced "Utma datta". Even Oodnadatta had an earlier English name - "The angle pole", named by the installers and maintainers when it was just a bend in the middle of an otherwise pair of straight telegraph lines.

The "Broken Hill Express" was a service which linked Adelaide with Broken Hill, at one time on an almost daily basis prior to the gauge conversion of the Port Pirie to Cockburn, Silverton and Broken Hill main line. It was a Broad gauge service as far as Terowie, with a change to narrow gauge from there on. Of course, engines and crews also changed at Cockburn, just on the SA side of the border. This was in the days of six o'clock hotel closing in South Australia, so a hundred yards further on, the train would stop again, at the platform called Burns which was actually in NSW whose closing time was 10pm, and the adjacent pub would be open! In later years, a sit-up car was attached to the Indian Pacific service between Broken Hill and Port Pirie, with connections to Adelaide, until the Indian Pacific was routed via Adelaide which started shortly after the standard gauge reached there in about 1985.

There was a sporadic resurgence in the mid 1990s with a locomotive hauled train called the "Explorer" between Adelaide and the Barossa valley, one of South Australia's fine wine-growing areas, but the specially painted train failed to make a financial return, although they tried hard for six months or so. Bluebird railcars were then hired as a private venture, but this too ceased abruptly, due partly to the untimely death of (xx) the principal in the consortium sponsoring the activity in 199xx. Both Bluebird railcars and their succesful privatised ownership since 1997 are described in greater detail later in the article.

The "Trans-Australian Railway Express"
The "Westland"
The "East-West Express"
The "Trans-Australian Railway Express" was the rather grand title given in 1917 to the only passenger train which ever ran the full length of the standard gauge Trans-Australia line from Port Augusta in South Australia (later Port Pirie) to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. The title was shortened to "Trans Australian" in the mid-seventies, shortly before ANR came into existence. When I first crossed by train in about 1971, it still had the earlier Victorian era colonial-sounding name. The "Trans" stopped running a bit before1990, when belts were being tightened by AN.

Illustrations

Western Australia ran its narrow-gauge connecting train from Perth to Kalgoorlie, which was called the "Westland", which was a special train specifically for the purpose, and it carried no local traffic at all. One of the interesting things about the Western Australian country trains was the provision of sleeping cars, showers and dining cars for all passengers as a matter of course - the other colonies (later states) only did this for first class, and even that was usually optional. The WA service, while travelling unbelievably slowly on laid track to poor standards decades earlier, was quite fabulous, and the service was very well patronised. Two hours earlier (from memory) departed the "Kalgoorlie Express", a limited stop train that was provided for the general travelling public. By limited stop is meant it only stopped for train orders, swapping yarns with locals, and persuading stock to get off the track! For at least two years after the last narrow-gauge "Westland" ran, the staff at Perth Terminal, and the WA timetables, still referred to the "Trans-Australian" as the "Westland", such is the way habits go!

Illustrations

To reminisce, in 1970 I drove from Adelaide to Perth accompanied by a trusty old Border Collie. I overtook the "Westland" heading in the same direction just west of Coolgardie, and some twenty to thirty miles further on, I felt tired and stopped, sleeping by the roadside for some three hours. On waking I drove on, and overtook the same train as it was arriving at a staff exchanging loop west of Kellerberin, only about 100 miles further down the road!

The two Narrow Gauge "Westland" consists shared the one dining car which was crewed by Perth staff who served an evening meal in three sittings after departing eastbound Perth for Kalgoorlie at about 6pm. About 10.30pm at Northam, it was detached from the train, and the staff then prepared the morning's breakfast for the westbound train, and booked off. The other train collected the dining car at Northam at about 7 am, and breakfast was ready to serve with the first sitting being called before the driver had picked up the token for the next block! They arrived in Perth City at about 11am, so there was plenty of time to serve the three breakfast sittings and clean up. In those days, country trains all over Australia seemed more leisurely, following the "wait a bit" philosophy of the era

Illustrations

The connecting broad-gauge train from Adelaide to Port Pirie was called the "East-West Express", and this used two train crews, one based at Adelaide, the other based at Port Pirie, and the service was scheduled in such a way that seven days a week the southbound "East-West" would always cross the northbound "East-West" at Snowtown in the mid-north, the crews changing trains to return "home" after the cross.

Illustration of Snowtown cross in 1978

The interesting thing about this is that the original purpose of the Trans-Australia Railway, as far as passenger traffic was concerned, was to enable people to travel from Melbourne to Perth and vice versa. This is what Sir John Forrest fought for, representing Western Australiaís interests at the constitutional convention which framed Australiaís identity as a nation late last century. It is quite significant that there has NEVER been a scheduled passenger service right through, although it has been one track gauge since 1995. For a short while after the standard gauge link to Port Pirie was completed, the "Trans" contined to run, but it is now many years since. There was one token expression made in June 1995, when a special "Indian Pacific" was run from Brisbane through Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide to Perth, and then back again. It has never been repeated.

Illustration of first Trans ex Adelaide

Illustration of Brisbane-Melbourne-Adelaide-Perth IP run

However as mentioned earlier, we did have an earlier private venture across Australia - in August of 1970 - when New South Wales Rail Transport Museum ran its steam engine 3801 accompanied by 3813 following the Indian Pacific route, returning to Sydney the following month. Then there was also the British "Flying Scotsman" (LNER 4472 / BR 61003), and now owned by an American, which did the trip a decade or so later, but that did not include Adelaide and Perth in its itinerary.

Illustrations of 3801 across the continent

Knowledgeable people have suggested that the failure of Australian long-distance train journeys to keep a measure of profitability may be due in part to the extremely generous government free travel facilities afforded to pensioners. Now that passenger trains are frequently operated by private operators, if they are reimbursed the pensioner subsidies that the government rail system operators should have been - and which they weren't - perhaps some measure of profitability may derive, and hence service frequency and other improvements may be acchieved.

The "Overland" and the The Daylight "Overland"

This train was originally called the "Inter Colonial Express", and was the first intercapital express to operate in Australia. That may surprise some people, who might ask 'what about the "Spirit of Progress"?' Actually, it was not until 3rd January 1962 that through traffic by rail was possible between Melbourne and Sydney, because there was a break of gauge situation at the border twin cities of Albury (NSW) and Wodonga (Victoria), seperated by just the River Murray whose crossing had a third rail laid.

There is a very interesting description of the inter-colonial machinations that set up the Victorian-South Australian "Inter-Colonial" in Reece Jennings' book called "Line Clear", which is well worth reading. It is likely to be out of print, so a search of second-hand shops might be needed.

At the Adelaide end, it was found necessary in quite early days to duplicate the south line between Mitcham and Belair to handle the considerable suburban traffic, but it is interesting to observe that such is the "grunt" of diesel power that there appears to be no compromise to traffic frequency in the 1990s as this route was reduced to two seperate single tracks of two different gauges during the 1994-1995 gauge standardisation process.

This writer found the concept puzzling when it was announced, as it would seem to be likely that the costs involved of relaying completely new track plus constructing crossing loops for both gauge systems would have been more than third rails with modified pointwork where necessary, apart from the emergency situation of being able to work single line on both gauges in the event of one line being out of service for maintenance or because of a disaster. For example, the "new" Sleeps Hill tunnel, commissioned in 1928 for dual track working, would be a difficult place to do maintence on at the best times, and if a passenger derailment occurred in it, one would imagine that it would be preferable to run another train alongside to pick the people up. Perhaps it was just another case of our bureaucrats using our money the way they wanted to.

Illustration of trestle at Sleeps Hill old route

The present-day rival is the road bus...

Daytime services have been tried on a number of occasions, but they do not compete well with airline travel. It is likely that most patronage would have come from people boarding or leaving en route, or both. For a couple of years in the late 1980s a daytime Melbourne to Dimboola (via Ballarat) passenger service connected with a V/Line road bus through to Adelaide, but the patronage was poor and it was discontinued.

The "Ghan"
In 1980 work finished on a major construction project, that of driving a new high capacity all-weather standard gauge rail route connecting Alice Springs in the Northern Territory with the main east-west Trans-Australian Railway at Tarcoola. This was laid on high ground, not subject to flooding, and shortly afterward its commissioning work commenced on dismantling the narrow gauge railway between Maree, Oodnadatta and Alice Springs. When that was finished, the standard gauge line north of Leigh Creek to Maree was also removed, isolating both Oodnadatta and Maree from the rail system

It was not until AN disintegrated and passenger services were sold to a private operator that the Ghan would run ex Melbourne.

Public Relations?
The author of this treatise was involved in 1979 with what became an abortive effort to operate an amateur radio station "railway mobile" on the occasion of the combined centenary and golden jubilee celebrations of the line - a hundred years since opening, and fifty years since the extension reached Alice Springs.

AN suggested that this particular trip would be good publicity for them, so it was promoted around the world per the medium of Amateur radio, and in periodicals published for Amateur Radio Operators. Arrangements had thus been planned well in advance (some twelve months ahead of time) with the Central Australia Railway's Chief Traffic Manager's office in Port Augusta, and the Signal and Telegraph Engineer's office in Adelaide, but unforseen industrial muscle was exercised which caused some communication problems; on the scheduled date of departure from Port Augusta it was suddenly discovered that nobody had ensured the availability of an extra narrow gauge relay van at Marree for the well-advertised communications operation, the trip having to be cancelled at a few hours' notice. This could at best be described as extremely poor public relations.

Illustrations

The "Alice"
This was in effect a "Ghan" from Sydney to Alice Springs which was tried by AN between November 1983 and October 1987, with a decision to cancel it permanently being made by AN on 16th February 1988, the reason stated being poor patronage. As the train ran via Port Pirie, one cannot help being surprised that connections with Adelaide (and onwards to and from Melbourne) as was done with the real "Ghan" did not help the ticket sales, but the lack of a connection would have been a contributing factor.

Slightly over ten years later, on 12th June 1998, the new private owners of the rollingstock indicated that this service may be resurrected as part of their extra "Ghan" services announced that same day. In the announcement, the first Ghan would run from Melbourne to Alice Springs in November 1998, with the Sydney service's commencement slotted for April 1999.

Illustrations

Bluebird Diesel-hydraulic MUs
While "Bluebird" self-propelled railcars were occasionally hired on a contract basis from AN in the eighties and nineties for tourist development in the Barossa region, AN had actually ceased running them by then - indeed having ceased running all intrastate passenger services.

There was a bit of a panic when AN started to talk about selling off bits of the remaining stock from its country passenger fleet late on. Bluebirds were thought at one time to have been sold in a clandestine manner to a Thailand operator, a point which was strongly denied officially, and in some circles disbelieved at the time. Fortunately this subsequently proved to have been just a rumour.

The building of the Bluebird railcars in the first place were an extra tacked on to the manufacturing run at the SAR's Islington workshops of joint-stock carbon steel cars clad above and below the windows with corrugated stainless steel, looking remarkably like American "Budd" carriages (but without a roof cupola housing the cooling water and lubricating oil radiators). Budd railcars were eventually manufactured in Australia under licence by Commonwealth Engineering for a range of Australian users.

Illustrations of Bluebirds in earlier days, with a Budd RDC for comparison

Bluebirds were officially named as such, possibly because their colour scheme was dark blue painted window bands and ends, grey rooves, and black below the waistline, with fluted stainless steel trim above and below the window bands. Each car was given the name of a different species of bird with blue plumage. The Overland stock and the Bluebirds were much heavier and more rugged than the Budd, and generally speaking have lasted structurally better than Budds.

So similar are the two carriage designs that an "Overland" car painted blue round the windows and marshalled in a Bluebird consist is as inconspicuous as the 100 series of Bluebird trailers, some of which at one time under AN ownership were rebuilt internally to run as coach class cars on the Ghan and Indian Pacific trains, painted aluminium round the windows, and marshalled between similar "Overland" cars. At least one "Overland" sleeping car has been converted to a private car in the Islington workshops under privatised ownership, and it looks perfectly at home in either an "Overland" or "Bluebird" consist.

Illustration of 1998 private car

Bluebirds originally came in three forms, and all initially ran on broad gauge bogies. There was the 100-class, which were composite first and second class driving trailer units, with toilets and small handluggage facilities, with a control position at both ends to avoid the need for turning. The companion powered unit was the 250-class, on an identical chassis, and which had a barely adequately sized baggage compartment at its "A" end, and a driver's position at both ends.

Communication between vehicles in a marshalled set was through a walkway exposed to the elements accessed by the end doors, and protected by a pair of chains on each side of the gangway. For longer runs - which carried considerable amounts of goods despatched by "passenger rail"; - a slightly shorter powered vehicle, the 280-class, was constructed a few years later. This also had control stations at both ends, and the entire carbody between was baggage space with large sliding external access doors on each side.

It has been suggested that the 280s were introduced to avoid the need for a seperate baggage van and a locomotive, although the Commonwealth's three genuine Budds always towed a silver-painted baggage van in their heyday, and there was no reason why Bluebirds could not have also done so, particularly as similar baggage vans running on passenger bogies were attached to both the "Overland" between Adelaide and Melbourne, and the "East-West" between Adelaide and Port Pirie, the louvred vans being painted maroon and silver to match the passenger accomodation.

Illustrations of various

A few standard gauge bogies were either built or converted later on as option choices for the Bluebirds, as were some for the other passenger cars, but by and large gauge conversion was acchieved by changing of wheelsets, all bogies for the SAR and ANR in more recent years having being constructed to take either broad or narrow gauge wheelsets. "Bogie Exchanging" had been organised to a fine art by the time it ceased in 1985 on all through trains in South Australia and Victoria, with goods vehicles lifted on their four corners, brake rigging unpinned, bogies pulled out at one end and replaced with one of the other gauge from the other end, the whole train standing on a track which had four running rails, and the train being propelled by remote control.

Unlike the practice at border frontiers between Spain and France, and Poland and Russia, this was purely a freight option, people still had to alight and cross the platform, or alight and wait for the connecting train to arrive.

The Commonwealth Railways bought three RDC (Rail Diesel Cars) railcars from the Budd Company in the USA in the 1950s, and experienced various problems over many years with them, perhaps in part due to the environment in which they ran, the extremely hot arid conditions north and west of Port Augusta.

After standing idle at Port Augusta for a decade, these were retired to one of the sidings at Keswick terminal after an abortive attempt to proftably operate from Adelaide to Whyalla as the "Iron Triangle Limited" as mentioned earlier. The last commercial Bluebird operation by AN was called the "Blue Lake" express, which ran from Adelaide to Mount Gambier, and was discontinued quite a while before the broad gauge main to Melbourne was converted to standard gauge in 1994-1995.

Illustrations of CBs, also in storage at Keswick. Blue Lake departing Keswick


Saturday, 1st May 1999