Yep, I’m back to posting about trains again. It’s been a year since the last post dedicated to trains, so that’s not too bad for self discipline!
There are two historical railway societies within South Australia running regularly scheduled tourist railways. One is the Steamranger Heritage Railway operating in the Adelaide Hills and along the southern coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula and which I have previously looked at in several posts. The other society is the Pichi Richi Railway located some 300 kilometres (200 miles) north of Adelaide in the southern Flinders Ranges.
In early October 2013 I took a major detour on the way from Adelaide to a camping weekend along the Murray River to first head to Port Augusta and check out the Pichi Richi operations. Photos from this trip were to have been posted to Photo Morsels but an unexpected visit to the National Railway Museum in suburban Port Adelaide later in October yielded an extensive collection of photos. Those photos rather than the Pichi Richi photos ended up appearing on Photo Morsels in late 2013.
I still intended though that the Pichi Richi photos were to have been a follow-on series published soon thereafter. The ‘soon thereafter’ didn’t eventuate, so with considerable delay, let’s now take a look at the Pichi Richi Railway.
The Pichi Richi Railway is headquartered in the township of Quorn, historically an important railway junction straddling the east/west line across Australia and the railway that headed north to Alice Springs. The heritage railway workshops are in Quorn, but rolling stock is also stored in Port Augusta. This allows heritage services to be operated out of either location.
Joining Port Augusta to Quorn is 39 kilometres (24 miles) of lightly built narrow gauge railway. This section of line was built in 1878 as part of the South Australian Railways’ Port Augusta & Government Gums Railway, and later formed a part of the Commonwealth Railways Central Australian Railway and the east-west Transcontinental line. The original Ghan passenger service operated on the line initially to the remote South Australian community of Oodnadatta and later to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. The section of track maintained by the Pichi Richi Railway is the oldest remaining section of this now abandoned and largely removed narrow gauge track. The Ghan still runs, but on standard gauge track built in the late 1970’s on a completely different alignment to the original.
This post looks at the assembly of an Afghan Express heritage service prior to its run from Port Augusta to Quorn and back.
The Afghan Express was now formed up and ready to go. Wanting to get ahead of the train before it worked its way up into the Pichi Richi pass, I left the train before its departure from Port Augusta and hopped back into my car.
On the next Photo Morsels post, we’ll do a little train chasing.
Being 2013 images, the camera in use was a Pentax K-x rather than the Pentax K-3 I’m now using. The first few shots used a then just acquired and ‘new to me’ Pentax FA20-35/4. As I hadn’t any real experience with this lens, I then swapped back to my known walkabout lens, the Tamron 17-50mm F2.8, just in case the FA20-35 had a fault that I hadn’t yet picked up. The FA20-35 proved itself to be A-OK but I didn’t want to later find I had gone several hundred miles out of my way just to end up with unusable photos.
To Learn More
The Pichi Richi Railway website is here. Lots of details on their rolling stock and service schedules are also there. In 2015 the double headed trains are listed for 6th June and 3rd October. I also see their quaint little ‘Coffee Pot’ loco is promised to return to service some time in 2015 after several years off-line awaiting significant repairs.
Port Augusta is around 3½ hours drive from Adelaide while Port Augusta to Quorn is about 30 minutes by car provided you don’t stop for train photos :-).
Port Augusta/Quorn is the southern gateway to the Flinders Ranges proper. The Flinders give a real taste of the outback while still being accessible by two wheel drive vehicles as far as Blinman. It starts to get a bit on the rough side after that. Tacking a Pichi Richi train experience onto a Flinders Ranges holiday would be a good combination. I don’t recommend a Flinders Ranges holiday in summer – some days might be fine but you could also get stuck with a full-on heat wave. Late March to October are the best travel times and that also broadly coincides with when the Pichi Richi Railway runs steam services. During the fire ban season, they will run heritage diesels rather than steam because of the fire risk associated with embers and ash emitted from steam locomotives.
From what I have seen from several visits up there, the Pichi Richi heritage train services have their minor hiccups along the way and can run moderately behind schedule. It you choose to ride one of the Pichi Richi trains, build some slack into your day’s scheduling and just go with the flow enjoying an authentic experience. The original Ghan rarely kept to a schedule either.