Continuing on from the prior post, we follow the Pichi Richi Railways’ Afghan Express as it heads out of Port Augusta and up into the Flinders Ranges through the Pichi Richi Pass.
If you haven’t taken a look at the earlier post Head full of steam: Pichi Richi Railway I suggest you take a look there before continuing with this post.
After leaving Port Augusta railway station I drove a few miles out of Port Augusta and onto the road to Quorn, stopping partway across the coastal plain at the rail bridge over Saltia Creek. Here I found some other train enthusiasts (and lots of annoying small flies) also waiting for the train.
First up, an important advisory announcement…
After what seemed like a long wait, the Afghan Express came into view as it climbed a low embankment and onto the bridge.
As the Afghan Express enters the foothills, the road and rail alignments separate for a couple of miles before again meeting at a level crossing at the abandoned settlement of Saltia.
Having navigated the initial hard climb, the gully opens out onto some flatter land, giving the train some easier steaming.
Just before the highest point of the Pichi Richi pass, the Afghan Express arrives at Woolshed Flat where it meets another Pichi Richi Railways service that’s come up the eastern side of the pass from the township of Quorn.
We’ll take a look at what happens next in another post.
Camera was a Pentax K-x and the lens in use were my walkabout lens, the Tamron 17-50mm F2.8 and a Pentax 55-300 F4-5.8.
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.