|War Time History of the Commonwealth Railways|
A brief outline of the rollingstock and facilities on this railway at 30th September 1939, is given in the following :-
Note: The rollingstock on this railway is for narrow gauge 3'6" track.
|"Sitting-Up cars"||1st & 2nd||8|
|"Composite Relay vans"||8|
|Equivalent in 4-wheeled vehicles to 449||293|
|Hospital vans, bogie||1|
|Coal Hopper van, bogie||1|
|Water tank wagons, 4000-gallons, bogie||18|
|Water tank wagons, 2000-gallons, 4-wheel||25|
|Station||Mileage from Port Augusta||Facilities|
|Port Augusta||Town Supply, 6,741,400 gallons|
|Quorn||25||Reservoir, wells and bores|
|Hawker||65||Reservoir 4,365,600 gallons|
|Mern Merna||87||Two reservoirs, 2,641,700 and 2,524,200 gallons|
|Brachina||107||Two reservoirs, 4,896,700 and 3,750,000 gallons|
|Beltana||144||Reservoir 5,078,400 gallons|
|Copley||163||Reservoir 4,562,600 gallons|
|Farina||198||Two reservoirs, 5,334,900 and 2,576,475 gallons|
|Callana||240||Reservoir 7,444,400 gallons|
|Alberrie Creek||264||Reservoir 4,963,200 gallons|
|Beresford||326||Reservoir 8,141,500 gallons|
|Mt. Dutton||453||Reservoir 7,400,000 gallons|
|Alberga||504||Reservoir 18,000,000 gallons|
|Pedirka||544||Reservoir 38,000,000 gallons and well|
|Location||Mileage from Port Augusta||Capacity|
|Port Augusta||Bin (100-tons) and pit 16,000-tons (used also for Trans-Australian Rly.|
|Marree||231||200 tons (elevated bin)|
|William Creek||356||150 tons|
|Edwards Creek||414||200 tons|
|Mt. Dutton||453||25 tons|
|Alice Springs||771||100 tons|
The normal pre-war traffic on this railway consisted of two "mixed" trains weekly to Marree (231 miles), and one mixed train to Alice Springs, plus special livestock and supply trains, which varied according to season and conditions.
The country through which this railway passes is similar to that traversed by the Trans-Australian Railway, in that beyond Hawker - 41 miles north of Quorn - it is not suitable for agricultural development and is sparsely settled. Along this route too, there is not one permanent running stream. The rains are seasonal.
Some activity existed along the route in the direction of mining for ochre, talc, mica, wolfram, tantalite and other minerals, but the principal sources of traffic were from pastoral properties, the gold mining industry at Tenant Creek, and the township of Alice Springs.
There were indications of an increase of passenger traffic prior to the was as interest quickened in the tourist attractions of Central Australia and the pleasant winter climate at Alice Springs.
During the year 1940/41, the movement to the Darwin area of a great concentration of troops and equipment made necessary an urgent enlargement of all facilities on the Central Australia Railway. Locomotive and rollingstock were hired from the South Australian Railways Department, and additional volunteer running staff was obtained from State Railway systems. After this first big movement was completed, the heavy traffic on this line continued.
Japan's entry into the war late in 1941 brought the overland route via this railway, the North-South road and the North Australia Railway, even more prominently into the spotlight of immediate strategic need and importance. In February 1942, the bombing of Darwin showed clearly the perils of sea transport round the northern coastline, and great volumes of troops, equipment and supplies were thereafter transported overland to operational areas in the North. The traffic on the Central Australia Railway rose dramatically from three to fifty-six trains per week, with a corresponding increase in the number od Departmental trains for the conveyance of coal and other essential supplies.
The following table of basic statistics illustrates the meteoric increase in the service given by this railway:-
|For Twelve Months Period|
Immediate relief of the position in regard to locomotive power was available through the hire of 3'6" gauge "T" class locomotives from the adjoining South Australian Railways. The number of "T" class locomotive hires during the was period varied of course, with the traffic and the availability of other locomotives power. In November 1941, two were hired, and by May 1942, the number had increased to thirty-four (34).
Towards the end of the crucial year 1942, the strain on the main workshops at Port Augusta in the maintenance of locomotives and rollingstock required to provide the tremendously increased services, was approaching breaking point. As a result of successful tests of through running of engines between Terowie and Alice Springs, an agreement was entered into with the South Australian Railways for that Department to take over the full servicing of "T" class locomotives engaged on the "through" running.
In addition, the South Australian Railways undertook the overhaul of a number of "NM" class locomotives, and standard gauge boilers. This work proved a great relief to the overtaxed Commonwealth Railways workshops, and was of much assistance in the task of keeping locomotives in good running condition.
From the Queensland Government Railway eleven (11) "C16" class locomotives and 110 wagons (60 bogie and 50 4-wheel) were hired. The locomotives were placed in service progressively from 5th June 1942, but, owing to difficulty in obtaining material required to place the wagons in serviceable condition, the first of these was not available for traffic until November 1942. In June 1943 it was decided to return to Queensland the whole of the wagon stock hired, together with three locomotives that were in bad condition. The last of the remaining eight locomotives was released from traffic in October of the same year, and all were returned to Queensland after workshops attention.
In the third year of the war, fourteen (14) brakevans were hired from the South Australian Railways for use as relay vans.
During 1943/44 the Directorate of Locomotive and Rollingstock Construction, Land Transport Board, made available to Commonwealth Railways a total of 373 standard 40-ft. narrow gauge bogie underframes. Of these, 263 were used for the construction of the following bogie vehicles for the Central Australia Railway:-
|Type of Vehicle||Quantity|
|Open goods wagon ("NGc")||120|
|Covered goods wagon ("NVb")||41|
|Louvred wagon ("NLa")||20|
|Flat wagon ("NRf")||65|
|Composite relay van ("NARb")||17|
The following vehicles were constructed in the Commonwealth Railways Workshops during the war period:-
|Type of Vehicle||Quantity|
|Sleeping car, 1st and 2nd class||1|
|Louvre van, bogie||1|
|Covered goods wagon, 4-wheel||1|
|Explosives van, 4 wheel||1|
|Type of Vehicle||Quantity|
|"NHRb" class Composite relay vans (partly constructed by South Australian Railways)||13|
|Employees' vans (2 "NE" class, 2 "NEa" class)||4|
|"NGc" class low-sided open goods wagons, bogie||120|
|"NRf" class flat wagons, bogie.||65|
The following conversions and alterations also were carried out in the Commonwealth Railways workshops
|2||cattle vans, bogie, to covered goods vans|
|2||cattle vans, bogie, to brakevans|
|2||brakevans (1 "NYAb", 1 "NYb" class) to "NYR" class with sleeping accommodation.|
|1||composite relay van, "NHBR" class, to brakevan "NHR" class with sleeping accommodation.|
|1||2nd class brakevan ("NYBa") to Pay car.|
|32||cattle vans to flat wagons (re-converted 1944)|
|5||sheep vans, bogie, to flat wagons for transfer to North Australia Railway.|
|4||cattle vans, bogie, for conveyance of Army personnel|
|4||cattle vans, bogie, for use as mobile kitchens|
|20||flat wagons bogie, strengthened for conveyance of Army tanks.|
It is necessary, too, for the Port Augusta organisation to contribute a considerable amount of work in the direction of supply of rollingstock to the North Australian Railway. "Yx" class locomotives, purchased from the South Australian Railways, were transported by rail to Alice Springs and thence by road to North Australia. Where necessary, parts were stripped and packed, wheels were turned and axle boxes overhauled before dispatch.
During the period that the traffic was at peak density on this line, it was impossible to transport livestock southward by special trains. To overcome this difficulty, cattle vans were utilised for the conveyance of service goods on a number of Military trains, and used in their normal capacity for transport of cattle in the return direction from Alice Springs to Adelaide.
As on all other railway systems in Australia, the weight of war operations most effectively demonstrated the great disability caused by the differences in track gauges. On the Trans-Australian Railway, apart from the many other difficulties encountered through this cause, the fact that no adjoining system was of the same gauge meant that emergency rollingstock purchased or hired, could be obtained only by transport as freight. Whilst this did not apply to the Central Australia Railway, the activities on the latter system highlighted the enormous spending of manpower and equipment at the break-of-gauge point, Terowie in South Australia. There the whole of the vast movements of troops, equipment, supplies and engines of war that were railed to the Northern Territory, had to be transferred from broad gauge (5'3") to narrow gauge vehicles. Had the tide of warfare moved to the Western coastline, necessitating perhaps the withdrawal of forces from the North, the facilities at Port Augusta for the transfer of equipment from narrow to standard gauge vehicles would have proved a serious bottle neck.
The first work carried out as a result of war conditions was directed on 14th February 1941, and comprised the construction of four additional crossing loops between Oodnadatta and Alice Springs, and the extension of seven existing sidings between Copley and Oodnadatta. The whole of this work was completed within twelve days.
Later, further work was carried out at Alice Springs. Details of these works are as follows:-
Sidings for the sole use of the Defence Department were laid down at Alice Springs in 1941 to facilitate the handling of the huge quantity of stores required to go forward over the North-South road. In May 1942, a siding (820-ft. standing room) was opened at 976¾ Miles (just south of Alice Springs) where a petrol depot was established by the R.A.A.F..
In April 1942, work began on a programme which became known as "Project 52" because this was the reference to special funds provided for the work by the Department of the Army. This programme was intended to provide facilities for the movement of personnel and 500 tons of loading per day, and comprised, in addition to enlarged traffic siding accommodation, the provision of locomotive running sheds, coal handling plants, water supplies, accommodation for staff, and equipment for additional gangs (all of which will be described later), and the extension of workshops at Port Augusta (to which previous reference has been made).
Details of the siding and accommodation provided under "Project 52" are given hereunder:-
|Additional Crossing Loops|
|Station||Mileage from Port Augusta||Standing Room (feet)|
|Abminga (second loop)||587||930|
|Extension of Existing Sidings and Provision of Dead-end Sidings|
|Station||Mileage from Port Augusta||Crossing Loops extended to (feet)||Dead-end Sidings Provided (feet)|
|Nilpena||132||1,100||200 (extended by 150)|
Also under this project the following work was carried out:-
|Station||Mileage from Port Augusta||Particulars of Work|
|Brachina||107||Provision of 200-ft. loop for water gins, extensions of 10-ft. rail decked culvert.|
|Beresford||326||Provision of short goods loop 200-ft. off crossing loop.|
|Edwards Creek||414||Apex of triangle extended by 450-ft.|
|Oodnadatta||478||Goods siding extended north by 635-feet.|
|Abminga||587||Re-location and extension of triangle removal and re-erection of goods shed, goods loading ramp, platform, and signals; associated with provision of new crossing loop and extension of siding loop.|
|Alice Springs||771||Additional sidings to serve marshalling sidings. Extension by 400-ft. of cattle siding. Construction of additional goods shed 40' x 30' with 12' x 10' interior office. Extension existing goods shed & goods platform.|
|Port Augusta||-||Extension of Stores Yard.|
Water supplies on the Central Australia Railway were not sufficient to cope with the greatly increased traffic requirements, and conditions in 1941 were similar to those on the Trans-Australian Railway. Of seventeen reservoirs, water was not available in eleven for periods varying from four to nine months, and one reservoir was dry for the whole year. One of these reservoirs had been previously dry for twice in forty years. Extensive haulage of water in rail tank cars was necessary. these conditions made the preparations for the conveyance of vastly increased tonnages very much more difficult than might otherwise have been expected.
In the following year, 1941/42, surface supplies of water were very low for about nine months, and the use of bore water was necessary on a large scale. The underground water proved very inferior and interfered with engine working. To overcome this, water treatment plants were installed at many locations.
A brief description follows of the work done to improve water supplies:-
Later a weir was constructed on the creek side of the station yard. When filled to capacity this banked the water back for about a mile and ensured an almost permanent supply of good water.
|Total depth||286 feet|
|Water level||173 feet|
|Capacity||7,920 gallons per hour.|
|Location||Type of Plant||Capacity (gallons per hour)|
The details given under the heading of "Trans-Australian Railway" of the extensions necessary to the Port Augusta workshops apply also to the Central Australia line, because these facilities are common to both railways.
It was necessary also to extend locomotive running shed facilities at Quorn, a completely new shed being constructed, and to construct and establish new sheds at Marree, Oodnadatta and Alice Springs. The buildings, ashpits, drop-pits, etc. were constructed under contract. Track work for the four new depots was carried out Departmentally, involving the laying of fifty leads and 11,800 lineal yards of track.
Accommodation for the additional staff required for all Branches constituted a major problem. In the main, accommodation for single men was needed.
In May 1942, a contract was let for the construction of 19 single-room station buildings, 23 two-roomed living quarters, and 5 sets of living quarters, each consisting of 3 bedrooms and a kitchen dining room. These were for the use of Traffic staff at outlying stations on the Central Australia Railway.
At Quorn, accommodation for the big influx of train crews and additional locomotive shed staff was alleviated by taking over three shops in the town, and by renovating and equipping these and an old Departmental house. For Traffic staff, the existing resthouse was extended by six rooms.
To provide additional resthouses for locomotive engine crews, and living accommodation for shed staff at other locomotive depots, a contract was let in September 1942 for the construction at Port Augusta of 41 two-roomed living quarters and 2 single-roomed station buildings.
Later, an additional 25 two-roomed quarters were built under contract, and further quarters were constructed Departmentally.
Between February and October of 1942, the track maintenance staff was increased from 127 to 259. The additional men were housed in tents. In December of the same year it was decided to reduce all gang lengths to 20-miles, and establish 17 new gangs at the following locations:-
Married gangers were established at Beltana, Edwards Creek (2), Oodnadatta and Alice Springs, and three two-roomed quarters were provided at each locality for those men not otherwise accommodated.
Modern barracks, each comprising six rooms with eight-feet verandah surrounding, were built under contract at eight locations, viz., Alberrie Creek, Alberga, Ilbunga, 818½-Miles (Duffield), Rumbalara, Bundooma and 932¾-Miles (Deep Well).
At the outbreak of was, trains were worked under the Permissive Block system of safeworking. In this system, orders are issued by Stationmasters over long distances, and arrangements for crossings are planned far in advance. As the density of war-time traffic increased on this railway, it became necessary to institute a systems capable of providing greater flexibility of working and, at the same time, of handling efficiently a greater number of trains.
It was decided to introduce working under Train Control, and the Postmaster-General's Department's engineers devised and installed the necessary telephone lines, and improvised instruments which enabled the system to be established in May 1943. train Control centres were established at Quorn, Marree, Oodnadatta and Alice Springs, and from these four points Train Controllers took charge of all train movements on the Central Australia Railway.
Late in 1941 the increased traffic being handled made it imperative that the methods of handling coal should be improved. At that time locomotives were fuelled by manual labor at all depots excepting Marree, where there was an elevated road and bin. At Quorn and Abminga, engines were coaled direct from rail trucks, involving of course, delay to the vehicles which were greatly in demand for movement of other loading.
The problem was reviewed on the basis of traffic expected, viz.:-
|Port Augusta to Quorn||28 trains weekly|
|Quorn to Marree||44 trains weekly|
|Marree to Alice Springs||38 trains weekly|
|Coaling Depot||Mileage from Quorn||Distance between Coaling Points||Average Weekly Coal Requirements (tons)||Capacity of Existing Coal Stages (tons)|
An efficient scheme to supply requirements was sought, embodying the following points:-
Four schemes were considered. Briefly, these were:-
Of the four schemes, the first was considered the most suitable.
Two (2) secondhand "Ruston" 2½-cubic yards steam navvies, fitted to traverse on 5'3" gauge track, were purchased in 1942. These had been in use on the South Australian Government's South Eastern Drainage Scheme.
Three (3) "Thole" 6-ton locomotive steam cranes, owned by the Netherland Harbour Works Construction Company, were also purchased. These were fitted for traversing on rails at 7'10" centres, and had had considerable use.
It was necessary to fit the cranes and one steam navvy with single-line self-dumping grabs of 38/46-cubic feet capacity. These were purchased from Morison & Bearby Ltd., Newcastle. Special pulleys were cast for each machine required to operate a grab.
The whole of the work done for the improvement of coal handling is summarised hereunder:-
|Location||Work carried out|
The overhead coal bin at Abminga was constructed Departmentally, but those at Quorn, Marree and Oodnadatta were built under contract.
Consumption figures for coal and other running supplies are given in the appendices.