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Commonwealth Government Records about South Australia


Railways

Image 25: A steam train in the Adelaide hills, 1890

Image 25: A steam train in the Adelaide hills, 1890
NAA: A13774, 15
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The first railway line in South Australia was a horse-drawn tramway constructed in 1854 between the River Murray port towns of Goolwa and Port Elliot. In 1856, the first state-owned railway was built between Adelaide and Port Adelaide. The rest of the 19th century saw several different railways built across the colony, including the Great Northern Railway, which had reached Marree by 1883, and the inter-colonial railway between Adelaide and Melbourne, which was operational by 1887.

In 1911 the Commonwealth began constructing railways. It acquired the Port Augusta–Oodnadatta line (the Central Australian Railway) that year, and the extension of this line to Alice Springs was completed by 1929.

The construction of the Trans-Australian Railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie was a significant event in the history of Australia, as it had been the promise of a railway system to the east that persuaded Western Australia to enter the Commonwealth. With construction starting on the line in 1912, the Trans-Australian Railway was the first major construction project undertaken by the newly formed Commonwealth Government. The line was completed on 17 October 1917.

The Commonwealth Railways Act 1917 appointed a Commissioner to be in charge of all railway property and related moneys appropriated by parliament. The Commissioner could delegate his powers, lease railway property, enter into contracts (up to £5000), refuse to carry dangerous or excessive weight goods, demand tolls and enter into agreements or contracts with the Postmaster-General.

Due to the existence of three different types of railway gauges by 1917, South Australian railways did not 'communicate' well with each other or with other colonies. It was only in 1970 that Australia's east and west coasts were finally linked by a single uninterrupted railway line, known as the Indian-Pacific. Adelaide joined the national One Nation rail system in 1982 with the completion of the conversion of the Adelaide–Port Pirie line to a standard gauge railway, linking the city with Port Augusta and the Indian-Pacific

The Australian National Railways Act 1975 established an Australian National Railways Commission and abolished the position of Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. In late 1976 the commission transferred its head office from Melbourne to Adelaide. The Port Augusta operations centre remained an important regional office of the commission, as it had been for the Commonwealth Railways since 1917.

The South Australian and Commonwealth governments entered into agreements for the transfer of non-urban South Australian railways to the Australian National Railways Commission, but until 1978 the state government continued to administer, maintain and operate the railway systems as agents acting for the commission.

On 1 March 1978 the Australian National Railways Commission assumed full control of South Australian country railways. Employees of South Australian Railways were given the choice of transferring to the Australian National Railways Commission or remaining employees of the state.

Records held by the Archives relating to railways in South Australia include correspondence, maps, plans, photographs, engineering files, publicity, registers and publications. Records in the Archives' collection may contain different acronyms for the various railways in South Australia. These include TAR (Trans-Australian Railway, also known as the Transcontinental Railway, later the Indian-Pacific), CR (Commonwealth Railways), NAR (North Australia Railway), CAR (Central Australian Railway), and SAR (South Australian Railways).

Selected series relating to railways in South Australia
Sydney
Recorded by: South Australian Railways Commissioner
Railway memorabilia, 1867–1997 D5413
Correspondence dockets, 1880–1976 D5128
Miscellaneous records, 1907–97 D5449
Sketch book of properties adjacent to permanent line, Port Augusta, 1912 D2588
Accident registers, 1923–75 D4912
Shop orders, 1938–60 D1825
Contracts and tender documents, railway standardisation Kalgoorlie to Kwinana, 1962–71 D1817
Adelaide
Recorded by: South Australian Railways Commissioner
Agreements, bonds, contracts register, 1895–1928 D3166
Canberra
Recorded by: South Australian Railways Commissioner
Bound volumes relating to railway standardisation and associated works, 1963–77 A10127
Sydney, Adelaide
Recorded by: South Australian Railway Workshops, Islington, South Australia
Correspondence files (Chief Mechanical Engineer), South Australian Railways, 1901– (Portion of series also held by State Records of South Australia) D1743
Sydney
Recorded by: Commonwealth Railways Commissioner
Correspondence, industrial files, 'IND', 1918– B310
Transcript folders, 1936–80 D5165
Register of works, authorities as issued by Commissioner, 1940–85 D4915
Adelaide
Recorded by: Commonwealth Railways Commissioner
Correspondence files, 1913–83 B300
Publications and commemorative material of the Commonwealth Railways, 1911–84 B3133
Correspondence files, 'RSD' (Railways Standardisation Division), 1947–88 B301
Publicity material, 1957–98 D2733
Sydney
Recorded by: Commonwealth Railways, Port Augusta Office, South Australia
Employee accident, compensation and safety correspondence files, 1916–91 D5446
Decision books, 1917–77 D2593
Correspondence files, 'ME' (Mechanical Engineer), 1918–91 D1573
Correspondence files, 1918–91 D1578
Mechanical engineering specifications, 1924–76 D4134
Field books, 1925–72 D2057
Correspondence files, 'AE' (Chief Mechanical Engineer accidents), 1930–43 D4895
Compensation files, 1942– D3989
Australian and New Zealand Railway conferences, Commonwealth copies of notes, 1949–77 D3984
Chief Traffic Manager's circular memoranda, 1951–76 D4147
Chief Traffic Manager's instructions, 1954–77 D5470
Correspondence files, 'PO' (Property Office), 1962– D1604
Railways of Australia 'Network' publication, 1964–88 D5447
Sydney
Recorded by: Commonwealth Railways, Port Augusta Office, South Australia – Ways and Works Branch
Specification files, 1921– D3367
Copies of contracts, 1940–85 D3364
Correspondence files, 'WA' (Ways and Works accidents), 1940–69 D3299
Sydney
Recorded by: Commonwealth Railways, Port Augusta Office, South Australia – Railways Construction Branch
Level books, 1912–85 D2056
Sydney
Recorded by: Commonwealth Railways, Port Augusta Office, South Australia – Mechanical Engineering Branch
Accident (compensation) files, 'MEA' (Mechanical Engineering accidents), 1943–67 D4394
Copies of 'mechanical engineering' contracts, 1949–73 D3466
Sydney
Recorded by: Australian National Railways Commission, Port Augusta Office, South Australia – Civil Engineering Branch
Correspondence files, 'W' (Works), 1964–91 D3131
Sydney
Recorded by: South Australian Railways, Office of the Superintendent, Murray Bridge
Copies of agreements, licences and contracts, 1923–86 D2400
Correspondence dockets, 'SMB', 1923–79 (Portion of series also held by State Records of South Australia) D2385
Estimates record book, 1923–51 D2735
Lists of dockets cancelled or destroyed, 1938–67 D2388
Sydney
Recorded by: South Australian Railways, Office of the Divisional Superintendent, Peterborough (also known as South Australian Railways, Country Rail Services, Peterborough Division)
Correspondence dockets, 1923–79 D1588
Livestock registers, 1957–85 D1584
Train notices, Peterborough Division, 1960–86 D3553
National Service training registers, 1965–76 D3279
Train control graphs, 1977–86 D3853
Recorded by: War Railway Committee
War Railway Committee agendas and minutes of meetings, 1942–47 D2677
Adelaide
Recorded by: Department of Home Affairs, Central Office
General digest – Kalgoorlie – Port Augusta Railway, 1910–13 B3112
State Records of South Australia
Recorded by: South Australian Railways, Office of Superintendent, Port Lincoln Division
Local dockets, 1923–82 D2949
Selected series relating to railways in South Australia – Photographic
Adelaide
Recorded by: Commonwealth Railways Commissioner
Historical photographs of the former Commonwealth Railways, 1901–78 D1334
Photographs, 1910–70 B3115
Photographs, Trans-Australian Railway, 1912–39 B3104
Photograph albums, 1914–60 B3114
Sydney
Recorded by: Commonwealth Railways Commissioner
Photographs relating to the South Australian Railways, 1934–60 B3122
Adelaide
Recorded by: Commonwealth Railways Commissioner
Photographs of activities associated with the Trans-Australian Railway, 1940–50 B3119
Photographs of railway construction, imported rolling stock and goods traffic, 1950–60 B3121
Prints from negatives of photographs, Trans-Australian Railway 1912–21, 1967 B3130
Sydney
Recorded by: Commonwealth Railways, Port Augusta Office, South Australia
Aerial survey photographs of various railway locations within South Australia, 1946–48 D2771
Photographs of the North Australia Railway, 1960–75 D4203
Sydney
Recorded by: Property and Survey Branch, South Australia
Aerial photographs, Tarcoola–Alice Springs Railway, 1947–50 D5272
Selected series relating to railways in South Australia – Plans and drawings
Sydney, Adelaide, Darwin
Recorded by: South Australian Railways Commissioner
Pigeon hole plans, 1900–64 (Portion of series also held by State Records of South Australia) D1717
Sydney
Recorded by: Commonwealth Railways Commissioner
Head office drawings, 1905– D2687
Sydney
Recorded by: Commonwealth Railways, Port Augusta Office, South Australia
Civil and mechanical drawings produced by South Australian Railways, Islington for Commonwealth Railways, 1927–44 D4815
Adelaide
Recorded by: Commonwealth Railways, Port Augusta Office, South Australia
Mechanical Engineering Branch tracings, 1913–72 D2838
Register of rolling stock drawings, 1920–80 D4186
Bound copies of diagrams relating to rolling stock, 1964–82 D3633
Sydney
Recorded by: Commonwealth Railways, Port Augusta Office, South Australia – Ways and Works Branch
Drawings and sketches, 1912–78 D3615
Foreign drawings, 1918–78 D3405
Sydney
Recorded by: Department of Home Affairs, Central Office – Railways Construction Branch
Bound plans and longitudinal section drawing of Kalgoorlie–Port Augusta Railway, 1912–16 D2699
Sydney
Recorded by: Australian National Railways Commission, Port Augusta Office, South Australia – Civil Engineering Branch
South Australian drawings, 1915–88 D3463
Standard drawings, SD, 1936– D3465
Sydney
Recorded by: Chief Property Officer, South Australia
Railway (centre of) line survey drawings, 1920–66 AP479/2
Sydney
Recorded by: Department of Services and Property, South Australian Branch
Miscellaneous plans and maps, Tarcoola–Alice Springs Railway, 1971–75 D4473
Australian National Railways contract drawings, Tarcoola–Alice Springs Railway, 1973–78 D4470
Selected series relating to railways in South Australia – Land, survey and property
Sydney
Recorded by: Chief Property Officer, South Australia
Project files, Alice Springs to Tarcoola Railway, 1970–80 D5273
Sydney
Recorded by: Department of Services and Property, South Australian Branch
Survey level books, Alice Springs–Tarcoola Railway, 1970–80 D2545
Adelaide
Recorded by: Lands and Survey Branch
Correspondence files, 'RL' (railway lands), 1912–24 D4208
Selected series relating to railways in South Australia – Personnel
Sydney
Recorded by: Commonwealth Railways Commissioner
Staff cards record of service, 1912–61 MP992/4
Record of employment of staff (permanent register), 1918–47 MP992/6
Sydney
Recorded by: Commonwealth Railways, Port Augusta Office, South Australia
Salary history and employees cards, 1916– D1555
Wages history cards, 1916– D1556
Personal files, Chief Mechanical Engineer's Branch employees and staff, 1918–80 D3957
Personal files, Ways and Works Branch employees and staff, 1918–80 D3956
Sydney
Recorded by: Commonwealth Railways, Port Augusta Office, South Australia – Stores Branch
Personal files, Stores Branch employees and staff, 1918–80 D3968
Sydney
Recorded by: Commonwealth Railways, Port Augusta Office, South Australia – Way and Works Branch
Personal records of service, Way and Works Branch employees and staff, 1918–80 D3398
Sydney
Recorded by: North Australia Railway
Record of service cards, 1929–78 D3203
Staff files, 'NS' (North Staff), 1951–68 D3201
State Records of South Australia
Recorded by: South Australian Railways, Office of Superintendent, Port Lincoln Division
Staff register, Port Lincoln, 1906–48 D3269
Selected items relating to railways in South Australia
Adelaide
Commonwealth Railways – question of control, 1912–18 B300, 791
Map of route – Kalgoorlie–Port Augusta Railway, 1914–25 B300, 1499
Opening of the Kalgoorlie–Port Augusta Railway, 1916–18 B300, 4481
Photograph of dining saloon of special service car, 1917 B3104, volume 4
Information requested by Royal Commission on Uniform Railway Gauge, 1921 B300, 5948/2
Historical articles relative to Commonwealth Railways, 1962–80 B300, 8488 part 2
Official publication of Commonwealth Railways Institute – Newsrail, 1965–68 B300, 9903

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Chapter 18
Transport