Pichi Richi

Picture of the historic steam train in Pichi Richi

The Pichi Richi Railway Extension Project

The Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society has been operating historic steam trains from Quorn in the Flinders Ranges since 1974.

The Society is dedicated to the preservation of the first leg of the original North-South Railway, the Port Augusta to Government Gums Railway through Pichi Richi Pass between Quorn and Port Augusta.

Construction of the original line was commenced at Port Augusta in 1878, reaching Quorn in 1879, and Oodnadatta in 1891. Initial operation was by the South Australian Railways as their Great Northern Line.

In 1911 under the Northern Territories Acceptance Act the railway was sold to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Railways was formed to link Western Australia with the eastern states with the construction of a new standard gauge line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. The east-west link across the continent was finally completed in 1917.

Also the Commonwealth Railways extended the narrow gauge line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs reaching there in 1929. The gap from Alice Springs to Darwin, to complete the North-South Railway remains to this day.

The line through Pichi Richi Pass became the only common section of east west and north south railways. Such famous trains as the Transcontinental and the Ghan travelled the route until the line was fully bypassed by alternative routes and closed in 1956.

It lay unused for 17 years until the Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society was formed in 1973 to breathe new life into the old line.

Track Rehabilitation and Tourism

Pichi Richi Railway trains for many years operated to Woolshed Flat from Quorn a distance of 16 Kilometres. In 1998 Stage 1 of the Pichi Richi Extension Project received support from the Federal Government Rail Transition Program with a grant of $1.35m. This enabled the remaining 16 kilometres of track to Stirling North (7km from Port Augusta) to be fully rehabilitated.

Also four the original Port Augusta built Ghan carriages, three sitting cars classed NABPA, and the Special Services car NSS34 were rebuilt to their original glory.

Stage II - Stirling North to Port Augusta Extension

The final leg into Port Augusta Railway Station, a destination never thought possible in 1973 when Pichi Richi was formed became a reality on 2001 with the completion of 7 km of new track, running along side the main ARTC standard gauge line.

This stage was a joint venture between:

  • Corporation of the City of Port Augusta
  • South Australian Tourism Commission
  • Pichi Richi Rail Preservation Society Inc
  • Pichi Richi Afghan Express Committee

The project has been assisted by:

  • NRG Flinders by approving the construction of an underpass for the Pichi Richi Rail line to pass beneath their Leigh Creek coal line at Stirling North.
  • Australian Rail track Corporation (ARTC) for approving a licensed corridor and interface agreements for the construction operation and maintenance of the new track within their rail corridor
  • Transport SA for providing leases for terminal facilities in the Port Augusta Precinct Assisting with easements, and provision of second hand rail.

The construction of 7km of new track required the following:

  • earthworks requiring the excavation and placement of approximately 25,000m of material
  • dismantling, transport and relaying of 1300 lengths of 12.2m long rail totaling 500 tonnes.
  • Construction of six turnouts at Port Augusta to provide a run around loop and access to the storage shed and turntable.
  • Laying of approx 11500 sleepers comprising approximately 10,000 Redgum timber and 1500 steel sleepers
  • Using 30,000 secondhand dogspikes, 10,000 screwspikes, 5200 fishbolts
  • Transport distribution and tamping of 8,000 tonnes of ballast
  • Design manufacture, transport and installation of 13 large precast concrete culvert crown and 14 base sections. The installation was undertaken in only 60 hours to ensure no disruption to coal supplies from Leigh Creek.
  • Installation of around 1600 pieces of pin-crib walling to underpass at Stirling North.

Port Augusta Facilities

To operate steam trains from Port Augusta to Quorn and return a basic preparation, running maintenance and secure storage shed and compound was constructed. The Port Augusta facilities consist of:

  • Steel framed 90 metre long shed containing two tracks providing enough room to secure the Afghan Express Steam locomotive and carriages
  • An amenities area for the crews containing office, smoko room,W.C's and showers
  • Resurfaced platform at Port Augusta station including new furniture such as park bench seating, bins and signage, resurfaced roadway and parking.

Picture of the historic steam train on a bridge in Pichi Richi


Book early to ensure you can be part of these unique historic events.
Buy your tickets from:

41 Flinders Terrace, Port Augusta.
Telephone 08 8641 9197.
Open 7 days -
Monday to Friday 9:00am - 5:00pm
Weekends & Public Holidays 10:00am - 4:00pm