Friday, September 14, 2012

Kapunda's Railway: Part 2: "The Line Opens"

Kapunda's Railways: Part 2 “The Line Opens” 

Before we go much further with the history of the Kapunda Railway, we need to first look at its roots.

The Kapunda line opened officially on Monday the 13th of August 1860, it was opened by the then Governor of South Australia, Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell.

Workers building the line North of Kapunda
There was great fanfare at the grand opening ceremony of the Kapunda Line, with a celebratory train to ride the entire length of the line.
 The train left Adelaide station at precisely 10:30am, under instruction from the "Manager of Railways", C.S. Hare.

One engine was used as far as Gawler, The No.9, the largest engine in the fleet at the time.
 The train numbered 13 carriages, which were loaded full of guests for the event.
Guests included His Excellency, The Governor and his wife. Ministers of both houses of Parliament, The Mayor and members of the town corporation, plus many notable members of the Adelaide citizenry.

Every station on the line from Adelaide to Kapunda was adorned with evergreen shrubbery and flags, well-wishers and onlookers. The opening of the Kapunda line was an event celebrated across the State.

Governor of South Australia,
 Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell.
The train reached Salisbury at 11am, and Gawler at 11:26 am. In Gawler, more passengers boarded and a second engine was attached to the train. The train then travelled to Freeling, arriving at 12:23pm, where it stopped for a brief time and the passengers were allowed to refresh themselves.

The train left Freeling at 12:35pm and stopped at 12:50pm at the bridge over the Light River at the request of His Excellency, The Governor, who wanted to inspect the bridge, which was considered a masterpiece of engineering at the time.

The Light Railway Bridge was built using stone cut from along the railway lines route. The timbers of the structure were supported by transverse latticed beams, with a laminated arch either side. The “points of juncture” on the bridge were plated with heavy steel to withstand the weight of the heaviest trains in the South Australian Railways at the time.

This particular journey was a testing of the Light Bridge, with the two heaviest engines in the State fleet being positioned on it at once. The builders must have had great faith in their structure considering the importance of the passengers on the train!

The train reached Kapunda Station at 1:17pm to much fanfare. The train was greeted by The Reverend Oldham, Captain Warburton, The Angaston Rifles, Captain Connor, Captain Brown and the Kapunda Rifle Corps.

The Kapunda Rifle Corps. presented themselves 50 strong, and accompanied by their band, presented a guard of honour to the dignitaries and officials.

Under the guidance of the Station Master, and Master of the Goods Shed, Mr Baggett, The Governor was given a tour of the Kapunda Railway Station complex, before a brief speech was made by The Reverend Oldham.

Reverend Oldham presented the following speech:

"To His Excellency Sir Richard G. MacDonnell,
K.C.B., Governor-in-Chief of Her Majesty's Province of South Australia, May it please your Excellency, We the inhabitants of Kapunda and the surrounding districts, most cordially welcome your Excellency and Lady MacDonnell amongst us upon this most auspicious and interesting occasion, and would desire to 'record through you as Her Majesty's representative in this colony, the expression of our unabated loyalty and arm attachment to Her person and Crown.
 It is now nearly four years since this neighbourhood as honoured by a former visit from your Excellency and Lady MacDonnell ; since that time three commodious places of worship have been erected in the township,also, a Court-House and Police-Station, a Telegraph and Post-0ffice, and a large number of stores and other buildings, and rapid communication with the capital and other parts of the colony, and also with the adjacent colonies has been established by means of the electric telegraph ; and we feel happy in being now enabled to congratulate your Excellency on the most successful completion of the important undertaking, in reference to which, in great measure, your Excellency's former visit was paid; and also, in feeling assured of the happiness it will afford you in seeing at least in some degree the fulfilment of your Excellency's then expressed anticipation as to the increasing importance of this district."

"We hope and believe that the opening of the Railway to Kapunda, which calls us together this day will prove
but the commencement of many happy and prosperous years from the greatly increased facilities it will afford both for travelling and for the safe and rapid transport of goods, and we earnestly desire that your Excellency
may yet be spared long amongst us to see the fulfilment of these desires for the welfare of the colony which have 'ever characterised your administration.
 We again bid you a cordial and hearty welcome by Railway to Kapunda."

"Signed on behalf of, and at the unanimous request, of the inhabitants of Kapunda and the surrounding districts, in public meeting assembled".

"W. OLDHAM, J.P., Chairman."

Governor MacDonnell replied with a considerably lengthy speech congratulating the townsfolk on the construction and opening of the line. He then proceeded to the crane at the goods-shed and, using the crane, lifted the first bale of wool and first bag of copper, loaded at Kapunda Station into a train, to a roaring cheer from the crowd.

The Governor was then transported into the town via horse buggy to the Sir John Franklin hotel where festivities went well into the night.

Kapunda now had an official link for transportation of goods and passengers via train into the city of Adelaide and to the wharves, a valuable connection that would open the grain belt, and copper mines to further export across the country and state and bring wealth back into the community.

Kapunda eventually became the States largest wheat receiving station. An extension was later built to Burra, veering off at Roseworthy, whilst the Kapunda line was extended to Morgan to try and capture some of the trade from the paddle steamer transportation system.

The Kapunda line was a focal point of the town for many years, opening up industrial and commercial prospects for the people of Kapunda and surrounding districts. It allowed local people to travel far and wide around the State and Country, something people would have previously found much harder to do with the standard transport of the day, horse and cart, bicycle or walking.

The last passenger train to Robertstown passed through Kapunda on May 20th 1989, but the Kapunda line still saw notable traffic up until 1996 when it was sold to Genessee Wyoming Australia under a 50 year (+15 extension option) contract.

Since then the line has fallen into a state of disrepair and only see's line traffic when a light-weight engine, or nowadays an adapted 4 wheel drive, comes down the line once every few months to the Viterra silos as part of the contract to have line traffic, or lose the line back to the State Government,

As the region north of Gawler grows it becomes obvious that passenger train service to at least Roseworthy and Freeling may be needed sometime in the future, it would not be too hard to conceive of Kapunda once again having a train return to the town, however, would a new train station have to be built as the old one now houses a “Bed and Breakfast”? - only time will tell
People gather to watch the last train to Robertstown as it enters Kapunda

Written & Researched by
Allen Tiller

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