100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

The Trans Australian Railway Begins

Perth was the first major city in western Australia situated on west coast while the other major British settlements are on the other side of the continent separated by thousands of kilometres of desert terrain and the only practicable method of transport was by the Great Australian Bight, a stretch of water with a bad reputation for rough seas. In 1901 Australian colonies were attempting to federated to form the Commonwealth of Australia. Western Australians draw to join the new federation was the promise of a federally funded railway line linking Western Australia with the rest of the continent.

In 1907 legislation was passed allowing for the route to be surveyed. The 1051 mile track at no point along the route have a permanent fresh watercourse on the line. In the days of steam locomotion about half the total load was water for the engine. The water of the Western Australian desert was unfit for humans and trains. Water supplies had to be carried on the train. The survey was completed in 1909 and route proposed. Legislation authorising the construction was passed in December 1911 and Commonwealth Railways was established in 1912 to build the line no matter what they cost. Britain’s Lord Kitchener who visited Sydney in 1911 warned: “Unless this line is built Australia will lie helpless before any aggressor. The country could be seized in 20 different places without one Australian defender appearing on the scene.” The town of Port Augusta is on the south coast half way between eastern big city colonies and far-flung deserts of Western Australia. It is chosen as the starting point of the Tran-Australian Railroad.

On September 14, 1912 First Sod Day is celebrated in Port Augusta on the southern coast of Australia. when a small wheelbarrow carrying a spade was wheeled to a point on the survey line where Governor-General Thomas Denman turning the first sod of earth for the project.He is flanked by prime minister Andrew Fisher the federal minister for home affairs and Port Augusta mayor Thomas Hewitson and several hundred locals.

First Sod Day ceremonies
Post Augusta, western Australia
September 14, 1912

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