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Old S.A.R. Shunter's Memories

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Rail info about Jamestown and thereabouts the early years.

Extract from:
Down The Years
Jamestown 1836 - 1936. 

1878.   May 8th - Burra to Hallett Railway opened by Hon G. C. Hawker
           June 25th  First train (goods) from Port Pirie to Jamestown
           July 15th  Railway, Jamestown-Port Pirie opened for traffic.
1879.  January 2nd - Man killed by train at Jamestown.
           November 6th - Tenders called to extend railway Jamestown to Yongala
1880.   March 11th - 85,000 bags wheat at Railway
           October 21st - Violent thunderstorms. 80 ton rails at Jamestown railway Station struck by lightning and scattered.
           December 16th - Opening of Jamestown - Yongala Railway by Governor Sir W.F. Jervious, R.E. K.C.M.G.
1882.  January - Grass and crop fires adjoining railway line.
1883.  January - Sheep and cattle yards erected
1885.  January 5th - Railway Station destroyed by fire, willfully started.
1889.  February 27th - Railway reservoir started to relieve unemployment.
1890.  Grass fires adjoining Railway line frequent.
1893.  Flood waters from Railway reservoir vexed question.
1895.  July - Heavy fall of snow
1896.  July - Fall of snow
1898.  March 11th - Attempt to wreck train Caltowie and Jamestown
1905.  May 2nd - Deputation to Railways Commissioner for Subway.
1907.  September - 40 trains per day pass through Jamestown.
1908.  June - Subway at Railway Station completed
           June - Fall of snow.
           August - More snow.
1918.  Strike of wheat lumpers at Jamestown Railway wheat yards
1919.  October - 60,000 bags of wheat at Caltowie and 36,000 bags at Jamestown Rail yards and trucked away.
1921.  January - Spalding - Jamestown Railway before Commission at Jamestown.
1922.  October - Railways standing committee turn down Spalding -Jamestown extension project.
1924.  February - Railway motor buses introduced Northern lines.
1927.  February 1st - Wheat harvest good , 130,000 bags wheat at Jamestown Railway, many 30 bushel crops.
          April 22nd - Public meeting discusses Spalding - Jamestown railway.
          July - Heavy falls of snow.

Extract from:
  Jamestown A Photographic Study.
by Leith Cooper.

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The first railway station built in Jamestown was a timber framed weatherboard building, burnt down deliberately in a fire in late December 1884. By late 1885 this had been replaced by a stone building containing refreshment rooms.

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The South Australian Railways have played a considerable part in the development of Jamestown since that misty 25 June day in 1878 when the first goods train from Port Pirie reached Jamestown. The line from Port Pirie was commenced in 1875 and arrived in Gladstone in 1876, reaching Caltowie in January 1878. Once the railway had reached Gladstone, the pattern of trade of the Jamestown district changed. Prior to 1876 goods for the Jamestown area were obtained from either Farrell Flat or Burra, then connected to Adelaide by railway, with wheat travelling in the opposite direction. The Gladstone railway altered that pattern.

Once Jamestown became the terminus of the railway to Pirie, construction of new railways was halted for some time, while the Government decided on the routes of new lines. Surveyor General Goyder favoured Jamestown being the terminus of the new line, with any extensions being to the north to Yatina, while the Burra broad gauge line then with its terminus at Hallett would be extended northwards to capture the trade of that region for Adelaide.

The Government eventually decided to extend the line from Jamestown to Yongala and then further east towards the NSW border, and extend the line from Hallett through Terowie to join the narrow gauge line at a spot east of Yongala. This place became the important Railway town of Peterborough or Petersburgh, as it was known before its name was changed from the German sounding name during World War I. 

Collins led the uproar of leading Jamestown citizens requesting that the line from Hallett should be extended to Jamestown with the junction between the two systems being at Jamestown. Unfortunately their propaganda fell on deaf ears when a surveyor's report indicated that it was impractical to build a line from Hallett to Jamestown because of the terrain between the two towns.

In December 1880 the Jamestown to Yongala railway was completed, with an official opening being conducted by the Governor, accompanied by the Commissioner of Public Works, Mr George C. Hawker, of Bungaree. The official party stayed overnight in Jamestown. The narrow gauge line was then extended north eastwards towards the Barrier Range region in New South Wales where in 1884 the discovery of silver stimulated the more rapid completion of this line as far as Cockburn.

The first railway station built in Jamestown was a timber framed weatherboard building, burnt down deliberately in a fire in late December 1884. By late 1885 this had been replaced by a stone building containing refreshment rooms. With the large amount of ore traffic from Broken Hill, the station reached a peak of forty trains per day.

Prior to the advent of the motor vehicle the Railway was the fastest means of travel. In 1894 the Blyth to Gladstone line was opened enabling passengers leaving Jamestown at 6 am to arrive in Adelaide by 11 am. Before 1894 the trip was much more laborious with passengers entraining at 11 pm for a fifty minute trip to Peterborough, then having to wait for hours for the train to depart for Adelaide, arriving at 9.20 am. Many residents in the heyday of rail travel held season's tickets to Adelaide, originally costing 10/- but later increased to 1, the last being held by the editor of the `Review' in 1936.

The Railway Station was a hive of activity in those days, for in addition to all freight for the town passing through the Goods shed, each hotel had its own cab which met the passenger trains, soliciting accommodation for their hotel. A refreshment room operated until 1925 and was the scene of animated activity for many years as the lease had provision for a wine licence. During the back to Jamestown week, in 1936, which coincided with the Jamestown Show, 674 passengers came to the town by rail, indicating its major function at that time.

After World War II, passenger patronage on the railways declined. Many, Jamestown residents used the Riverton to Spalding passenger train, which connected with the Broken Hill Express at Riverton, however in 1954 this service ceased to operate, being replaced by a passenger bus operated by Mick Boston from Jamestown. This service, which was operated by Wadmore's Coach Lines, enables travellers to reach Adelaide in 4 hours.

The operation of this service in a way fulfils a dream held by many residents over a century, that the town be connected by rail to Adelaide through Spalding and Clare. The broad gauge line from Adelaide did not reach Clare until August 1917, and was slowly extended towards Spalding reaching that town in January 1922. Meanwhile the residents of Jamestown agitated for a continuation of the line to Jamestown. In 1921 the Parliamentary Standing Committee took evidence in Jamestown but vetoed the idea, stating that:

The large retired population of Jamestown, and the somewhat common ownership of motor cars all give colour to the impression that the present railway facilities, however far short of perfection they may be, have not retarded the prosperity and progress of the district'. Agitation was to continue however for at least another twenty years for towards the end of World War II the railway was listed by Jamestown's town's two councils, together with a water supply for Jamestown, as being in the top priority for post war reconstruction.


In February 1970 (work having commenced in 1963), the replacement of the Port Pirie to Broken Hill narrow gauge (3' 6") line by a standard gauge (4' 8") line resulted in the closure of the existing railway station and the building of a new one one mile north east of Jamestown. The site was forced upon the Railways by the Corporation, who refused to accept the initial plan for a railway station on the existing site. This would have involved the closure of the Vohr Street railway crossing, as longer railway marshalling yards were required for the much longer standard gauge trains. Both an underpass, on the approximate site of the pedestrian subway, built in 1908, and an overpass to connect Irvine Street and Mannanarie Road were suggested as alternatives, to enable the station to remain within the town, but these either proved to be too expensive or too impractical. Eventually the present site was agreed upon, with an additional spur line being constructed to the silos. While many residents of the town opposed the siting of the new station, in retrospect it may have been advantageous as it has removed from the town the stock selling yards, and thus removed a source of noise and dust, as well as being more convenient for the transportation of livestock. The new line bypassed Belalie North, the highest railway station in South Australia, the grades to which, particularly from Jamestown, were extreme.

The old railway station and goods shed were transferred to the Jamestown branch of the National Trust for the establishment of a district museum. The museum was opened by the Hon. G. J. Gilfillan MLC, in the absence of Sir Raphael W. Cilento, who spent his childhood in the station-master's residence, as the son of Raphael Ambrose Cilento. Sir Raphael was knighted in 1935 for his services to the cure of tropical diseases. At the opening, on Sunday 10 October 1971, a tape from Sir Raphael was played which included reminiscences of his many years in Jamestown. Sir Raphael's father opposed his wish to enter the medical profession, however Dr Blair Aitken encouraged him and also provided him with 50 when he commenced his first year of studies.

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