The following is a series of articles that were written during the construction of Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society's 3' 6" narrow gauge track from its then terminus of Stirling North, into the heart of Port Augusta: its railway station.
Major civil engineering works to cross the standard gauge lines in Stirling North and also to cross the causeway into Port Augusta were undertaken. This project was the winner of the prestigous 2002 Permanent Way Institute (SA Section) Trackwork Achievement Award.
The project was completed in 2001 and allows Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society's Afghan Express to depart from No. 2 platform at Port Augusta Railway Station—as the Ghan did on the narrow gauge until 1956.
The official opening was held at Easter 2002.
History of the Stirling North – Port Augusta section
From the late 1880s, through the time the Commonwealth Railways was formed in 1917, until the late 1950s, the narrow gauge line to Quorn and Alice Springs ran from Port Augusta. In fact, the train control operations were based in Port Augusta, as were the workshops. However, after the standard gauge line from Port Augusta to Marree was opened in 1956, and the narrow gauge from Hawker to Marree was progressively closed and removed, the need to have permanent access to Port Augusta was significantly reduced. The dual gauge (as it had been since 1937) track was removed between Stirling North and Port Augusta, and standard gauge track was laid in the dock platform at Port Augusta. A ramp was installed at Stirling North, so that locomotives and carriages that were otherwise trapped could be transferred by standard gauge "piggyback" wagons into Port Augusta workshops, or to Marree for use between there and Alice Springs.
Rebuilding the section
During 2000, the State Government of South Australia and the Port Augusta City Council announced that funding was available to extend the Pichi Richi line into Port Augusta station. Significant works are required, as the narrow gauge track does not exist, and there is not quite enough room on the causeway for our narrow gauge track together with the interstate standard gauge track.
As well as the causeway, we need to cross over the standard gauge line at Stirling North, which is still used to transport coal from Leigh Creek to the power stations at Port Augusta. Several options were considered, including a drawbridge, a diamond crossover, and grade separation using an underpass. Due to long term considerations, inculding not being restricted in our operations when coal trains run (and they can be just about any time), the underpass method was preferred.
To save on the cost of digging too many holes, our track now runs into Stirling North basically east–west, turns to the north and swings back west under the apex of the standard gauge triangle, turns south, then back west to cross the causeway.