Pichi Richi Railway ran trains to coincide with the Tracks to Federation celebrations in Port Augusta.

As well as the following report, photos are available in the photo gallery

Two years in the planning, and within 36 hours, it was all over

The Pichi Richi special trains on 22 and 23 October ran without a hitch, thanks mainly to excellent planning by the PRR organising committee, and excellent team work by the volunteer members on the days.

520 school children from the northern area boarded the 17 car steam train in Quorn, together with many parents and staff, and about 30 general public, and enjoyed a pleasant, if warm, run from Quorn to Stirling North. There they waited until the special standard gauge East West train arrived from Port Pirie, and the two trains commenced their history making parallel run in to Port Augusta station.

It was the longest train operated by PRR, and the first time a PRR train has carried passengers right into Port Augusta, and the several hundred people crowding the 7 kilometres of track thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle. It is indeed a testament to the achievements of Pichi Richi's membership that the event could occur, with construction of the track only beginning in February 2001.

Once the trains arrived, almost 1000 passengers from both trains filled the platform, and watched as Australian Governor General Rev. Peter Hollingworth unveiled a plaque commemorating the occasion, and the 1917 opening of the Trans Australia Railway. Students joined in an organised procession to Gladstone Square, where many special events ran into the evening. Quorn Area School students returned to Quorn in the early evening aboard PRR's recently repainted Barwell Bull 106, and the newly restored trailer 305.

After a well planned shunting operation, and loco crew change, PRR's Dinner Train departed Port Augusta at 6:30pm, the 10 minute delay mainly due to the late arrival of the standard gauge train at Stirling North. 110 guests enjoyed the ride across the top of Spencer Gulf, with the loco crew exchanging whistles with the northbound Ghan as it entered Port Augusta. A thunderstorm on the ranges provided some spectacular lightning as the train began the 15 mile climb, and hors d'ourvres were served to the guests.
Light rain at the restaurant didn't slow proceedings down, except for ensuring everyone was careful descending the path.

After the train ran to Quorn, and the locomotive was serviced, the train returned to the restaurant, pausing for about 10 minutes while the guests made their way back, most of them somewhat warmer on the inside after a few drinks with their meals.
The train then ran express to Port Augusta, arriving back 1 minute early, at 11:59pm. Judging by the comments made to the engine crew, all the passengers had a great time, and are sure to remember the night for a long time.

More shunting was carried out, to remarshall the train for the Photographers' Special, and the engine crew got to bed at 2:00am.

Tuesday 23 October dawned overcast and cool, with many members having spent the night in an original Afghan Express and Broken Hill Express sleeping car Nilpena. More shunting followed, extracting the carriages from the new running shed, and making up the train at the platform. Students from the Port Augusta Special School, and about 25 photographers, joined the train, and it departed on time at 10:00am. Several photostops were run, and the Special School students disembarked at Woolshed Flat. One more photostop near Pichi Richi Park, and the train then ran to Quorn, where the passengers had a tour of the PRR workshops.
They then boarded the railcar for the short run to Quorn Station, and lunch was served. The railcar was turned, and, after passengers had reboarded, 106 and 305 made an historic journey, being the first Brill set to run in to Port Augusta.
After turning on the turntable, the railcar and trailer made a spirited run back to Quorn, with several PRR members enjoying the ride as a pleasant wind down from the previous few days' activities. There was even one younger member who became the first person to commute by train from Port Augusta to Quorn after school in over 35 years.