Second World War

During the Second World War, the Central Australia Railway and North Australia Railway were vital to conveying service personnel and equipment to northern Australia. All of these wartime trains passed through Quorn.

121st Australian General Transport Company disembarks from a train at Alice Springs, 29 December 1942 (Australian War Memorial: 028416)

  • All
  • CR Carriages
  • MacArthur
  • SAR Carriages
  • Short Tom
  • Troop Meals
  • WWII


Seventy years ago, the Central Australia Railway carried troops, vehicles and supplies to Perth and Darwin where they were shipped out to the various campaigns of World War II.

The Central Australia Railway was key to the transport of equipment, supplies and troops during the Second World War. Before the war, trains to Alice Springs would run twice a week, increasing during the war by an extra 56 per week.

A play on the relative remoteness of their new location, railwaymen from NSW and Victoria named their social club the "Curdipedirka Club" – a fictitious place halfway between Curdimurka and Pedirka!

After a trip described as a "nightmare" nearly 300 men, women, and children evacuees, many of them wearing the only clothes they possess, completed a 2,000-mile journey from Darwin…Some of the men had no shoes, while others arrived clad in shorts and singlets only. One man said he left Darwin with only a pair of shorts.

—The Advertiser,  28 February, 1942

General MacArthur and his family passed through Quorn on their own small steam engine, bogie van, dining car and two sleeping cars plus brake van. On his arrival in Quorn he thanked his train crew personally and had his vehicles reattached to a south-bound passenger train where he spoke to reporters in Terowie.

I’ll always remember Quorn. It was where we had a meal fit for a king and after eating tinned stuff you can imagine just how much we appreciated it.1

The meals the CWA supplied were fondly remembered and so was their hospitality.

On the way to war there was no greater comfort to our troops than to receive a home made meal from the CWA of Quorn. Ironically, they can thank the husband of Mrs Pearl Hastwell, Quorn’s convenor of hospitality. Had he not brought a couple of soldiers home for some tea this legend may never had occurred.

One of these 'tin sheds' was erected by the Department of Defence (Army) in February 1941 in the Quorn railway yard, behind the Cross of Sacrifice, to enable [an Army Service Corps Canteen, assisted by] the Country Women's Association (CWA) volunteers of Quorn, to provide meals day and night for military personnel and evacuees travelling on the Central Australia Railway corridor.

It was not just Commonwealth Railways (CR) workers who worked on the railways during the war.

As more attractive defence force jobs appeared, many left railway work causing the railways to advertise in newspapers and on radio for workers.