An historic “Ghan” steam locomotive is set to steam over its old track later this year after a complete restoration by Pichi Richi Railway. Today two identities from the former Commonwealth Railways inspected progress on the restoration. The NM25 locomotive was built in 1925 for the Commonwealth Railways and retired from active service in 1965.

The restoration of NM25 to full working order has taken two years, and is part of the extension of Pichi Richi Railway to Port Augusta. Funding for the project has come from the City of Port Augusta, SA Tourism Commission, and Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society, as well as numerous supporters and suppliers. The recommissioning is planned for Saturday 26 April, when it will pull special trains between Port Augusta and Quorn in the Flinders Ranges, before returning to regular service with Pichi Richi Railway.

Keith Easton was a driver on the old “Ghan” and drove NM25 to Alice Springs in the ‘40's and ‘50's. As he inspected the nearly complete locomotive memories flooded back. He commented “You chaps are doing a great job”.

Keith Smith (AM, OBE, BE) was Commissioner of Commonwealth Railways and then Australian National Railways from 1960 to 1981. He was responsible for the transition from the old steam engines to diesel electric power in the 1950's. He recalls the operating problems of the old Central Australia Railway to Alice Springs. On the formation of the Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society in 1973, he kindly agreed to become Patron of the Society, a position which he maintained until retirement in 1981.

Restoration of NM25 has involved stripping it back to virtually each component. Parts have been scrapped and made new, overhauled, or checked and replaced as necessary. Major parts which have been totally renewed include the main frames, both power cylinders, all the wheel tyres, the tender tank, cab sides, smoke-box, running boards and all boiler cladding. “There is more new than original on the loco now”, said John Lyas, Project Manager for the restoration. “We are confident it will give many more years of service”.

Pichi Richi Railway steam trains will commence for the 2003 season at Easter. Regular steam trains are scheduled for every Saturday through to the end of October, plus additional dates and times. NM25 will share the duties with other engines in the Pichi Richi stable.

Pichi Richi Railway operates the last remaining portion of the original Port Augusta and Government Gums Railway. Commenced by the SA Government in 1877, the line eventually reached Alice Springs in 1929. Today Pichi Richi Railway runs between Port Augusta and Quorn in the Flinders Ranges. The famous “Ghan” train was named at Quorn in the 1920s. The outback icon that is the Pichi Richi Railway will be enriched with the addition of the NM25 locomotive.


Keith Easton, Keith Smith, John Lyas and NM25 will be available from 1.30pm to 3.00pm.

Further information is available on the PRRPS web site at


Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc

Richard Atkinson: Mobile 0414 803 430