Thirty years ago the new standard gauge railway to Alice Springs was under construction. Foundation member Jeremy Browne, having organised the Peterborough Centenary Trips with T186 in 1976, was keen to do something special to mark the end of the old Ghan.

A plan was formulated to run the last narrow gauge Ghan as a steam hauled special. Powered by T class and NM class steam locomotives double-heading, the train would take four days for the Marree to Alice run, stopping overnight en-route. The narrow gauge Ghan would follow for meals and beds for 150 first class passengers, with tents for 100 economy class passengers.

Are we there yet? The team is nearing William Creek at the 623km point. (Photo: Jeremy Browne)

At Alice Springs the group would change over with a second group who had travelled north on a standard gauge train for the return final narrow gauge Ghan. It would have been the rail tour of the century and was beginning to look possible when news was received that Princess Alexandra could be available to open the new line – a month earlier than scheduled. Plans for the last narrow gauge Ghan had to be shelved.

One of the groups approached for a loco was the Bellarine Peninsula Railway in Victoria. Member Royce Jowett suggested that if there was no steam train, we should pump a trolley! A Kalamazoo at Bellarine was on loan from the Tasmanian Museum of Transport, though in somewhat run-down condition.

Jeremy approached our wonderful Patron at the time Keith Smith and approval was given to pump the trolley up the line. Chief Civil Engineer Des Smith arranged for Roadmaster Kevin Stevens and a motor trolley to travel with the party.

The Kalamazoo was brought to Adelaide and overhauled ready for the trip and pumpers sought—initially from Pichi Richi. Volunteers were few and far between—put off by the mere 869km of isolated railway. Max Munchenburg and Peter Letheby signed up, followed by Graham Bowes from the ARHS (amongst much laughter at the meeting) while Royce and four from Bellarine were almost enough. Jeremy leaned on two friends to complete the party.

The trip was planned over nine days, including a spare day, stopping overnight at fettlers' huts. Practice runs were held between Orroroo and Black Rock. A detailed menu was prepared and armed with 40 dozen Southwark beer "Ghan Cans" the party set off from Marree on September 30 1980.

Commemorative Southwark can

The first day to Curdimurka was hard going, but thereafter the trip was generally easier than expected. The spare day was not required and the party rolled into Alice the day before the first standard gauge train. Average speed for the trip was 16 km/h at the rate of ten miles per gallon of Southwark beer. The Kalamazoo got pride of place in the Alice yard for the celebrations.

After the Alice trip, weekend runs were made from Peterborough to Quorn and Gladstone to Wilmington, before the trolley was returned to the Tasmanian Museum of Transport. This gave all those who wished that they had signed up the opportunity to experience Kalamazoo travel. With the help of the Queensland Railways Commissioner, an identical Kalamazoo was purchased and donated by the Team to Pichi Richi. It is at Quorn today.

On 2 October 2010, thirty years to the day that the Hand Ghan travelled from William Creek to Algebuckina, five members of the original team re-united to pump the trolley through the Pichi Richi Pass—the last remaining operational section of the old Ghan railway.

Team leader Jeremy Browne said "Our trip thirty years ago was great fun and has now become part of the many legends of the old Ghan railway. Re-uniting for another run will help celebrate the old Ghan Railway and highlight the wonderful activities of the volunteer Pichi Richi Railway".

The group left Summit at about 9.00am, meeting up with regular trains at Woolshed Flat before proceeding to Stirling North, arriving at 2.15pm. Glynn Cawthorne acted as the "responsible" Kalamazoo person for the day. Thanks Glynn and Pichi Richi for allowing us to re-live our youth!

Read about the 1980 Hand Ghan adventure here.

A reunion after 30 years of five of the original Kalamazoo team at Summit. Left to right: Jeremy Browne, Royce Jowett, Peter Letheby, Max Munchenberg and Nick Timbs. 2 October 2010. (Photo: Jeremy Browne)
Narrow gauge locomotives NJ3 and NJ1 hauling a southbound Ghan power over the Algebuckina Bridge. Clear of the mainline, the ANR section car and Kalamazoo wait for the Ghan to pass. October 1980. (Photo: Jeremy Browne)
The Kalamazoo team have arrived at Mount Rebecca at the 917km point. It appears that they have run out of fuel. (Southwark fuel that is). October 1980. (Photo: Jeremy Browne)
AL18 arrives at Alice Springs with the inaugural standard gauge Ghan. The Kalamazoo got pride of place in the station yard for the celebrations after arriving the day before. October 1980. (Photo: Jeremy Browne)
The route of the Hand Ghan in October 1980