Article Index

Extracts from the Log

Day 1: Tuesday 30 September 1980 Marree to Curdimurka
Breakfast at Great Northern Hotel. Depart Marree 9.25 a.m. after Channel 10 News interview. Hot with NW wind makes for hard going. Wangianna at 12.51 p.m. and 40°C. Motor section car breaks down near Lake Eyre and passing motorist won't help. Fixed with bit of wood which lasts till Alice Springs. Arrive Curdimurka 6.31p.m. to glorious sunset. Big dinner, stayed in fettlers' quarters. 101 km. Average speed 12.8 km/hour.

Day 2: Wednesday 1 October 1980 Curdimurka to 656 km near Anna Creek
First party away at 7.11 a.m. and covers 25 km past Margaret Siding. Gentle SE wind a great morale booster. Warms up to 38°. Found old Kalamazoo gear wheel at lrrapatanna—believed to be off trolley wrecked on Deadman's Hill in the 1880s. Passed their graves later. Arrive William Creek 2.30 p.m. Sunset run 20 km on to off-rail near Anna Creek. Dinner in the pub till late then slept(?) in passageway at the barracks while two NJ's shunted for hours.
120 km. Average 17.3 km/hour.

Day 3: Thursday 2 October 1980 656 km to Algebuckina
Overcast day with 32ºC maximum. Tail wind all day and we flew! Average 24 km/hour Duff Creek to Edwards Creek. Spirits high—just coasting. Algebuckina in time for photos on the bridge and then posing Kalamazoo in the foreground as the southbound Ghan crossed the bridge with two NJ's. Desperate party until late in the old fettlers' camp. Snake in Graham Bowes' sleeping bag!
120 km. Average 19.4 km/hour.

Day 4: Friday 3 October 1980 Algebuckina to Alberga
Sunny day 31º max. Perfect pumping weather. First team away at 6.42 a.m. covers 32 km. Arrive Oodnadatta at 9.48 a.m. well up on schedule. Whole school turns out to meet us. Showers, stamp first day covers at P.O. and wait for southbound goods. Inspect ruins at Wire Creek arriving Alberga 2.41 p.m. Great swimming pool. Camp in good condition with caretaker only. Main line sitting after dinner and sing-song until late.
96 km. Average 17.9 km/hour.

Day 5: Saturday 4 October 1980 Alberga to Ilbunga
Day clear and hot. 36° at midday with northerly wind building up. Very hard in Pedirka sandhills so we lay over at Pedirka for four hours. Good time for showers in camp. Arrive Ilbunga 5.50 p.m. Camp abandoned and partly wrecked but a roof over our heads; heavy shower of rain later. We ring train control for Grand Final results—Port wins!
97 km. 17.9 km/hour.

Day 6: Sunday 5 October 1980 Ilbunga to Finke
Hard Yakka! Very hot—42ºC by 11.00 a.m. with very strong northerly winds. Long delay at Bloods Creek to cross southbound goods then we lay over at Abminga praying for wind to ease (it was Sunday). Michael Menzies from Geelong joins party. Eventually we had to push on. Covered 6 km in first hour but wind slowly abates and we reach Finke in almost dark at 7.03 p.m. Cold beers in fridge!
105 km. Average 13.3 km/hour.

Day 7: Monday 6 October 1980 Finke to Deepwell
Cool change arrives—temperature drops to 12ºC in three hours and rain as we cross the Finke. Anticipated problems with sand do not arise. Motor trolley goes ahead to push down sand and we make good time arriving Bundooma 12.50 p.m., planned overnight stop. We decide to push on to Deepwell and reduce the trip by a complete day. Arrive Deepwell 5.28 p.m. Kevin Stevens' wife and son come down from Alice for barbecue. Nick Timbs sets individual day record with 66 km.
151 km. Average 18.8 km/hour.

Day 8: Tuesday 7 October 1980 Deepwell to Alice Springs
Nothing can stop us now!
Perfect pumping weather. 28°C and slight tail wind. Awoken at 5.00 a.m. by cock, unable to catch it. A shift each to Todd Junction averaging over 20 km/hour. Photo stops in Heavitree Gap arriving Alice Springs 12.20 p.m.
78 km. Average 19.6 km/hour.

Those taking part were: Jeremy Browne, Graham Bowes, Nick Timbs, Mike Ball and Peter Letheby from Adelaide, Max Munchenberg from Whyalla, Royce Jowett, Peter Nolte, Phil Riddett, Rob Riddett and Mike Menzies (Abminga to Alice Springs only) from Geelong.

Total distance covered 869 km

Total pumps 167,616

Overall average 16.8 km/hour

Fuel consumption 10 m.p.g. Southwark

Greatest individual distance pumped 376.5 km


All photographs by the author

A reunion of the Hand Ghan team was held in October 2010