Tim Fischer AC at Pichi Richi Railway's 40th anniversary celebrations, 10 August 2013 (Photo: Maikha Ly)
Tim Fischer AC at Pichi Richi Railway's 40th anniversary celebrations, 10 August 2013 (Photo: Maikha Ly)

Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. (PRRPS) gratefully acknowledges the immense contribution of its Patron, the Hon Tim Fischer AC, to the Pichi Richi Railway, railway history and heritage, the rail transport industry and the Australian community.

Tim Fischer was a strong advocate for the Pichi Richi Railway, and a great champion of rail and of rural Australia.

PRRPS was extremely fortunate to have Mr Fischer serve as its Patron since 2002, during which time he energetically promoted the Pichi Richi Railway at his every opportunity. He put his role of Patron on hold in 2009 after being appointed Ambassador to the Holy See. After his return, Mr Fischer was reappointed Patron in 2014.

On 24 October 1999, while a Member of the Australian Parliament, Tim Fischer officially opened Pichi Richi Railway's track extension from Woolshed Flat to Stirling North. Who could have been more appropriate to perform this duty than arguably Australia's most famous and passionate railway buff! He returned to Port Augusta and Quorn numerous times to visit Pichi Richi Railway, often for special events.

PRRPS Foundation Member, Hayden Hart, told ABC Radio Adelaide, "He also had a wonderful lifelong passion for heritage railways and never lost his interest—his boyhood interest—in railways, trains and steam locomotives and certainly he has been a great supporter and advocate for Pichi Richi Railway."

"Tim wherever possible tried to fit a visit in to Pichi Richi when he's been travelling in this part of the country."

Hayden recalls an occasion when Tim Fischer had arranged to meet him at Port Augusta one evening during a Fischer family journey on the Ghan to Darwin, "So I waited at Port Augusta station on a pretty cold, miserable night...This very dark, large trenchcoat was walking towards me in the gloom of the evening, and I went to shake his hand and he thrust a $1000 cheque into my hand, made out to Pichi Richi Railway. So he was a very generous man, not only with his time and advice but in other ways too."

"He advocated for Pichi Richi wherever he could," Hayden added.

"He had a strong belief that Pichi Richi Railway was a great example of a preserved railway because the Pichi Richi line between Port Augusta and Quorn had such a major part in the nation's development, particularly of the Northern Territory and Western Australia in years gone by and he saw that as an important thing to retain and recognise its value for future generations.

"I think all of us who knew Tim Fischer in the railway preservation movement are deeply saddened by his premature passing. He was a great Australian, a great man from the bush."

Australia's most famous railfan at the controls of our famous Coffee Pot steam motor coach. Tim Fischer AC, guest of honour at the Steam Up Quorn event, blows the Coffee Pot's whistle before driving it a short distance, 23 May 2005 (Photo: David Southon)
Australia's most famous railfan at the controls of our famous Coffee Pot steam motor coach. Tim Fischer AC, guest of honour at the Steam Up Quorn event, blows the Coffee Pot's whistle before driving it a short distance, 23 May 2005. (Photo: David Southon)

Tim Fischer was also a noted author whose writings included three railway books: Transcontinental Train Odyssey (2004), Trains Unlimited in the 21st Century (2011) and Steam Australia: Locomotives that Galvanised the Nation (2018). He also hosted ABC Local Radio's The Great Train Show, in which he shared his enthusiasm for railways and their history.

He had a special interest in railway gauges (the measurement between the inside faces of the two rails) and even published a poster, Tim Fischer's Great Australian Railway Gauges. He liked to point out that Australia had no less than 22 railway gauges! Pichi Richi Railway's route from Port Augusta to Quorn is of what he termed "Anglo Cape narrow gauge" (3'-6" or 1067mm). South Australia might have been of special interest to him as its government railways had the farcical situation of having track of all of the three major gauges: Stephenson standard gauge, Irish broad gauge and Anglo Cape narrow gauge.

Members of PRRPS extend their deep sympathy to Tim's family.

 

The Hon Tim Fischer MP opens the line to Stirling North, 24 October 1999 (Photo: Bryan Homann)
The Hon Tim Fischer MP entertains the crowd at the opening ceremony of the line to Stirling North, 24 October 1999 (Photo: Bryan Homann)
PRRPS President Phil Mellors presents Tim Fischer with a piece of the original 1878 Hopkins Gilkes wrought iron rail from the Port Augusta and Government Gums railway on 1 February 2004. The occasion was the first Ghan to Darwin, which ran parallel with Pichi Richi's train into Port Augusta. (Photo: Scott Reubenicht)
PRRPS President Phil Mellors presents Tim Fischer with a piece of the original 1878 Hopkins Gilkes wrought iron rail from the Port Augusta and Government Gums railway on 1 February 2004. The occasion was the first Ghan to Darwin, which ran parallel with Pichi Richi's train into Port Augusta. (Photo: Scott Reubenicht)