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Beachport is a small coastal town on the Limestone Coast of South Australia. It's a popular holiday destination and Beachport attractions include an excellent surfing beach, the Pool of Siloam, the second longest jetty in the state and the Beachport Conservation Park. The National Trust of South Australia's Beachport Old Wool and Grain Store Museum is another of the Beachport attractions that must be visited when in town.
A new Railway Exhibition at the Beachport Museum tells the story of Beachport railway history, from the construction of the railway line in 1877 until its demise in the 1950's. With the aid of rare old photos and railway memorabilia, we can learn about life in Beachport from the earliest days, and how the construction of a railway line from Beachport to Mount Gambier changed people's lives - and enabled the town to prosper and to grow.
The National Trust's Beachport Old Wool and Grain Store Museum
A whaling station was established in nearby Rivoli Bay in the 1830's, and soon Beachport grew rapidly to service the booming sheep and grain farms inland. By 1875 farmers were demanding ways to get their wool, potatoes and cattle to market, and the government proclaimed a port at Rivoli Bay (Beachport). At this time the South Australian railways network was expanding fast, and construction started in 1877 of a railway line from Beachport to Mount Gambier via Millicent.
Building the Beachport railway was no simple task. All the materials including rails, turntables, cranes, and steam engines were imported from England on sailing ships. Four hundred workers laid 100,000 red gum sleepers from a nearby saw mill until the narrow gauge railway line was completed about twelve months later. It must have been back breaking work.
Passengers on Railway Terrace Beachport 1879 (Image Supplied)
The railway line to Mount Gambier and Millicent was used for both passenger traffic and freight. It extended right along the jetty with spur lines into the Wool and Grain Store (now museum), sheep yards and a chicory kiln. The Beachport railway yards were quite large, with the railway station supported by carriage and freight sheds, repair workshops, and accommodation for the South Australian Railways employees. A Customs office in the railway yards ensure that taxes were paid on goods passing through.
The bustling port at Beachport could handle 15,000 sheep and hundreds of tons of potatoes in a week, while many passengers passed through the port on their way to Mount Gambier. A chicory factory opened in Beachport in 1892 and a kiln used to dry the roots for use as a coffee substitute. The dried chicory was far superior to imported product in purity and nutritionally, and was also exported from Beachport.
A series of colourful interpretive panels in the Beachport Old Wool and Grain Store Museum tells the story of Beachport railway history, and how it enabled the town to develop and support its growing population. The Beachport Museum Railway Exhibition is complemented by displays of South Australian railways memorabilia from the past. See railway carriages, old SAR signs, photos of steam engines, and even a pedal powered trike used for railway line inspections.
After viewing the exhibition it's worthwhile to wander around Beachport where signs of its railway history are easily found. The Wattle Range Council have an informative free historic buildings guide which you can download and provides much useful background information for your tour.
The Beachport Museum Railway Exhibition at the Beachport Old Wool and Grain Store Museum is being officially opened by National Trust of South Australia President, Professor Norman Etherington on Sunday October 30 at 1pm. Also present will be Peter Savage who has a long association with the Kalangadoo railway and operates its railway museum, and who has been a generous supporter of the new exhibition.
This exhibition is of great interest to rail enthusiasts, with much rare material on display. However it will also appeal to anyone with an interest in the history of this attractive town on the limestone Coast, with many insights into how the railways supported and complemented daily life in Beachport. The museum is open daily to see the exhibition.
I did not know about this line.I like railways.It would be wonderful to go back in time, when all these railways were operating...say in the early 1900's.Pity there is no longer a short trip line from Mt.Gambier to some interesting place with good scenery along the way.