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Published January 16th 2017
The best views you'll ever see from a train
What do you get when you combine a piece of South Australian history with some of the best coastline in Australia – one of the most unique train rides in Australia, and one that is known with much affection as the Cockle Train.
The Cockle Train is run by Steamranger Heritage Railway and operates between the historic river port of Goolwa and the seaside resort of Victor Harbor alongside the marvellous Encounter Bay. The western part of Encounter Bay around Goolwa Beach is famous for its cockles, and it is this legacy that spurned the name Cockle Train.
The railways history of the area shows that the first line was installed between Goolwa and Port Elliot in 1854, and was extended to Port Victor in 1864 when Port Elliot was declared an unsafe port. he line north of Goolwa was extended through to Strathalbyn and eventually Adelaide, and by 1884 many Adelaideans would hop on board the train in Adelaide for the much loved day trip to Victor.
The Adelaide line closed in 1980 but the Cockle Train was such an icon that the line from Goolwa to Victor Harbor was spared and Steamranger commenced tourist operations soon thereafter. Goolwa is where I am starting from today with SAR 621, the Duke of Edinburgh, being the engine that will take me on this iconic journey. Most people board the front carriages while I head to the rear and take up residence on the left side of the train to get the best views.
The train departs Goolwa Station with the traditional horn, and heads on its way through Goolwa South before venturing through the hay fields towards Middleton where we eventually cross the main road to the delights and much waving of hands by sightseers.
Middleton Station, as the name suggests, is the mid point on the journey, and a passing loop enables a train coming the other way to pass safely on the single line track, before we set off again past Basham's Beach alongside the Encounter Bikeway where a family of bike riders takes up the challenge of trying to beat us to Port Elliot.
With a slightly bigger engine, the race to Port Elliot is won by the train amidst a few more horn displays as we cross a number of roads before the reach the Port Elliot Railway Station in the centre of town.
A quick stop at the station, and then some further travel around the backs of houses, and then the view that we have all been waiting for appears. White sand and turquoise waters signals Knights Beach, Boomer Beach and Hayborough while the distant Norfolk Island Pines, Causeway and Granite Island highlight that Victor Harbor is not that far away.
Steamranger Heritage Railway operate the Cockle Train on most weekends, Wednesdays and school holidays, with further details available from the Steamranger Heritage Railway website or their facebook page. Tickets may be bought online, or are available from Goolwa or Victor Harbor Railway Stations. The Cockle Train is run by volunteers, and all monies raised are reinvested in maintenance and preservation of one of Australia's iconic ocean side journeys.