The Tailem Bend Train Graveyard

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Posted 2013-02-11 by Dave Walshfollow

[ADVERT]Way back in the 1990's some entrepreneurs had a vision of operating heritage trains out of Tailem Bend as an SA tourist venture.

Changes in railway operations around the country had resulted in the availability of surplus rolling stock, and the businessmen acquired two 900 class locomotives and around 20 assorted carriages.

The trains were used on a few occasions - bringing children from Port Pirie to Adelaide once, and also used for a race trip to Broken Hill.

Sadly the carriages have seen little use since then, and have become a magnet for all the vandals and graffiti artists in the area.

In 2010 expressions of interest to buy the rolling stock were sought, but seem to have achieved little interest.

More recently the company was struck a major blow when copper thieves stole cabling from one of the locomotives that was partly restored and converted to standard gauge.

On a recent trip to Tailem Bend to see the Railway Museum and obtain photos of railway infrastructure, I was able to see these railway carriages that are slowly rusting away in the weather. Although as one wit remarked, at least the graffiti will help deter further rust.

It was rather sad. The heritage carriages (some of which are nearly 70 years old) are arranged around a fenced turntable area. This is located within a large private rail yard, but unfortunately police can't patrol it all the time.

The Director of Australian Locomotive & Railway Carriage Company gave me permission to view the carriages, and after seeing them it was disappointing to think how the initial dream of heritage tourism trains failed.

Many of the carriages have a style and even luxury only seen in days gone by.

#714 ">Excursion car BK 714 was built in Islington SA in 1941 and converted to First Class in 1947. Prior to Tailem Bend it was operated by West Coast Railway, and has an attractive polished wood panelled interior with plushly upholstered seats.

It has not escaped damage.

A 1986 photo of 700 series carriages crossing Hamley Bridge is deeply evocative of days gone by.

BK 714 looks very different today.

Another carriage with quite a history is VRS232 , which entered service in 1938. It seated 27 diners at a counter running the full length of the car, and operated in Victoria and NSW before coming to SA.

While all of these carriages have given lengthy service, their future today remains uncertain. Unless a rail enthusiast or an entrepreneur buys them they may well end up as scrap.

The National Railway Museum which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year already has a 900 class locomotive, so is unlikely to want more.

In the meantime, they are a sad reminder of Tailem Bend's once proud railway history.

The author is grateful to Steve Moritz, Chris Drymalik and Scott McCarten for their assistance with this article.

186170 - 2023-06-16 02:45:29


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