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17 October 1917 Transcontinental Railway

 17 October 1917        Transcontinental Railway

The transcontinental railway line to the west was completed at Ooldea on 17 October 1917 and five days later the first train left Port Augusta for Kalgoorlie. The first sod of the line was turned at Port Augusta on 14 September 1912 and at the opposite end of the line in Kalgoorlie on 12 February 1913. The start of World War One delayed the delivery of materials and it was five years before the lines met at Ooldea. It was an implied condition of Western Australia entering the Federation in 1901 that the state should be connected to the east by rail and although a move was made in 1907 by the Commonwealth Government it took time to complete the surveys and get estimates. In September 1911 King O’Malley, Minister for Home Affairs, introduced a Bill to authorise construction of the line and this was passed in December. Then South Australia, which apparently had waxed and waned on the idea, and West Australia had to pass the necessary enabling Acts to allow the line to pass through their territories. The engineering difficulties were minimal as there were no mountains or rivers to cross but there were the problems of flies, typhoid, heat and cold, shortages of materials and the immense distance. The line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie is 1036 miles and across the Nullarbor Plain is the longest straight stretch of railway line in the world – 330 miles. In spite of the problems the line was built in record time for railway construction in Australia, averaging two miles and 40 chains per day.

Advertiser, 22 October 1937.

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