Port Lincoln Centenary (1907-2007)

The Centenary of the official opening of the Port Lincoln - Cummins railway was celebrated on 18 November 2007, one hundred years to the day from the actual opening. Approximately 250 people gathered at the beautiful stone station building at Port Lincoln for the morning's events, with a similar gathering taking place at Cummins later in the day.

The formal part of the day took place in the forecourt of the station building. Under the capable and entertaining guidance of MC Peter Goers (ABC Radio, Adelaide), speakers included Bob Prout (President, EPRPS), Peter Knife (railway historian) and Dr Ron Fitch (former Commissioner, South Australian Railways). The Port Lincoln City Band provided entertainment throughout the morning - this was one of a number of historic parallels to the opening day when the town band rode on the official train. Speeches
The brass commemorative plaque (seen in detail at the top of this page) was unveiled by Mrs Kitty Domagalski, founding Secretary of the EPRPS and a driving force in history preservation on Eyre Peninsula.

Many of those present joined in the spirit of the occasion and wore period dress. Below left we see current EPRPS Secretary Trevor Hoskin being a very distinguished Port Lincoln Stationmaster, and below right are Trevor, Liz Penfold (MP for Flinders), "swaggie" Des Wiseman, and (at rear) Stephen Domagalski and Craig Gartner on a sulky loaned by the Koppio National Trust Museum.

SM Hoskin Period dress
One of the re-enactments on the day was delivery of mailbags by train. In this scene some vintage mailbags (loaned by Koppio Museum) are being delivered by horse to the Port Lincoln station. The mailbags contained letters written by local school children, and were passed into the safekeeping of the crew of the commemorative train for onwards conveyance.

Unbeknown to the participants at the time, the delivery of the mailbags to Cummins was not to be the smooth operation anticipated.

Mail delivery
Commemorative train
No suitable rolling stock was available to run a passenger train, but GWA co-operated by providing a short commemorative train. The front of the train was adorned with a headboard, the Australian flag and the Union Jack - the flags being carried in emulation of the first official test run of a locomotive at Port Lincoln in 1907, an occasion captured on film. The train was hauled by 906 (the first locomotive to wear the then-new ASR colour scheme) and 850 (the SAR's first narrow gauge diesel-electric locomotive) and consisted of four HCN and one HAN class grain hopper wagons. 850 was included in the train (even though it was 'dead' and has been out of service for some time) because of its historical significance. It carried a 'Making History' banner for sponsor Cummins District Community Bank. Commemorative train
An empty grain train hauled by 1204, 905 and 1203 left Port Lincoln a couple of hours ahead of the commemorative train en route to Lock. The 'hoop iron railway' managed to live up to its reputation, and this train was derailed while descending Pearlah bank. The view at right shows the last two hoppers - the rest of the train came to rest about a kilometre further on.

After assessing the situation, it was decided that the unaffected portion of the train would move forward to the siding at Wanilla, however this move was halted a couple of hundred metres short of Wanilla when a serious heat buckle in the track was encountered (below right).

To their credit, GWA provided the ceremonial departure and ran the commemorative special train from Port Lincoln even though it was known that the line was blocked by the derailment. The special ran as far as the siding at Grantham, where it was tied down. The mailbags were retrieved and taken forward by road.

The ever-creative Cummins folk were not to be denied their fun, however. The mailbags were meant to arrive by train, so arrive by train they would. The rubber-tyred 'Thomas' showground train was pressed into service and the mailbags (and MC Peter Goers) arrived in style to kick off the Cummins festivities.

Cummins train

Photographs of people on sulky and mailbag delivery by horse: Chris Carpenter. Other photos: Peter & Margaret Knife.

Chris Carpenter has put together this video which combines scenes from the Port Lincoln Railway Centenary with some footage of operations on Lower Eyre Peninsula: