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Water was discovered in the “Farina Creek”  by early pioneers in the 1850’s and became the “Gums” stock watering hole on the major Beltana to Marree stock routes. In July of 1859 this land was taken up by G H Davenport and W Fowler and by 1876 the town land adjacent was leased by Mr A M Woolridge and renamed “Government Gums”. To maintain the water supply Mr Woolridge sent William and Francis Humphries and their daughter Sarah in March the same year to maintain the water holes. The town of Government Gums was later declared on 21st March 1878 and renamed Farina by the Governor of South Australia.

Demands for a railway started to emerge in the city, around the 1870’s to fulfil the carting of ore from the many new mines that were being brought into work and the first stages of this was to be known as the Transcontinental Railway linking Port Augusta to Darwin via Palmerston. The then assistant engineer for the Public works Department a Mr Robert C Paterson declared that the 200 miles of this proposed route into the stony desert would not be satisfactory and decided that Government Gums with its own water supply, could support a railway on this route. This railway was later to be called the “Great Northern Railway”. A tender was later awarded to Barry, Brookes & Fraser during 1877 to construct the railway at a total cost of 533,000 pounds.

The Railway

Construction commenced in July 1878 from Port Augusta and running via the “Pichi Richi” pass to Quorn, opened 15th December 1879, and then on to Farina, the total distance from Adelaide was 451 miles. The final rail spike was driven by the resident engineer Mr John Reid on 2nd May 1882 and the opening ceremony for the line was held in Quorn on 22nd May 1882 by the Governor Sir William Jervois with a corresponding ceremony held in Farina the following day.

The infrastructure at Farina was relatively straight forward, construction started in October 1881 to 1882 with the standard for the day of a wooden Class 2 station building, a residence for the station master and family, corrugated iron arched roof goods shed, single line running shed, loading platform, water column and 50,000 gallon water tank fed from a 5M gallon dam three miles away.

The First Station Master Mr M Murray appointed in August 1882 along with the Second Station Master Mr J Gray in 1883. The first locomotive to arrive in Farina was the W Class 4-6-0 built in 1877 (this is now in storage at Quorn).

Apart from shipping sheep and cattle for the Sidney Kidman stations to the Port Adelaide abattoir’s the first bales of wool from Witchelina Station were sent south in August 1883.

The railway grew over the ensuing years to supply all of the pioneering homesteads and early miners, in the far north. Of course Farina was also an amalgamation of “Cameleers” that would meet the train, unload the goods to transport on foot to outback regions. Some return trips took many weeks on foot, all within the very hot drought periods or flood.

We are now at a point we are able to “Re-Develop” our rail corridor and “Bring our History Back”.

Whilst arriving late with the procurement of rolling stock and infrastructure, we are confident that with community engagement, we can make this project happen. When you take the opportunity to look around South Australia, vast numbers of “Railway” surpluses are left unused. We would like to re-purpose some of these many items and re-install them where they can be used and admired again.

With this in mind we would welcome your support in providing some of your surplus locomotives, rolling stock, rail sleepers and fixings, to get us started with a static display.

We are hoping to source the following:

  1. 1km of Narrow Gauge Rail.
  2. 800 Narrow Gauge Railway sleepers.
  3. Rail connecting clips and or bolts.
  4. Engine shed.
  5. Station waiting room.

Our fantastic local rail community have offered to support us with one locomotive purely for display purposes, and we are committing to re-building the station and engine shed as time and finances permit.

As part of this larger project we also will be working on a new “Rail Trail’ to cross promote other historical rail regions, in order that as many visitors as possible can increase their personal “Rail experiences”.

If you can support this re-development we will be very appreciative, and we do look forward to the opening of this very important piece of our history.

The Project

The project is in two stages.

Stage one

To be included in our new ‘Museum”, we are seeking more information regarding the railway, from its initial design to include more images of the railway buildings, steam trains, carriages, timetables, tickets, uniforms, the daily workings ie repairs and maintenance. What freight was carried and when. The social history of those that worked on or in the railway precinct ie the cameleers, fettlers, gangers and engineers.

Stage Two.

Will be based on securing more of the railway infrastructure that has since been lost, from the closure of the line in 1964


Farina had both Narrow 3’6 and in 1952 the standard gauge 4’81/2 line and we believe we are the only place in Australia where the two gauges cross to form “Reversing Triangles” so that locomotives could be turned to drive on the return trip to Adelaide “funnel” first.

We are seeking to rebuild parts of the narrow and standard gauge rail line, install more of the rolling stock, and display the NSU 62 locomotive, rebuild the station building and rail shed to add to our current rolling stock of one each sheep, cattle and flat freight wagons.

So if you are able to help please contact us via our web page

Steve Harding

On behalf of the Farina Committee.