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Strath to Sandergrove

Sandegrove to Gilberts

Goolwa Station

Pt Elliott to Victor

Victor Station



 Along the Line - Goolwa to Pt Elliot

South Australia’s first railway venture was the opening of the Goolwa to Port Elliot railway line in 1854. As well as being the first line in the colony the section was also the first public line laid with iron rails in Australia. The line was constructed to provide an outlet for the River Murray trade of the 19th Century, although this role diminished following the extension of the more direct line from Adelaide through Kapunda to Morgan

The original line headed directly inland from the jetty at Goolwa and travelled through the centre of' the township towards Port Elliot. The present loop line was built later. The construction included a jetty and breakwater at Pt Elliot and a deep railway cutting to run the line out onto Pt Elliot jetty. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that Port Elliot was a bad choice as a harbour. A lack of' shelter for shipping and the shallow anchorage made conditions dangerous to even the smallest ships. Seven ships were wrecked between 1853 and 1864 and it was decided to relocate the port facilities to nearby Victor Harbor. This extension was opened for traffic in April 1864. The Port Elliot facilities were abandoned following completion of the line to Victor Harbor.

The railway was extended northwards to Strathalbyn in 1869 by means of a line from Middleton, but it was not until 1884 that the line from Adelaide reached Strathalbyn and through travel was possible to the Capital.Horses provided traction power until steam was introduced in 1884. Two horses often worked coupled together and were changed as necessary at intermediate stations In 1875 records show that the railway operated 29 horses, travelling 7000 miles a month. A typical working life was 14 years!

Goolwa, an aboriginal word for "elbow", was once a bustling river port and is noted for its historic buildings. Links with the past are clearly evident in the reappearance of' steam driven river boats and the Signal Point River Murray Interpretive Centre. An excellent historical Museum in Porter St, not far from the station, is well worth a visit Regular cruises leave from the Goolwa Wharf to explore the lower reaches of the River and the Murray mouth. Across the river from the station is Hindmarsh Island which stretches across to the Murray Mouth and the entrance to the Coorong. A new high level bridge opened in 2001 replaceces the long established cable ferry service.

The large goods shed and wharf opposite SteamRanger’s station bear testimony to a bygone era of hectic activity associated with the transfer of produce from paddle steamers to the railway for transhipment to Victor Harbor. The present station is maintained by SteamRanger, whilst a more recent addition is a sympathetically constructed shop for the Goolwa Arts and Crafts Society.

Survey Map 1

Along the Line to Pt Elliot
The line winds around to the right as it leaves the river and then crosses the main Goolwa to Victor road near the football oval. Prior to 1915 the main line south from Strathalbyn skirted the main township and joined the Victor line here and trains were shunted back into a station near the Corio Hotel and Goolwa town gardens and then on to the wharf area. Evidence of the original lines is still visible, particularly in aerial photographs. From here the train travels across 6km of flat farmland to Middleton.

[IMAGE] Prior to 1880s the original horse tram line from Strathalbyn came in from the north and joined the Goolwa line If you look carefully, a cutting for the old horse tram route can be traced on the right side of the line near the main road level crossing. This route was closed and removed in 1885.

The original Middleton station, dating from the horse tram period, was located near the large “Bowmans” stone mill, seen on the right as the train enters the township. Today's Middleton siding was established further to the east in 1926 adjacent to the historic double storied “Mindacowie” guesthouse located on the northern side of the main road. The modern Middleton Tavern has recently been built closer to the track. During the 1950's large quantities of sheep were railed from the local sheep sales and Middleton was second only to Strathalbyn for it’s volume of traffic on the line.

Our photo shows the scene at the old station in 1869 with horse cars enroute to Goolwa and Strathalbyn and the Mill in the background.

Closer to the coast now and the surfing beaches at Fishermans Bay and Basham Beach can be glimpsed across the sandhills. Whales and their calves are often seen here in the winter. Back to the rear of the train and across the bay are the beaches at the Murray Mouth with the Coorong stretching southwards in the distance.

Port Elliot
On the outskirts of the township the rail line leaves the main Victor to Goolwa road and to seawards you might see a "bow string" girder bridge at the entrance to the caravan park. This was transported down from Adelaide where it carried Grand Junction Road across the Adelaide - Port Adelaide rail line

Look out for the Obelisk on the shoreline at Freemans Knob as the train enters Pt Elliot. This was used as a guide to shipping in the early days of settlement. The line swings to the right at this point and leaves the route of the original horse drawn railway route which ran away down on the left to the old wharf at Horseshoe Bay.

Return to
Goolwa Station
Along the Line
Pt Elliot to Victor

Motorcaders' Photospots Yard Diagrams through the Years

The railway reserve and adjacent farmers' fields are not public rights of way. We recommend that lineside photographers use only public roads to follow our trains

Within this section the line runs parallel to, but about 500m away from the main Goolwa to Pt Elliot road. There are a number of side roads to the north between Goolwa and Middleton.

The best photo oppotunities would be

  • At level crossings as the train curves through the back streets of Goolwa
  • At the main road level crossing at Middleton, and near the Mill
  • From the main road between Middleton and Pt Elliot with the surf beaches in the background
  • At level crossings as the train curves through the back streets into Pt Elliot
  • At Pt Elliot station

Middleton 1885

Original station located adjacent to Mill

Middleton 1926

New station located to the west of Mindacowie Rd

Middleton 2000



Picturesque Horseshoe Bay at Pt Elliot

Historic Pt Elliot station framed by century old trees

Along the line
Pt Elliot to Victor