The Afghan Express was the name given to the trains running on the railway line north from Port Augusta in South Australia to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
Work began on the construction of the narrow gauge railway line in 1877 at Port Augusta, but progress was slow. The work reached Quorn in 1879, Marree in 1884, Oodnadatta in 1891 and finally Alice Springs in 1929.
Because of the agitations by wheat growers and miners of the Flinders Ranges, the route chosen for the railway line through the Pichi Richi Pass was the most difficult one possible, due to the rugged terrain of rocky outcrops and dry river beds. It was also the most scenic route.
During the second world war, the coal mine at Leigh Creek came into service. A new route for the railway, bypassing the Pichi Richi Pass, Quorn and Hawker, was constructed to carry coal from the mine to Port Augusta. This was a standard gauge line which reached Marree in 1957. However, the narrow gauge continued to Alice Springs and north bound travellers were forced to change trains at Marree.
The railway line through the Pichi Richi Pass fell into disrepair and was removed in the Port Augusta area. Rail enthusiasts, who were concerned by the loss of so much history, united to commit to the conservation of the steam trains, the preservation of the railway line and the work of the stone masons, who had built the retaining walls of embankments and bridge abutments. The Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society was formed in 1973 for these purposes and now the Society runs regular train services for visitors to the Flinders Ranges throughout the year.
A Day in the Life of the Afghan Express shows the results of the work of the Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society with a train trip from Port Augusta to Quorn and back again on the Afghan Express. This service uses original Ghan rolling stock of the narrow gauge era, including the steam engine NM25, which hauled the services between Port Augusta and Alice Springs.
This video also highlights the history of the Old Ghan Railway, also the township of Quorn and the work of the Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society to bring this part of the railway back to life. Join the adventure and enjoy a ride on the Afghan Express.
Part 2 in the DVD follows the Old Ghan Heritage Trail northwards to Alice Springs. As the railway line only closed in 1980, many relics can be found along the route. Farina, an old township along the line, is featured as is the work of the Farina Preservation Society in protecting the many buildings, mostly in ruins, that remain.
Bridges, stations and sidings also feature, and include Coward Springs and Oodnadatta, as well as many other highlights along the way, finishing with the Ghan Preservation Society of Alice Springs.
…it is a great production and a good representation … There is some fantastic footage of the engine prior to departure … and some excellent footage en route of the train through the Pichi Richi Pass. You have captured the essence of the experience really well. The attention to facts, dates and history of the Railway is exceptional.
Barbara Smythe, Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc
The route of the Pichi Richi railway line takes the visitor into the scenic Flinders Ranges. For more scenic beauty have a look at The Magic of the Flinders Ranges DVD, available here.