Eyre Peninsula Railway Preservation Society Inc.

Glimpses of History

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This article first appeared in the August 2015 issue of the EPRPS Members Newsletter. It has been edited slightly.


BHP’s heavy haul ‘tramway’ from their Coffin Bay limesands mine to their Proper Bay terminal and jetty at Port Lincoln is well known. It operated from 1966 to 1989. All track has been lifted, and the remaining rolling stock and facilities at Proper Bay are disappearing as the site is redeveloped.

What is not well known is that when the limesands project was first proposed in 1961, the South Australian Railways expected that they would build and operate a new branch line to haul the limesands to the existing bulk handling facilities at Brennen’s Jetty in Port Lincoln.

The SAR Mechanical Branch proposed using a 930 class diesel-electric for this line. The 930s were a broad gauge 1800 HP loco, twice the power of the 830s. A narrow gauge version was offered by the builder.

The SAR also conducted discharge flow tests. An HFN hopper was filled with the limesand, and hauled to Duck Ponds Creek where the train stopped with the hopper wagon on the bridge. The load was dumped through the bridge framework so that the flow characteristics of the material could be assessed by technical staff.

The proposed route of the new line was not known to researchers. Earlier in 2015 the Museum carried out a scanning project on our plans collection (see previous page), and a hand annotated plan of the route came to light. This is shown on the map below (route in red).

The new line would have diverged from the existing main line at 3¼ miles from Port Lincoln, just past the GPD. It would parallel the main line but at a lower level, avoiding much of the climb up Northside Hill. The line would diverge just before Grantham and travel in a WNW direction to the mine site. A balloon loop was to be provided at the mine. The distance from Port Lincoln to the mine would be 21¼ miles (34¼ km).

History tells us that the Government and BHP came to an arrangement for BHP to build their own line, and the opportunity for the SAR to build a new branch line and run a heavy locomotive on Eyre Peninsula faded into the realm of ‘what might have been’.

Above: The SAR plan showing the route of the proposed SAR line to the Coffin Bay mine.


Right: What might have been: 958, a broad gauge 930 class, leads a string of limestone hoppers through Gillman Yard, Port Adelaide, in 1974. Photo: Peter Knife.