The Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society is a non-profit total volunteer organisation which aims to preserve the narrow gauge railway through Quorn and the Pichi Richi Pass as an operating museum. It was formed in 1973 by a group of dedicated volunteers. Today the Society operates one of the most significant tourist attractions in the region, attracting adventurers from all walks of life. Members of the Society experience this exciting adventure and become involved and learn many new skills associated with restoration, preservation and operation of this narrow gauge railway, the home of the Old Ghan. Current membership is around 600, which includes full, junior and family categories.
At first it was necessary for members to bring their own hand tools, but gradually the Society began to build up its own store of equipment as finances allowed. Those first “working bees” concentrated on clearing the track, for bushes had grown up along the trackbed and rocks and silt choked the cuttings. There were many sleepers in the track needing replacement and good second hand sleepers were purchased from the old South Australian Railways (SAR) narrow gauge at Crystal Brook. One of the first methods of raising funds was through the sale of “sleeper certificates”. In December 1973, members of the Society met with Government Ministers to seek financial support for the railway project, the result being successful with a tourism grant of $20,000. Locomotive T186 and two W Class locomotives were subsequently purchased. The official opening of the line was held in July 1974 and the State Governor, Sir Mark Oliphant, performed the opening by cutting a ribbon and thus allowing the train to pass on its first new journey. Public trains started operating next day.
The initial trains ran only as far as Summit, about 5 miles, and carried 1351 passengers during the latter part of 1974. During 1975 trains could run to Pichi Richi (7 miles) due to improved track conditions thanks to a Government funded training scheme for Aboriginal fettlers. Because there is no siding, two engines were required, one to haul the train up to Pichi Richi and one to haul it back to Quorn. The track to Woolshed Flat was finally brought into service in 1978.
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