The History of Australia Oldest Railway

The first-ever steam railway was started in 1854. It linked Melbourne and Port Melbourne. Later, the railway stem developed in other colonies. During that time, all the rolling stocks and trucks on use were imported. In the 1880s, most items were being made locally.

It was not long before the operations seemed challenging, and private companies had to step in for help. The main issue was the shortage of capital. Australia’s oldest railway linked up the hinterland to the major cities, and effort and strategy to do that was needed.

In 1900, more than 2000km had been built, and all the states linked except Western Australia. Important to note is that during the time, there was no contemplated railway network. That means that various railways used different gauges. The difference in gauges greatly reduced railway efficiency.

New South Wales chose to have a 1335mm European standard gauge while South Australia and Victoria used the Irish gauge of 1600mm. Most of the other parts used 1067, gauge. Interstate transport then became a major challenge. The incompatibility in terms of the gauge and operational equipment resulted in challenges.

In 1917, travelers taking the Perth to Brisbane route had to board six different trains. During World War II, railway transport was very incompatible. Transportation of personnel and the bulk of goods was a hectic thing. In the 1950s, diesel-electric locomotives began to replace the steam trains.

By 1995, it was now possible to move between Brisbane and Perth through various places, especially Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide using a standard track. In 1970, everything was going smoothly, as many people had always anticipated. Australia’s oldest railway steam locomotion were completely withdrawn in the 1970s.

The First Australia Railways

New South Wales

It was started in 1849 by the Sydney based railway company. It was intended to link Sydney and the Parramatta. The projected covering distance was 22km. Due to some financial issues, the project did not go as expected, and the Wales colonial administration had to intervene. It opened later on in 1855, September.


It linked the Flinders Station in Melbourne to Port Melbourne. As the first Australia railway, it was opened on 12 September 1854. Before being converted to the 1435mm gauge electric railway, it was originally 1600mm.


As the oldest railway in Queensland, it operated from Ipswich inland all the way to Grantchester. The railway employed the 1067 mm gauge. However, it was later extended to Darling Downs and then to Brisbane. This happened in 1875.

South Australia

Although South Australia was a horse moved railway that operated at Murray River back in 1854, this steam-powered trains came into realization on 21 April 1856. The route taken was from Adelaide to Port Adelaide. It used the standard Australian gauge of 1600mm.

Western Australia

The first-ever railway to operate in Western Australia was the private timber, in 1871.  It moved from Lockville towards Yoganup in Perth. The government later built a railway from Geraldton to Northampton in 1879. It used the 1067mm gauge but was later upgraded during the 20th century to the standard 1435mm gauge lines.


In 1868, the railway opened the Launceston in Tasmanian towns to Deloraine. It was a 1600mm gauge. The operations of these railways were done jointly. Both Western Railway Company and Launceston were involved. Later on, through the involvement of the Tasmanian authority, the Tasmanian Railway Company was given a share in the management. This contributed to the railway expanding to Hobart.

Northern Territory

The northern territory railway linking Darwin to Pine Creek started operating in 1889. Being Australia’s oldest railway in the northern territory, it covered a distance of 253 km). In 1911, the government took control to streamline operations. In 1929, it had extended to 511km. Its completion enabled easy linking to the mainland states.

Australian Capital Territory

The 10km line opened in 1914. However, the passenger operations had to delay up to 1923 after completion. The line employed the standard gauge railway and is described as the new look in the railway sector. Although not old as those commenced in the 1880s, it has changed the capital look. It opens Queanbeyan to NSW, and later to Canberra, the Australian capital.

From 1930, when the first standard gauge railway line that connected Brisbane to New South Wales was launched, there has been a lot of developments. Many areas have linked with the standard gauge line. The Australian Rail Track Corporation Ltd has enabled operations to have a single national interstate network to ease the operations.