Rail History

How Rail Started and How It Is Going

The middle ages were a period when most bulky loads were transported through water. The earliest railways that were developed therefore came as reinforcement to the early forms of transportation. Australians in the 1850s assumed that railways would be constructed by the private sector. Private companies did build railways in 1854 before which opened in the former colonies of Victoria and New South Wales. Before completion, the railway was taken over by the government as a result of bankruptcy. Railways in South Australia were mostly the government, as the ones found by private sectors were mostly found not to be financially viable.

Government ownership of the railway put a social sense to the rail construction. With private individuals, it was purely for profit, and that was all that mattered. In this case, that doesn’t serve the needs of the citizens, as private individuals will charge at prices that pay their pocket. However, with the government ownership of railways, the system helped promote the interest of the public. The Australian Agricultural Company officially launched the first railway in Australia in 1831. This represents the period which we can trace the first railway in Australia to. It was located in New South Wales.

The colonial railways were designed to 3 different gauges. This became a problem when the lines of these varying systems met, often in Albury. Soon, the different lines were transformed into a standard gauge to serve the common needs. In the same manner, the government built electrified networks in different places like Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne. This promoted the use of railways and started spreading the services across different places, as several areas started emerging. On the flipside, rails that could carry heavy and bulky materials were built in Western Australia to transport ore, iron, and coal. In this side, the railways were owned by private individuals, but they served the purpose of transporting heavy materials.

By the 1990s and nearly 21st century, the government began to reorganise the traditional networks. Some of these networks were partly privately owned, while the ownership of the other rested with the government. There was also the interstate gauge, which largely came under the control of the Australian Rail Track Corporation. For the first time, private companies were allowed to operate. Also, some intrastate networks’ ownership partly rested with private companies. At this period, the operation of passenger trains and freight became effectively operative.

Developing State-based Networks

The earliest railway designed in South Australia had a seven-mile freight line between Port Elliot and Goolwa, which became operative in 1854 and transported several goods and passengers. The rail served a great purpose of transportation and effectively helped businesses get their goods from one location to another. It was another mode of transportation and proved effective. The first steam began operations not long after in Melbourne. Earlier in 1848, the Sydney railway company had been established to connect Bathrust and Goulburn, mainly to help convey wool from one location to another. The importance of these railways cannot be overstated to the eventual success of high-end rails that led to what we have today.

Uniform Gauge

When the rails were developed back then, they were developed with three gauges. Not much thought went into the development of rails then. This created a gauge issue. The three-end gauge was designed against the advice from London that there should be a uniform gauge that makes for more efficiency and ease. This gauge problem remains a main issue till date. Despite the attempt to fix it, there are still problems regardless.

Today, except for a small number, most of the railways in Australia are owned by the government. Either at the state of the federal level, the government exercises ownership over the rails and determines the best strategies to meet the rail needs. Rail is an important part of Australia’s transportation, as it forms a key route to transport heavy goods cost-effectively. The evolution of trains has gone from the design it was when it started to a much more sophisticated design used in today’s world. With the advent of technology, a lot has changed and continues to change in rail.

This is why ARA makes conscious efforts to stay updated with rail technologies and ensure that top-notch technologies are deployed to solve rail needs. By being receptive towards technology, the rail sector is able to male technological innovations that help the sector remain relevant and serve the needs of the people more effectively. Technology influenced the development of rail when it started and is still actively employed till date.


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