Historical places

Old Willunga Railway

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Grant: As work continues on the rail line from Noarlunga Centre to Moana, there are plenty of older locals who are watching a sense of déjà vu because they remember when the train ran down there before…

You can see on this old map that railway ran from Willunga to a station at Hallet Cove that was about a kilometre East of the present stop. Many of the names on the line are long gone but just near Hallet Cove there’s one that’s been resurrected… Patpa.

If you’ve been on Lonsdale Highway recently you’ll have seen the sign for Patpa Drive. The word comes from the language of the Kaurna people and it translates as “Southern Wind”. It’s also the name of one of the stations on the old line between Willunga and Hallet Cove and according to that map, this station… right here.

This photograph of the line being dug was taken in 1914. It’s about where the highway and Patpa Drive now meet…how incredibly different does it look today?

Before the train this was how you travelled to Willunga from the city. Is it just me or is there a bit of Beverly Hillbillies about this photo?

Work started in 1912, three years after a Royal Commission into the viability of the line. Steam shovels were called in for the really heavy digging but when the machines couldn’t get in…like here at the Pedler Creek cutting…it was back-breaking hands-on hard yakka.

The Onkaparinga River at Noarlunga was another obstacle that took time and effort. For the day, this was a high-tech process but 100 years later, look at how today’s engineers tackled the problem of the river and its wetlands.

A huge crowd saw the first train leave Willunga on January the 21st 1915, and local schoolchildren crammed into the carriages for a free ride to the coast and back. The last train left Willunga in May 1969, the victim of short-sighted government cost-cutting; the track was ripped up in 1972.

I just love it that these old carriages at McLaren Vales’ Almond Train used to be part of the rolling stock of the train that went from Willunga to Hallett Cove. In fact, they sit pretty much where the rail line used to be and the train station was just there at Hardy’s. But just imagine a rail line today linking Adelaide and McLaren Vale… it would be a winner!

What is a winner though is the coast to vines rail trail that follows the old Willunga line. It goes all the way from Marino through to Willunga through historical towns and some wonderful natural scenery…no wonder it’s a hit with locals and tourists alike.

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