The first meeting in reference to a railway was in 1858 at Macbeath’s Inn, Mount Pleasant, but it would take another 56 years and many discussions before the railway was agreed to.
In the 1880s there were many meetings and deputations to politicians about routes and prices; the original proposal in 1858 described a line to come from Gawler through Mount Crawford and thence onto the River Murray. The Government however, wasn’t interested.
Discussions were still being had in 1891, when during a meeting of over 100 gentleman Mr. H. Giles moved ‘That this meeting favours the construction of a branch line of the railway from Balhannah to Mount Pleasant by the most desirable route.’ Again this meeting was ignored.
A similar proposal was made in 1896 but a week later at a meeting organized by the Onkaparinga District Council, a Mr. Charles Dunn moved against the railway and another 10 years lapsed before meetings were held again.
In 1910 and 1911 more rail routes were proposed. One suggestion was to take the line through the Gorge to Gumeracha and Mount Pleasant. Another considered a railway to the Murray Flats through Angaston and another via the Murray Flats to Birdwood. A meeting held at Springton considered the railway from Mount Pleasant to Sedan, descending from Mount Pleasant to the ranges through a corridor such as Milendella Creek to Murray Flats, and then heading off to Sedan.
FINALLY, A RAILWAY IS ESTABLISHED
Act 1180 of 1914 finally authorized the building of the Balhannah to Mount Pleasant line. Initial work was started in 1915 by the South Australian Railways and then taken over by contractor H. Teasdale-Smith.
The line was finished in September 1918. The people of Mount Pleasant were disappointed to find that there was to be no official opening because the Government didn’t want any more expense. Because there was no opening the children of the schools on the line were given a free ride to Oakbank where they had a picnic before returning home.
HOW THE RAILWAY RAN
The line was 21 miles 17 chains long and 5’3″ gauge. It was originally planned for a turntable at Mount Pleasant but these were abandoned in late 1918, in favour of the two spurs of a triangle which curved towards the river and met at an apex. A locomotive shed was built for housing overnight, and this allowed for the turning of a second locomotive if needed. Water was available for the steam engines from a dam nearby.
The train left Balhannah at 9.30 am arriving at Mount Pleasnt at 11.05 am. The return trip from Mount Pleasant was at 3.00 pm and arrived at Balhannah at 4.45 pm. Passenger trains used 75 old railcars and came down at 5.30 pm for the city and returned in the morning.
The main stations were constructed of timber at Oakbank, Woodside, Charleston, Mount Torrens, Birdwood and Mount Pleaant with a number of small sidings where the train might stop.
This was officially 1,410 feet altitude, had a passing siding, passenger platform and station building adjacent to the River Torrens.
Freight and livestock was the major use for the line, with the passenger service a secondary use.
Up to 19 trains would take race goers to the Easter Oakbank Races, with the last Easter train running in 1962.
Troops were carried to Woodside Army Camp with their siding called ‘Riverview’.
THE END IS NIGH
During 1962 3,700 tons and 33,000 head of livestock wasn’t enough to justify a twice weekly service. Road transport had taken over and an order was made to close the line.
The South Australian Railsays Historical Society ran two farewell trains on 2nd February 1963 and one train on Sunday 3rd March. That was the end of the line.
The Quiet Waters By – Reg Butler
The Mount Barker Courier
The Adelaide Observer
The Mount Pleasant Line (ARHS Bulletin, Oct 1994), W. H. Callagan
The Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin (No. 316), February 1964
Railways in the Adelaide Hills, Roger Sallis