The Commonwealth’s Trans-Australian Railway

Australian Workers Film Guide


This silent film documents the construction of the Trans-Australian Railway from 1912 to 1917, when 1051 miles of track was laid between Port Augusta in South Australia and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. The film outlines how teams of hardy workmen laid 2.5 miles of track per day and 442 miles of track in one year, which the film claims is a world record.

Without roads or settlements, preliminary transport was conducted by pack camels, which are also seen being used for early track bed earthworks. A steam tractor and teams of men with horse plows prepare the ground for track laying. In what must have been the most brutal working conditions, teams of men are seen handling rail sleepers by hand as they are thrown down on the track bed.

Track laying gangs lay rails down on the sleepers and secure them into place. This is followed by the construction of the telegraph line alongside the track and the construction of covered dams to store water for the locomotives. Men are seen quarrying stone for the railway bed largely by hand, which is then laid down on the track by the locomotive. Rolling stock is built in Port Augusta and the train is seen departing the station with passengers eating in a luxurious looking dinning car. 

This film is a testament to those rugged railway construction workers who built a nation. The film is damaged in parts and some scenes are largely obscured, especially towards the end.

Special Notes/Achievement

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 14 mins 39 secs

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