Adelaide railway station

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Railways in Adelaide - List of railway stations
Train services
Belair Line
Gawler Central Line
Glenelg Tramline
Grange Line
Seaford Line
Outer Harbor Line
Tonsley Line
Street North Terrace
Suburb Adelaide
Distance from Adelaide 0 km
Access by Flat platforms
Number of platforms 9
Opened 19 April 1856
Rebuilt 1926-28
Train transfer Belair, Gawler Central, Grange, Seaford, Outer Harbor & Tonsley
Tram transfer Glenelg Tram, City Shuttle
Bus transfer All City Buses
Adjacent stations
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(Belair, Tonsley & Seaford) Mile End
(Gawler) North Adelaide
(Grange & Outer Harbor) Bowden

Adelaide railway station is the central terminus of the Adelaide Metro railway system. It is located on the north side of North Terrace, west of Parliament House. The Adelaide Casino occupies part of the building that is no longer required for railway use.

All lines approach the station from the west, and it is a terminal station with no through lines. Almost all trains on the metropolitan network either depart from or terminate here. It has nine platforms, all with broad gauge track. Until 1984, Adelaide station was the terminus for regional and interstate passenger trains, but there are no longer any regular regional train services in South Australia and all interstate services call at Adelaide Parklands Terminal.


Early days

Adelaide’s first railway station opened on the current North Terrace site in 1856. It served the broad gauge line between Adelaide and Port Adelaide, which was the first government-owned and operated steam railway in the British Empire.

The first passenger train departed from Adelaide station on 19 April 1856, carrying the Governor of South Australia and various dignitaries to a celebratory lunch at Port Adelaide. The Port line opened for public service on 21 April 1856. It was single track, with intermediate stations at Bowden, Woodville and Alberton and terminated at Port Dock station (now closed). There were six trains per day in each direction, and two on Sundays.

Expansion in 19th century

File:Adelaide railway station 1889.jpg
Adelaide station around 1889

A second line opened to Smithfield (near Gawler) on 1 June 1857, the predecessor of today’s Gawler Central line. This diverged from the Port line at a junction in the north parklands, and was extended to Kapunda in 1860, and Burra by 1870, both important copper mining towns in the early days of the colony.

The original Adelaide station handled all passenger, freight and livestock traffic at the North Terrace site. Livestock was unloaded adjacent to the markets and abattoirs, which were opposite the Newmarket Hotel, on the corner of West Terrace. In 1865, the station yard covered an area of 55,000 square metres (13 acres).

The next line into the station was built by the Holdfast Bay Railway Company and opened on 24 May 1880. This branched off the main line where today’s Belair and Seaford lines separate from the Outer Harbor and Gawler Central lines. It ran via Mile End and Plympton to Glenelg, and should not be confused with the other railway from South Terrace to Glenelg, which later became the Glenelg Tramway.

To cope with increasing traffic, interlocked signals and points were installed in 1875, and the Port line was upgraded to double track in 1881.

The South Line through the Adelaide Hills was opened to Aldgate on 14 March 1883, and extended to Nairne (November 1883) and Bordertown (May 1886). The first through train between Adelaide and Melbourne, the Intercolonial Express, ran on 19 January 1887, and was the first intercapital rail journey in Australia without a change of trains at a break-of-gauge station.

Early 20th century

With the basic framework of lines in place, the South Australian Railways continued building branch lines to promote settlement and agricultural development of the state’s hinterland. Most of this expansion was complete by the early years of the 20th century and the resulting increase in traffic caused troublesome congestion in the vicinity of Adelaide station. In an attempt to cope with this, the original 1856 station buildings were demolished and replaced in 1900.

The South line was double tracked as far as Mitcham in 1908, and suburban trains ran to a new terminus at Clapham. The first section of the route that became the Seaford line opened from Goodwood Junction to Marino in 1913, and further extended to Willunga by 1918, this forming the Willunga line.

On the north side of the city, a separate pair of tracks was built from the junction of the Port and North lines in the parklands through to Adelaide station yard, including a new bridge across the River Torrens.

In 1912, Mile End Goods Yard and engine sheds opened, and the Gaol Loop was built to allow freight trains to access the new yards at Mile End, bypassing Adelaide station. At the same time the livestock markets and abattoirs were relocated to Pooraka in the north of the metropolitan area, still countryside at the time. This allowed the area immediately around Adelaide station to concentrate on passenger and parcels traffic, and the old goods shed was then converted into a platform for Glenelg line trains

Adelaide station yard was re-signalled in July 1915, using American-style three-position semaphore signals. This was the first installation of an electric signalling system in South Australia and was subsequently extended along the main lines of the South Australian Railways.

Webb’s masterpiece

File:Adelaide Railway station under construction 1927.jpg
Adelaide Railway station from the overway bridge in 1927

The period from 1922 onwards was known as the Webb era on South Australian Railways. Under the leadership of a new Railways Commissioner, William Alfred Webb, South Australian Railways began a massive rehabilitation programme. Worn-out infrastructure, under-powered steam locomotives, undersized rolling stock and outdated operating systems were all modernised and upgraded along essentially American lines.

Among the many improvements that Webb championed, two of the best remembered are the introduction of new powerful steam locomotives and the rebuilding of Adelaide station.

Nineteen designs were submitted and considered for the new station. The winner was a design proposed by local architects Garlick and Jackman. The foundation stone of the new station building was laid on 24 August 1926, and the building was complete in 1928.

The new station comprised a massive sandstone building in neo-classical style. The upper three storeys housed the railways administration, which had previously been scattered in various buildings around the city. The concourse had many facilities to cater for long distance travellers as well as daily commuters - a dining room, hairdressers, refreshment rooms etc. Of particular note was the enormous domed Marble Hall, which served as a grand and dignified main waiting room, and is now incorporated into the Adelaide Casino.

The new station had 13 platforms, each covered by an individual canopy to alleviate the problems of smoke and fumes previously endured with an overall roof. The initial plan had forward-thinking provisions for extra platforms (which were never built) to serve Commonwealth Railways trains, on the assumption that its standard gauge line would be extended from Port Augusta and Port Pirie into Adelaide.

The cost of the rebuilding greatly exceeded the original budget and the project became a source of great controversy within South Australia as the state came close to bankruptcy with the onset of the Great Depression.

Post World War II

Patronage of country rail services declined through the 1950s and 60s as more people gained access to cars. However, much of rural South Australia still retained daily passenger trains. The following destinations were served from Adelaide in 1965:

Many of these services were operated by air-conditioned Bluebird Railcars, which had been introduced by the South Australian Railways from 1954 onwards.

STA, AN and Keswick Terminal

File:Adelaide train station.jpg
Adelaide station and the Adelaide Casino in 2009, modern balconies have been added to the building
File:Adelaide station concourse.jpg
Main passenger concourse and ticket barriers

In March 1978, South Australia Railways was divided between two owners. The Federal Government owned Australian National (AN) took over ownership and operation of all country lines outside the Adelaide metropolitan area. The State Government owned State Transport Authority (STA) retained the suburban routes around Adelaide, including ownership and operation of Adelaide station.

ANl's longer distance trains continued to arrive and depart from Adelaide station for several years, paying an access charge to the STA, until AN's new Keswick Passenger Terminal opened on 18 May 1984, a kilometre or two west of the Adelaide city centre in an industrial suburb. Adelaide station is now served only by suburban trains.

The station was used as a location in the movie Gallipoli.

ASER project and beyond

The years 1985 to 1987 saw the biggest change at Adelaide station since the rebuilding of the 1920s. The Adelaide Station and Environs Redevelopment (ASER) project involved:-

  • refurbishment of much of the exterior of the heritage-listed station building and conversion of the interior to a casino (the main building had become underutilised as railway operations shrank and AN moved its headquarters to a separate building at Keswick).
  • construction of the Hyatt Regency hotel over the northern part of the station site.
  • construction of the Adelaide Convention Centre, Exhibition Hall and an office block over the central and southern parts of the station site.
  • partial relocation and reduction of platforms. Platforms 12 and 13 were demolished while 9 to 11 were reduced in length by 80 metres.[1] The platforms became effectively underground and a special extraction system is needed to remove the exhaust fumes from the diesel railcars.

The track layout in the station yard was modified and resignalled in 1987/88, and operation of points and signals transferred to a new control centre overlooking the railcar depot and station. This resignalling resulted in closure of the two signal cabins that controlled movements in the station area – Adelaide Station Cabin (near Morphett Street bridge) and Wye Cabin, at the divergence of the South and Port/North lines. Adelaide Station Cabin was demolished, but the Wye Cabin building is heritage-listed and still stands, although derelict.

A set of escalators was recently added to the southern entrance of the railway station and the adjoining staircase was refurbished. This enables the station to handle large numbers of people. [2]

Railcar depot

TransAdelaide's main railcar depot was located just outside the station at North Terrace. In 2008 it was announced that the depot would be moved to a new site at Dry Creek, freeing up the Adelaide site for the new Royal Adelaide Hospital.[3] The Dry Creek depot opened in February 2011, and the City depot closed soon after.[4]

Rail electrification

In January 2013, the station closed for a month-long shutdown in connection with the rail electrification of the Adelaide Metro network.[5][6][7]


  1. "South Australia" Railway Digest March 1985 page 97
  3. "Railcar Depot Relocation". Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure. Retrieved 2010-07-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Railcar Depot Relocation". Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. Retrieved 10 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Adelaide Railway Station reopens ABC News 4 February 2013
  6. Rail Revitalisation Infastructure SA 21 March 2013
  7. "Trains return to Adelaide Railway Station" Railway Digest March 2013 page 13
  • Railways in the Adelaide Hills. R. Sallis (1998) ISBN 0-646-35473-6
  • Rails Through Swamp and Sand – A History of the Port Adelaide Railway. M. Thompson pub. Port Dock Station Railway Museum (1988) ISBN 0-9595073-6-1
  • "'Line Clear – 100 Years of Train Working Adelaide – Serviceton. R. Jennings pub. Mile End Railway Museum (1986) ISBN 0-9595073-5-3

External links

Media related to Adelaide railway station at Wikimedia Commons

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