Paringa - Chowilla Railway, S.A

 
  penov Chief Commissioner

Location: By the shore of Bass Strait.
In reading a book about closed /disused railways in Australia, I encountered the statement , (Quote ) "A 27.3 km. railway was built from Paringa to Chowilla in South Australia, but never opened."

Trying to follow up this statement, Google did not mention a railway but came up with the information that about 1967 there was a proposal to build a large dam on the Murray River not far from the border of SA.and NSW.  A construction town was built in 1967 but the proposal was a political hot potato, and a government toppled in SA. Finally, after expenditure of some 12 million (dollars or pounds ?? ), the idea was abandoned.

My thoughts are that the railway was probably do do with the establishment of the construction town to build a five kilometre long embankment across the river valley.


Can any South Australian railpager confirm whether my supposition is correct, and provide any information about the railway. Was it dismantled with the construction town, or did it die a lingering death rusting away. I have not located the railway on any map.

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  blue520 Train Controller

I was under the impression that the rails were never laid (some one may correct me on that) but the earth works were completed (the route is still sort of traceable on sat images of Google maps). The line was to support the construction of the dam (and to provide transport of construction materials).  Also in association with the Chowilla Dam project, Kinchina Quarry Siding was opened between Murray Bridge and Monarto South to provide stone, sixty FCD class flatcars with skips for stone were constructed to carry the stone and 3 930 class locomotives were ordered.
  penov Chief Commissioner

Location: By the shore of Bass Strait.
Thanks for your info Blue520 :
In googling, I came  across " The Train - Railway Transportation Magazine, Timeline of items re South Australian Railways  1952-1970 ", with the following items about Chowilla in 1967 :

Jan 67  Ways and works - Chowilla, Port Pirie, Ambleside
Mar 31 67  - Rock haul to Chowilla Dam
Apr 67 - Chowilla branch to be completed by June
Aug 67 - FCD wagons for Chowilla
Oct 7, 1967 - Deferral of Chowilla Dam project.

So it appears that the rail project may have been completed, but Chowilla does not get a mention subsequently up to 1970.
  David Peters Dr Beeching

Location: "With Hey Boy".
I know that the earthworks where completed and the rails which were to be laid in prefabricated track sections were made and stockpiled, but from memory the track never got used for its intended purpose and was used elsewhere in the mallee lines to fix bad sections of track that then existed.

The FCD wagon's were converted into SGX open wagons similar to an ELX type, the skips were all sold off to private companies and used for who knows what! As far as can asertained the rails were never laid on this spurline! 8)
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
If I recall correctly, the Chowilla dam project was shelved by the Feds who switched their support to the Dartmouth Dam project (in Victoria, upstream from the Lake Hume)
  penov Chief Commissioner

Location: By the shore of Bass Strait.
Thanks for your info, David and Pressman

As David said, the track would be much quicker to lay in prefab sections and that may be the gist of the April 67 report that the Chowilla project would be completed by June - all the sections were assembled there ready to go.

And from my googling about the dam, Pressman's report about the fed funding for Dartmouth was confirmed. Apparently there was a lot of conjecture also that Chowilla dam would exacerbate salinity in that region.
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
Thanks for your info, David and Pressman

And from my googling about the dam, Pressman's report about the fed funding for Dartmouth was confirmed. Apparently there was a lot of conjecture also that Chowilla dam would exacerbate salinity in that region.
"penov"

Yes, the main point used against the Chowilla site was high evaporation. The dam would have had a very large surface area and very little depth.
Salinity was not such a buzz word at that time, but it was also a point used against Chowilla.
Some of the points used to promote Dartmouth were it's smaller surface area (yes much much deeper) whilst holding an equivalent storage volume.
But, yes there is a big but, if the dam was sited at Chowilla, only South Oz would have benefited from it, whilst if it was located at Dartmouth, then NSW, Vic and supposedly SA would have use of the water.
I do wonder if the "extra" volumes sent down the river ever reached SA  Rolling Eyes
  penov Chief Commissioner

Location: By the shore of Bass Strait.
For further information on this subject, there is a "Chowilla Branch" thread on the RP South Australian forum of 2 pages which ran from Nov. 2005 to Nov. 2007
http://www.railpage.com.au/f-t11310946-0-asc-s0.htm

It includes a post which states that the track was laid to the dam site then dismantled in sections of sleepers and rails and taken to Karoonda for relaying sections on the Riverland lines.  Another post said it wasn't laid . Don't ask me ? A ghost railway !! Was it or wasn't it ?
  David Peters Dr Beeching

Location: "With Hey Boy".
I think you will find that the mix up comes from the fact that the track was to be laid in prefabricated sections, so indeed the whole track was laid but not installed on the track bed. From memory the SAR was holding off on this project due to the fact that it could be cancelled at any time, if the dam had got the go ahead it would have been a simple matter to lay the track into the dam site and use it.

However this did not happen and I don't think it would have been laid, it may have been laid and then taken up stranger things have happened, but I have never seen any photos of this track actually laid on the track bed for it. I have seen photos of the track panels stacked up ready to be put in but that is about it! 8)
  penov Chief Commissioner

Location: By the shore of Bass Strait.
Thanks for your explanation David.

I noticed in the SA forum thread that there was a post quoting a Google map reference to the old right of way for the Chowilla railway. Seeing that, I was able to reference it on Google Earth as the railway branched off the old Paringa line a mile or two before Paringa and went in almost a straight line NNE almost up to Callal Road from where it would have to divert west to the dam site. Paringa and Renmark towns are in the green area in Google Earth which is useless, but the railway right of way is in the good portion which gives very clear views of the subdivisions.

I have two atlases of Australia, one dating back to 1960 which is very handy for checking out closed railway lines, but the only reference I have in any atlas to "Chowilla" is in a Road Atlas, which shows it just south of the junction of Murtho Road and Lock 6 Road. On Google Earth there is quite a large property there which I assume may be named Chowilla.

Does anyone know where the proposed Chowilla dam site was located in relation to Lock 6 on the Murray River, which is easily located on Google Earth in a section of the river which runs east-west ?  The lock is adjacent to the north bank of the river at that point. My thoughts are that the dam site would have to have been further south from that point. Any info would be welcomed.
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
I think the dam wall was to be located down stream of Lock 6. The dam area would have spread into NSW and Vic. Lake Victoria would have been "flooded" and become part of the dam

this is the link to the Chowilla Station web site http://www.riverland.net.au/~chowilla/index.html


Oh and this thread was on page three of my google search for "Chowilla"  Very Happy
  penov Chief Commissioner

Location: By the shore of Bass Strait.
Yes, I am up to page 6 wading through the Google items - none of them answer my query as to the actual location  of the proposed dam wall. I have learned a lot of other information. Crying or Very sad
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
I can remember seeing a map somewhere, a few years ago that did show the "proposed" dam wall, but for the life of I can't remember where  Confused
  dylan Train Controller

Location: South Australia
The railway was built but the dam wasn't.
No revenue train ever ran on the line.
  TA 2000 Chief Commissioner

Location: SA - I wish!
Railway was only ever going temperary while the dam was built. It was wasn't built to very high standard.
  MaskedRailfan Train Controller

I hope this works, I just spent half an hour loading these images into Photopic!!

Find attached a couple of pages from the Rail SA News dated March 1967 which I stumbled over after this thread first came about. Hopefully this should partly clear up the 'was it' 'wasn't it' built debate (it was at least partly built) and a map to boot!!



  MaskedRailfan Train Controller

Links to images if these are too hard to read!!

http://images.fotopic.net/ytycl9.jpg
http://images.fotopic.net/ytycld.jpg
  penov Chief Commissioner

Location: By the shore of Bass Strait.
Thank you for that information, MaskedRailfan.  I had traced the line on Google Earth although it was difficult to work out where it swung to the west just before Chowilla.
  penov Chief Commissioner

Location: By the shore of Bass Strait.
Just rechecked Google Earth and lined up the site of the dam with the material from the route-map posted by MaskedRailfan.  The damsite is actually quite a bit UPstream of Lock 6, whereas I had previously been looking downstream of Lock 6. The site of the wall across the main river and two anabranches is now easy to locate. If anyone is interested the bearings of the mid-point of the river for the dam wall is approx. 33.58.15.60 S and 140.53.41.10 E. There is a line across the river from that point a few degrees off horizontal, connecting with tracks on each side which I take to be the site of the dam wall.  It is also relatively easy to follow the track of the tramway down to the junction SE of Paringa.

Thanks again. I'm now a "happy chappy". I never like anything to fool me !  ( You could say "pig-headed old buffer", spelt with 2 G's )

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