50 Years On:
OLD TRAINS COME AND GO
In one of the most historic events to occur in Port Pirie in recent times, the last passenger trains arrived in, and left Ellen street on Saturday afternoon to the accompanying cheers of several hundred people.
The old trains puffed and blew their way in and out of the main street, covering the many parked cars with a fine layer of soot-laden spray.
Saturday was also the last day of life for the unique Ellen street station, and the first for the new building about half a mile away.
The broad gauge train which traveled from Adelaide on Saturday morning and which was the last to arrive in Ellen street, already had historic connections with railways in Port Pirie.
On July 23, 1937 -- exactly 30 years ago but for a day -- steam locomotive No. 621, spanking new in green livery, conveyed the then Prime Minister, Mr Lyons, back to Adelaide after the opening ceremony of the standard gauge line from Port Pirie on his way back to Port Augusta.
The Prime Minister officiated at the ceremony at Port Pirie on his way back to the eastern States by rail from Perth after an overseas tour.
Engine 409, which hauled the special train -- the last to leave Ellen street -- to Gladstone and return, was taken out of active service in 1961 with the arrival of diesels and has only been used twice since then.
It was one of nine bought in 1951 to work the heavy ore trains.
After this train left Ellen street on Saturday afternoon, it went to the Pirie South yards where it “picked up” several empty goods trucks and the carriages were hooked on the end of these.
The object of taking the trucks was to make the big 400-class Garratt engine work and make steam when travelling to Gladstone.
A passenger on the vintage train -- organised by the Australian Railway Historical Society -- was 95-year-old Bill Sweetland, Port Pirie's oldest resident.
Mr Sweetland has his own historical connections with trains in Ellen street.
He related the story of when he was working in a shop where Smith's Electrical is now situated, and his employer told him to go to the Pirie South rail-yards to pick up some parcels.
A train was at the moment traveling south down Ellen street so Mr Sweetland -- then a 12-year-old -- jumped on the train and hitched a ride to the yards.
Before the train has stopped at the yards, Mr Sweetland jumped off but fell on landing and suffered lacerations and bruising.
He was caught by a railway official, and in his own words, “They took me to task.”
Mr Sweetland's trip on Saturday's train was organised by the Town Clerk, Mr R. W. Fullgrabe, who secured him a free seat on the train. Officials were delighted that Mr Sweetland could make the trip.
The Member for Pirie, Mr D. H. McKee, accompanied Mr Sweetland on the trip, and drove him back to Pirie from Gladstone.
After the train had left Ellen street, many of the spectators went to the junction and were waiting on the footbridge as the train passed underneath.
Still more drove onto the Warnertown road to take photographs of the train under full steam.
Many Pirieans have fond memories of the trains running in and out of the town, with their departure sorely missed by many.
But the impact that rail had on Port Pirie still survives today.
The historic railway station in Ellen Street stands as proud as it ever did as a museum and tourist attraction.
The old railway platform behind the library stands strong, providing shelter for community groups.