Western Australia's Railway History

Private Operators

The Western Australian rail history began in the early 1870's when a few private operators such as M.C. Davies built timber lines from the mills to the coast for the export of Western Australian hardwoods such as Jarrah and Karri. The two main railway lines were located in Busselton and Jarrahdale both in the State's south-west. The Busselton line led to the Busselton Jetty which is the longest wooden jetty (pier) in the southern hemisphere at 1841m (nearly 2km). The Jarrahdale line ran from Jarrahdale to the Rockingham Jetty on the coast.

First Government Line

The first government line to be built was from Northampton to Geraldton on the State's central west coast to transport minerals to the Geraldton Port. This line opened on the 26th July,1879.

Eastern Railway

The Eastern Railway was set up to service the Perth Metropolitan area. A survey plan of the railway route was released in 1874. The railway line was to run from Robbs Jetty (South of Fremantle), to Perth City and then on to Guildford. Construction began in 1879 with the line being built by John Robb. The foundation stone for Perth Central Station was laid on the 10th of May, 1880 followed by the opening of the first Fremantle Railway Bridge three months later. On the 1st of March, 1881 the Fremantle-Perth-Guildford line was officially opened. The trip from Fremantle to Perth took 43 minutes and it cost two shillings (dogs cost half a penny). In the first few months of operation over 22,000 tickets were sold. This was surprising, considering the population of Perth was little over 10,000.

Modernised Metropolitan Service

In 1954 the Metropolitan passenger service was modernized to diesel railcars and the following year Professor Gordon Stephenson (a visiting Town Planning consultant) published a proposal for an electric railway to service the northern suburbs.

In 1979  the suburban passenger services ceased on the Perth to Fremantle line but was re-opened in 1983 .

In 1988 the Western Australian Government (under Premier Peter Dowding) announced the electrification of the suburban rail system, over 30 years after recommendations were made by Professor Gordon Stephenson. The following year the Government announced its plans to build a new railway line along the Mitchell Freeway to the northern suburbs. Construction commenced the same year after Premier Dowding hammered in the first spike of the Northern Suburbs Railway from Perth to Joondalup. On the 5th of August 1990, electric power was switched on to the suburban system and within a year all suburban lines were operating on an electrified system. In 2002 plans were underway to commence the design and construction of the Perth to Mandurah line after "The Railway Bill "was passed through Parliament.


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