In 1982 – 1983, the original narrow (3ft 6in) gauge Central Australia Railway to Alice Springs was dismantled after having been replaced with a new standard gauge track via a different route which was not so prone to such washaways and sand drifts which had plagued the old route.
Work of pulling up the old railway between Oodnadatta and Marree, the section shown in this video, commenced at Oodnadatta, and this video illustrates how this section was demolished.
These pictures were taken about five kilometres on the Marree side of Bopeechee on one of two visits to the area to record the proceedings.
The contractors used NSU class locomotives 55 and 56 to dismantle the track. NSU55 has since been restored and is now at Steamtown railway museum Peterborough South Australia. NSU56 was left at Marree and was seen there in late 2007 in poor condition and can be viewed at nex.net.au/~reidgck/marree .
There were two trains of flat wagons onto which the recovered rails were loaded. They were taken to the break of gauge location, Marree, and stockpiled until they were eventually loaded onto standard gauge trains for the journey further south.
The standard gauge was then also pulled up also to Leigh Creek. South of there, the line is used by coal trains to supply the power station at Port Augusta.
Regarding pulling up the Central Australia Railway south of Oodnadatta: one narrow gauge rake of flat wagons was being loaded while the other, in charge of the other NSU class locomotive, made the trip to Marree to unload.
Some of the rail was transferred directly to a standard gauge train when available for loading, but most was placed in stockpiles to be loaded on standard gauge trains later.
The rail recovery operation involved the initial outfitting of each rake of flat wagons with a pair of rails along the outside so that a converted digger that was used in the operation to lift rails and other equimment, could run the length of the train. At the front of the train was a winch mounted on the first wagon and it was used to pull each two lengths of recovered rails onto the train as the converted digger did not have sufficient traction by itself to do this.
The cable from the winch was permanently attached to the converted digger and the converted digger pulled the cable back to the rear of the train after rails were pulled aboard.
Rails were wrenched from their sleepers (ties) by two wedge like sleds being towed behind the train.
when the desired length of rail was dislodged, the train was stopped and the rails were unbolted at joints, or as shown here, the bolts were burned off, before the rail ends were lifted by the converted digger allowing the winch on the first wagon to then haul them aboard.
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