SteamRanger rail line gets new life at Middleton

UPGRADE: The new track being fitted at Middleton to keep the iconic SteamRanger running.
UPGRADE: The new track being fitted at Middleton to keep the iconic SteamRanger running.

Heritage railway operator SteamRanger Heritage Railway is repairing a life-expired railway bridge in historic Middleton. This major project has been funded courtesy of a $200,000 federal grant. The old Middleton rail bridge near Mill Terrace was showing signs of deterioration.

Bridge girders recovered from the rail yards at Naracoorte were used to manufacture the new bridge. The necessary fabrication was carried out by Goolwa Steel Fabrication and Supply.

The bridge carries South Australia's first public railway over the Middleton Creek, between the historic Middleton Mill and the Middleton Caravan Park.

This bridge, originally built in the 1850's, was part of the original Goolwa - Port Elliot Tramway and was subsequently replaced by the South Australian Railways in 1926 with a new, upgraded structure built by Adelaide firm Perry Engineering to carry larger and heavier trains.

As part of SteamRanger's ongoing safety and engineering processes, regular independent inspections had found the bridge was reaching the end of its life, having been subjected to salt-spray for more than 90 years and would need major repairs or replacement if trains were to continue to operate over it.

Independent Engineering consultants were engaged to design a replacement structure. Goolwa Cranes and SteamRanger volunteers undertook the installation process.

SteamRanger Heritage Railway's president Peter Charlson said "it was a big project for SteamRanger, but it was an important part of keeping the historic railway line open".

SteamRanger vice president, Andrew McDonough said SteamRanger was an iconic South Australian tourist attraction carrying in excess of 30,000 local and international passengers each year.

"The railway is fully self-funding in its operation and is operated by over 200 volunteers and several employees," Mr McDonough said.

The SteamRanger track will be ready for the Cockle Train on Sunday.