Pine Creek to Darwin
North bound Ghan train at Wiiliam Creek on old Transcontinental Railway route. Shows steam locomotive. (Northern Territory Government Photographer Collection – NT Library.)
In 1915, Borella was only able to take advantage of a rail service for the last few hundred kilometres of his 1000 kilometre journey.
The invention of the railway in the 19th century changed the world. Known in America as “the iron horse”, this strange method of propulsion was viewed with alarm by many. It was fantastically mechanized, noisy, and required tracks to be laid through countryside which was altered immensely by the steel rails, stations and support yards. But railways could carry people in large numbers, and they became cheap. And trains were fast. The distance a horse could travel in a day could be covered in a few hours with a steam train.
The steam train that Borella travelled on would have burned timber or coal, and led a number of carriages that were open at each end, with sliding windows for ventilation in the Top End heat. Unfortunately, this meant the smoke and embers from the locomotive were spread liberally through the passenger spaces, but there was little alternative to having the windows open.
The train journey would have taken almost a day; about five to eight hours depending on conditions such as the capability of the engine. It would have stopped in Adelaide River for a short time, where a local lady served goat curry.
100 years later
Rail service provider, Genesee and Wyoming, kindly supported The Borella Ride with a special train service to re-trace Borella’s trip from Pine Creek to Darwin. The train was a freight locomotive with a crew carriage that the Borella Rider team travelled in.
The train departed Pine Creek on Tuesday, 3 March, with a 30 minute stop in Adelaide River and arrived in Darwin at 2.30pm.