Tools of technology
: constructing railways in the Northern Territory

  • Peter Thomas Faulkner

    Student thesis: Other thesis - CDU


    The Industrial Revolution ushered in new approaches to technology and none more so than for railways which were seen as a means to move goods and people and to open up new frontiers. Even so, bridging the Australian continent with a railway to Darwin in the nineteenth century was always an ambitious proposition with a touch of audacity to it, despite the "railway mania" that infected Australia during that period.

    In 1872 South Australia had just traversed the continent with an overland telegraph in two years - why not build a railway too? Politicians and businessmen, particularly from South Australia, saw Darwin as a potential trade emporium for the movement of goods and products into Asia and beyond - perhaps it would soon rival Raffles' Singapore. Moreover, gold was discovered just south of Darwin, and they saw unlimited potential to exploit the wealth of the distant sub-colony.

    Railways were central to those aspirations, and the thrust of this thesis is to demonstrate how changing technology, spanning more than 100 years, transformed methods of constructing railways in the Northern Territory, while bringing to life their colourful history.

    Railways in the Northern Territory form a significant component of its heritage, and they include the Great Northern Railway that began in 1878 and terminated at Alice Springs in 1929, together with its counterpart the North Australia Railway, which commenced in 1886 at Darwin and concluded at Birdum, also in 1929. The triumph of engineering and technology that saw the Alice Springs to Darwin railway completed in the new millennium provides a window of opportunity to compare it with methods adopted for nineteenth and early twentieth century approaches to railway construction. These will be examined and then summarised in the conclusion to this study.
    Date of AwardMay 2006
    Original languageEnglish

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