Today in Transportation History – 1891: There’s Flux in Them Thar Hills!

Australia’s Tarrawingee Tramway made its formal debut. The Tarrawingee Tramway covered approximately 40 miles between the city of Broken Hill and the town of Tarrawingee in the far western region of the colony (now state) of New South Wales.

The primary reason for building the tramway was to facilitate the shipment of high-grade limestone mined at a Tarrawingee quarry to facilities in Broken Hill for use as flux (a cleaning agent) in the process of extracting metal from its ore. The narrow-gauge line had been developed by the Tarrawingee Flux & Tramway Company under the leadership of James Smith Reid. This rail transportation project was only one of several in the eastern half of Australia that the Irish-born Reid helped bring to fruition.

The opening day activities for the Tarrawingee Tramway, in the words of the Adelaide-based Evening Journal, “passed off most successfully.” A major part of the day involved having about 500 people travel on trains along the entire line. According to the Adelaide-based Advertiser, this ride took place “without any accident or remarkable incident.” After reaching Tarrawingee, the large group enjoyed chicken and champagne. The celebration continued that evening with a banquet, during which Reid’s wife Martha was presented with a gold-and-silver model of the locomotive used for building the tramway line.

The Tarrawingee Tramway made regular runs until being closed in 1929. The line briefly reopened in 1931 so that 10,000 tons of aggregate from Tarrawingee could be transported to Broken Hill for the construction of a power plant there.

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