Peterborough, S.A.

A railway town at the junction of the Port Pirie to Broken Hill line and the Adelaide to Quorn, Port Augusta, Hawker, Leigh Creek and Marree, it is the eastern gateway to South Australia for those coming from New South Wales via Broken Hill. Its greatest claim to fame is that it is one of only two places in Australia (the other is Gladstone) where three railway gauges met. This particular absurdity was the result of different state governments being unable (or unwilling) to agree on a standard railway gauge.

The town services an important grain-growing and pastoral region. For the traveller, partcularly if you've just made or are about to make the 3-hour journey by road from Broken Hill, it's the perfect place to take a break and spend a day or two looking around the town and surrounding area before moving on.

Where is it?: 250 km north east of Adelaide.

The Visitor Information Centre is housed at Steamtown (the western end of Main Street). Call in for souvenirs, information, advice, tips and a whole lot more, open 7 days a week, 9am to 5pm. Just down the road from the Steamtown railway museum you can find the Dragons Rest Habitat Gardens. It's home to a variety of native wildlife including lizards, birds and insects. Enjoy the biodiversity of the native plants in this mini ecosystem. oundhouse); Rann's Museum; Gold battery; railway town of Terowie (24 km south east - historic buildings); town of Orroroo (37 km north west - historic buildings, Yesteryear Costume Gallery; Pekina Creek (Aboriginal rock art)


It is entirely appropriate that one of the main attraction in an old railway town should be the old railway workshop with its displays of steam engines and carriages. Formed in 1977 Steamtown was created to run a steam train service between Peterborough and Quorn with rolling stock dating from 1920s. It runs from Peterborough and Euralia and Orroroo providing visitors with the experience of an old-style railway journey.

The Museum's heritage listed Roundhouse with its 23 bays, a 3 gauge turntable (the only one left in the world) and parts of the original workshops now display a wide range of historic rolling stock, mainly from the original Ghan which passed through the town. After dark, visitors can watch South Australia's first and only Sound and Light Show, from a historic Transcontinental carriage, now transformed into a viewing car and placed on the 27 metre long turntable. There's nothing like it anywhere in the country, and worth making an overnight stop in Peterbough to see. Ph. (08) 8651 3355

Town Carriage Museum

Set in a railway carriage in the main street, this museum is all about the town of Peterborough - past, present and future. It offers community members and visitors alike the chance to see what makes the town special through a collection of 18 artefacts. These have been chosen to represent events in the town's history, people of significance and aspects of life in the town. Presented together in a simple chronology - a timeline of sorts - through to the present day, they offer a complete picture and illustrate that this town is diverse, interesting and about much more than just railways. The display occupies the main compartment of the Commonwealth Carriage, with 18 small cabinets and information panels. While in the carriage also experience a digital steam train rail trip while sitting in one of the compartments. Open 7 days a week, 9am to 5pm.

Meldonfield Miniature Collection

The ground floor of the former YMCA Building in the main street houses a very extensive collection of hancrafted miniatures. A highlight of the collection is a 1:12 scale replica of the original Peterborough Railway Station. Open 7 Days a week: 9am to 4pm (Collect key from Visitor Info Centre) $5 Entry. Ph (08) 8651 2708. Upstairs in the YMCA building the Peterborough Historic Group has painstakingly brough the original single mens rooms of the YMCA back to original condition. Each room houses artefacts relating to the history of Peterborough and surrounding region.

The Peterborough Print Museum

The former printing shop where the Petersburg Times was printed from 1891 is today a museum depicting the role of the printer in a community such as Peterborough in years gone by. In 2001 the last owner could no longer keep it going, so he closed the door one night, locked it, and never came back, leaving this totally authentic and intact printing workshop for posterity. Thanks to the dedicated Peterborough Historic Society volunteers, visitors to the museum can be transported back in time to when printing was an art form, where compositors (type setters) wore a collar and tie and the boss was always referred to as Mr. ... never by his first name. They have catalogued thousands of job Work tickets, many dating back a hundred plus years, that give a true history of the life and times of residents ove the part 100 years.
Open Wed, Thurs, Fri: 10am to 1pm (or by appointment). $5 Entry. Ph: 0408 220248 or 0427 188023 or 0400 461100. 9-11 Jervois Street, Peterborough.

Historic Gold Battery

This was the South Australian Government s only Gold Battery, situated at the western end of town, where the ore from Waukaringa, Teetulpa and the Mount Grainger Goldfields was crushed and treated. One of the first parcels of ore was processed in 1897. The Battery closed in 1954 having produced more than 10 000 ounces of Gold. This complex, which includes the gold battery building, office and settling tanks, dates from 1897. Inspections can be organised through the. Visitor Information Centre. Tripney Avenue, Peterborough.

Peterborough Motorcycle and Antique Museum

An interesting museum, particularly for motorcycle enthusiasts. The museum's collection includes 52 motorcycles and an array of antiques. Open Tuesday  Saturday 10 am to 3 pm; Sunday  by appointment only; Monday  Closed. Located at The former historic Baptist church, 59 Kitchener street, Peterborough, SA
Peterborough has two other private museums that are certainly worth more than a casual glance. Eric Rann's Museum, located near the corner of Moscow and Cyanide Streets, displays stationary engines and a collection of historic items dating back to the 1800's which focus on industrial history. It is open daily. For times contact (08) 8651 2969. Ivan Ley's Museum, located in Queen Street, features a display of dolls and collections of bottles, minerals and memorabilia.

Another 'must see' is the Federation Quilt. The Peterborough Patchworker's Federation Wall Hanging took more than 1700 hours to complete and was constructed during 2001 to commemorate 100 years of progress in Peterborough and the surrounding district. It was unveiled on 1st December 2001 and is housed in the foyer of the Peterborough Town Hall.

Surrounding area

Greg Duggan Nature Reserve and Lookout

A short distance south of town is one of the outdoor Peterborough attractions. The Greg Duggan Nature Reserve and Lookout is home to over 70 species of native birds and 60 types of native plants. Take a walk to the lookout and admire the natural environment. If you're travelling with children take time out for some nature play - see how many fun things to do you can find.


Orroroo is a small rural centre in the foothills of the Flinders Ranges on the edge of South Australia's marginal desert land. The Wilmington-Ucolta Road passes through here, intersecting with the RM Williams Way which leads to the Birdsville and Oodnadatta Tracks. Orroroo is situated near Goyder's Line, a line drawn up in 1865 by Surveyor General Goyder which he believed indicated the edge of the area suitable for agriculture. Many early settlers in the area failed to heed Goyder's warning, resulting in many towns springing up that were unable to survive in the semi arid climate. Today they are ghost towns, scattered throughout the countryside around Orroroo, which illustrate how tough it was eeking out a living here a century ago.

Pekina Creek

Pekina creek provided a permanent supply of water to the town of Orroroo in the nineteenth century. There is about a 45 minute walk from the park near this waterhole to the Pekina reservoir and back. The walk includes an Aboriginal rock art site, bushland and views over the reservoir. Crumbling ruins are all that remain of Pekina station. In the 1840s Pekina was the northernmost outpost of European settlement in South Australia. It was established by the Chambers brothers but after 18 months without a drop of rain they sold it to Price Maurice. In the 1870s the station was broken up and sold to wheat farmers.

Magnetic Hill

The layout of the surrounding land produces the optical illusion that a very slight downhill slope appears to be an uphill slope. Thus, a car left out of gear will appear to be rolling uphill due to gravity. The slope of gravity hills is an optical illusion, although sites are often accompanied by claims that magnetic or even supernatural forces are at work. To get there, take the road from Peterborough to Orroroo. Around 25 km from Peterborough you will come to a T-Junction - left to Jamestown and right to Orroroo. Turn left and travel approximately 1km, when you will cross over a railway crossing. Around 400 metres from that crossing and on the right-hand side of the road, there is a gravel road with a sign 'Magnetic Hill 8 km'. Just follow the signs.

Belalie North

Yet another former railway and farming service town midway between Peterborough and Jamestown. Belalie was the original name of Jamestown. The Belalie North siding handled bagged grain from the 1880s until the early 1960s when grain silos were built at Yongala and Jamestown. Belalie North is also the birthplace of the legendary stockmans' outfitters, R.M. Williams. When Reginald Murray was born in 1908 Belalie North was a busy town, but the town went into decline when the change of gauge occurred, and the railway was re-routed around the Belalie Hills to avoid its steep grades. Belalie North soon ground to a halt, all that remains today is the shell of the general store and entrance pillars to the town's memorial to its boys who lost their lives in World war I.


Yongala (from Aboriginal for 'good water place'  yongla-cowie) is 13 kilometres south-west of Peterborough on the Sydney-Perth railway line, Yongala is one of the few small original townships in the region to still survive. Founded in 1876 as a service town for the farming community it was the centre of local government for many years. The Globe Hotel, which dominates the town, was part of a once-thriving commercial country town. Some of the original shop fronts are testament to this. Yongala has suffered from being so closer to Peterborough (10 km away) but in spite of this it continues to survive. It boasts the state's lowest officially recorded temperature - minus 8.2 degrees C in 1976. Yongala has often experienced winter snowfalls.


A deserted town 28 kilometres north-east of Peterborough. Dawson is another example of the optimism of the early settlers and their farming pursuits. It was founded in 1881 as part of an attempt to establish wheat farming north of Goyder's Line, but this proved unsuccessful in the long term, and the Crystal Brook-Broken Hill railway line bypassed Dawson, instead running further south through Oodla Wirra and Peterborough. At its zenith, the town boasted two churches, a school, post office, multiple stores, an institute, an agricultural bureau, a blacksmith and hotel. The school closed in 1962 and the post office in 1971. The locality survives due to the commitment of local volunteers who have held the annual Dawson gymkhana since 1948.

Very little of the former town survives today. It contains the heritage-listed former Catholic church, the Dawson Hall, and the former school, now a private residence. The Dawson Cemetery on Dawson Gorge Road and Dawson War Memorial on Dawson-Peterborough Road also remain. The Dawson Hotel closed in 1961, and survives as a substantial ruin at Dawson's main crossroads.

The Barrier Highway

The Barrier Highway is part of the east-west link between Sydney and Perth. It also connects Broken Hill with Adelaide and is on the boundary of the Flinders Ranges and Outback of South Australia. The Highway passes through pastoral stations and the district boasts a rich mining and railway history. Evidence remains at the former gold-mining settlement Waukaringa, 45 kilometres north of Yunta - and the sidings along the railway line. The Indian Pacific passenger and freight trains make an impressive sight as they operate parallel to the highway. Towns along the Highway are up to 60 kilometres apart. Mobile phone access (Telsta CDMA) is available along most of the highway between Cockburn and Peterborough. In the early 1990s the South Australian Government proposed to close down the small communities along the Barrier Highway leading to a strong and unified resistance from the local communities.


The remains of this once thriving north-eastern town 13 kilometres east of Peterborough can be seen to the west of the Barrier Highway north of Terowie. Proclaimed in 1877, Lancelot survived as a town until a short time after World War I. Drought, the re-routing of the railway and the lost of many of its workforce to the battlefields of the War caused the demise of Lancelot. It was named after one of South Australia's most influential men - Sir Lancelot Stirling.


Terowie (aboriginal word for 'hidden waterhole') is one of the most famous railway towns in Australia, due to its break of gauge  facilities (until 1970), the role of the town in WWII when it was the site of US General Douglas MacArthur's famous words "....I came out of Bataan and I shall return". Terowie was laid out as a private town in 1878 and became the northern junction for the broad gauge railway from Adelaide in 1880.

Brief History

Peterborough developed relatively late in the history of South Australia. Land in the area was not taken up by white settlers until 1875 when the Government bought land here and subdivided it. The town had its beginnings four years later when it was announced that the railway to Broken Hill would pass through here. It became a major railway town. By 1880 the Petersburg Hotel and the local Post Office had been erected and the following year the rail link from Adelaide was completed. In 1886 the railway connection to Broken Hill was completed. The town grew rapidly through the 1880s. The public school was opened (1883), the Town Hall erected (1884) and the town was declared a municipality (1886).

Origin of name: originally named Petersburg after Peter Doecke, a landowner who subdivided his land and sold it by auction. The name was Anglicised during World War I when anti-German sentiments were running so high, the Nomenclature Act demanded that all German-sounding names be changed.

Get close up and personal with a steam locomotive at Steamtown

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