Terowie, S.A.

Terowie, a desgnated historic town, was once a thriving railway town, but today is a mere shadow of what it used to be. Terowie was the change of gauge junction for the railway north to Alice Springs, west to Kalgoorlie and east to Broken Hill. Each line had a different gauge so trains of one gauge would pull up on one side of the platform and goods and luggage were manhandled across to a waiting train on a different gauge track on the other side of the platform. It was here, during World War II, that General Douglas MacArthur made his famous promise to the waiting press - "I Will Return".

Back when all this was happening, Terowie was a thriving town with a population of around 500, but that began to change when the Alice Springs train was re-routed in the 1950s, bypassing Terowie. In the 1960s, the Barrier Highway bypassed the town, but the final staw was the standardisation of interstate railway services to standard gauge in 1970 that removed the need for a station where goods and passengers had to be transferred from one gauge line to another. The break of gauge was moved to Peterborough, and Terowie dieed. Today, the town's streets are eerily empty, and all but a handful of businesses are still open, though all the shops remain intact and in much the same condition as when their owners walked away from them, thanks to the foresite of some townfolk who weren't about to give up on the town completely.

Even so, it would have to be one of Australia's most complete authentic ghost towns - walking its streets is like walking on an abandoned western movie set. The grandeur of the Imperial Hotel and The Institute - Terowie's only surviving two storey buildings - its three motor garages representing three different eras, the former town blacksmiths and newspaper office, the art gallery occupying the former coffee palace, its disused railway tracks and silent buildings all echo to the memory of days gone by when this outdated railway town was a hive of activity, and the day the eyes of the world descended upon it in 1942 when General Douglas McArthur came to town.

Where is it?: 24 km south east of Peterborough on the Barrier Highway.

Around Town

The Railway Yard: A reminder of the town's prosperity. You can see the long platform where goods were transferred across it from trains of different gauges, standing on either side of it. On the platform is a plaque marks the spot where General Douglas MacArthur and his famous 'I shall return' speech in May 1942. Nearby is the stationmaters's office and outbuildings and rusting railway tracks of both gauges around the goods yard.

Terowie Arid Lands Botanic Garden: Situated on 1 hectare of land adjacent to the Main Street this Botanic Garden boasts 450 shrubs and trees from 250 different species. It has three different zones - the river zone, the rocky zone and the sandy zone. A number of the plants are endangered species.

Terowie Historic Walk: can be comfortably walked in about 2 hours and includes 35 buildings all of which are important historically. The walk is available as a printed sheet and is included in the excellent and interesting book 'Woolsheds and Railheads' which is available for a very modest price.

St Joseph's Convent: Built in 1885 this building was operated between 1911 and 1966 by Sister Mary McKillop's Sisters of St Joseph. It is now privately owned.

Surrounding Area

Pandappa Conservation Park (17 km east): an attractive hilly park located in the Wonna Range. The park is accessible to the boundary by conventional vehicles. There are no internal vehicular tracks, only bushwalking trails.

Dare's Hill Circuit Tour; There is an interesting and informative sheet titled the Dare's Hill Circuit Tour which takes visitors from Terowie to Hallett via Dare's Hill. It is 91.5 km long and passes Waupunyah Plain, Franklyn Homestead, Pandappa Homestead, Ketchowla Homestead, the Piltimitiappa Ruins, Goyders Line (that famous limit of agriculture) is crossed twice and then there is Hallett and Whyte-Yarcowie. There's no petrol on the route and it is entirely on dirt roads. A true, edge of the desert, experience. The brochure tells you everything you could ever want to know about the area.

Ketchowla Historic Reserve: Located 30 km from Terowie Ketchowla has fine examples of Aboriginal painting and carving. It is located in a number of dry channels and there are a number of examples of red ochre animal tracks as well as geometric engravings.

Terowie Yard

Brief History
Terowie was established in the late 19th century as a railway junction for NSW and SA lines. There were large rail workshops and a population of 2000. The tracks of the two different states were different gauges and people had to change trains at Terowie. In March 1942 the eyes of the world descended upon Terowie. When General Douglas MacArthur was changing trains at Terowie from Darwin on his way south, he gave his first Australian press conference on the station uttering the famous words,"I came out of Bataan and I shall return."

Gen. Douglas MacArthur steps of the train at Terowie

The town evolved around a hotel erected in 1874 to service travellers on the north-south stock route. It was surveyed as a private township by John Aver Mitchell in 1873 on land he had recently acquired. The advent of the railway to the silver-lead mines of Broken Hill brought prosperity to the town in the 1880s. When selected as the location for the change of gauge for the Trans continental railway in the early 1900s, its population peaked at around 1,000.

Re-routing of the Alice Springs railway line in the 1950s, moving the change-of-gauge to Peterborough in 1970 and the bypassing of the town by the Barrier Highway in the 1960s all contributed towards the town's demise. These days, it is only its historic buildings and galleries which occupy them that keep the town alive.

The buildings above are at the left hand end of the buildings in the photograph below

Australia For Everyone | Email us | Ph 0412 879 698

Content © 2017 Australia For Everyone