Katherine Rail Trail

The railway heritage walk involves a two hour walk along the path of the legendary North Australia Railway. Starting from Stuart Estate, 5 kilometres north of Katherine, the walk passes fascinating geological formations that the railway surveyors skirted. The walk continues through Conroy's Gap to the historic location of Emungalan, which was established as the railhead town to service the area before the high level railway bridge was constructed to cross the Katherine River.

This rail trail begins at the former Katherine railway station. After crossing the historic Katherine River railway bridge the trail borders the Stuart Highway, for 5.2km to Morey Rd on a new section opened in 2011. The centre of the trail is the former railway station and the nearby impressive bridge over the Katherine River. The station has several reminders of its past days and a steam locomotive is on display near the bridge.

At several locations the trail deviates from the formation to preserve the rails and Carnegie steel sleepers as heritage features. Railway culverts and bridges have been retained. Part of the path—including a bridge—has been decked in steel mesh so the rails and three different types of sleepers are visible to users. Solar powered lights have been installed over the bridge.

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History of the railway

The first section of the narrow gauge North Australia Railway from Darwin to Pine Creek opened in 1888.  It was extended south to Katherine in 1926 and finally Larrimah in 1929, which was as far south as it got, never linking up to the Adelaide to Alice Springs railway.  Nevertheless it played a vital role in the development of the Northern Territory and Australia during the second world war.  However once the war was over improving roads and its isolation resulted in the railway being closed in 1976.

The new standard gauge Alice Springs - Darwin railway opened in 2004 and parts of the new railway were placed on the old North Australia Railway alignment. However some parts of the old line were bypassed, including that in Katherine allowing construction of this rail trail.

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