Events, Field Work

Old Plympton Railway Station: Historical Background

The historical background of the Old Plympton Railway Station has been prepared by Flinders archaeology student, Angeline Buckler:


The historic Plympton Railway Station was one of the platforms along the North Terrace Line that originally connected the City of Glenelg to the City of Adelaide. The South Terrace Line is now known as the Adelaide to Glenelg tram-line; the North Terrace Line was abandoned in 1929 and the rails have since been removed. During this time period there were two Plympton railway stations, one on each line. The station in this report was most often referred to as the North Plympton Train Station as it was located on the North Terrace Line.

While the South Terrace Line, owned and operated by the Adelaide Suburban Railway Company, had been operating since 1871; the North Terrace Line did not commence operations until May of 1880 (Blake 2010:77). The new line was initiated by the Holdfast Bay Railway Company who opened the line in competition with Suburban Company hoping to draw business from the other line by offering a shorter trip and more efficient service (South Australian Advertiser 1880:1-2). After approximately 12 months it became evident that despite the popularity of the trains there was not enough business to support two separate companies and in 1881 the two companies merged to become the Glenelg Railway Company. The Glenelg Railway Company took over management of both the South and North Terrace lines.

The railway companies created work for a number of people in the Adelaide and Glenelg areas, amongst these was Tom Dunn who served the company for 43 years and was remember with public fanfare on the day of his retirement in July of 1924 (Barrier Miner 1924:3). Tom in turn remembered a number of notable figures, including Judge Boucaut and the Bo’ sun of the Buffalo, as regular patrons of the train service in his retirement announcement.

Happenings at the Plympton Railway Station

In 1883 the first serious incident at the North Plympton Railway Station was recorded; on the 4th of July a collision occurred between a goods train and a passenger train. The goods train collided with the passenger train while it was stopped at Plympton Station for refuelling shunting it along the line (South Australian Register 1883:3). The track was damaged and three people were injured, though no loss of life occurred.

The station was often used in the past as a meeting point for public rallies and sporting events, amongst which were a meeting of the Adelaide Hunt Club in 1899 (South Australian Register 1889:5) and a rally to the nearby Bronzewing Poultry Farm in 1913 (The Mail 1913:5).

In 1909 the first recorded incident of a collision between a person and a train was recorded. Warden F. W. Vasey, of the Marine Board, was knocked down by a train as he was crossing the line (Barrier Miner 1909:4). Although at the time his injuries were considered minor after a number of days he was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit of the Adelaide Hospital to recover from his injuries.

In a 1924 a second instance of a collision between a train and a person was narrowly avoided. Mrs Mary White narrowly avoided being hit by a train when a quick-thinking young station porter ran onto the line and carried her out of the train’s path (The Register 1924:10). The porter, Mr John Alfred O’Donohoe; was later awarded a Bronze Medal at the Humane Society Awards for his bravery (Barrier Miner 1924:3).

During the months of July and August 1916 a gang of robbers committed a number of break-ins at train stations in the Adelaide area. On the night of the 16th of August they attempted to break into the Plympton Railway Station, the door was forced open with a pick, but the safe was not tampered with and it was reported that no goods of value had been taken by the would be burglars (The Advertiser 1916:6).

Maintenance works to keep the station up to date were carried out throughout the years that the North Terrace Line was in operation. Recorded instances of the railways attempts to keep the line up to date include the installation of a shelter at the station in 1911 (The Register 1911:5) and an application to have a post-box and a telephone installed at the station in 1917 (The Advertiser 1917:8).

In March of 1929 the last steam train ran along the South Terrace Line and henceforth electric trams ran in their place. The last passenger train was driven along the North Terrace line in November of the same year by Mr Thomas Stockley (Fitch 2006:226).


Barrier Miner 1909 A Railway Accident. 11 October, p.4.

Barrier Miner 1924 Youth Rescues Woman: Awarded Bronze medal by Royal Humane Society. 16 July, p.3.

Blake, J. 2010 Sea Change: A Pictorial History of the City of Holdfast Bay. Adelaide: Holdfast Bay History Centre.

Fitch, R. 2006 Australian Railwayman: From cadet to engineer to railways commissioner. Adelaide: Rosenberg Publishing.

South Australian Register 1880 Opening of the Holdfast Bay Railway. 29 May, p.1.

South Australian Register 1883 Collision on the Holdfast Bay Railway. 4 July, p.3.

South Australian Register 1899 Sporting. 1 July. p.5.

The Advertiser 1916 Plympton Station Broken Into. 18 August, p.6.

The Advertiser 1917 West Torrens District Council. 13 December, p.8.

The Mail 1924 After Forty-Seven Years: Railwayman Resigns. 5 January, p.3.

The Mail 1928 Railway Romance: First Iron Horse to Glenelg. 28 January, p.4.

The Mail 1913 Poultry Boys: A Profitable Afternoon. 13 September, p.5.

The Register 1911 Railway Matters. 25 November, p.5.

The Register 1924 Bravery Recognised: Humane Society Awards. 24 October, p.10.

The South Australian Advertiser 1880 Opening of the Holdfast Bay Railway. 25 May, pp.5-6.

The South Australian Advertiser 1880 Opening of the Holdfast Bay Railway. 29 May, pp.1-2.