Western Australian Government Railways

Infobox Government agency
agency_name = Western Australian Government Railways

logo_width = 300 px
logo_caption = One of the WAGR logos on old rolling stock at the ARHS Museum at Bassendean.

seal_width =
seal_caption =
formed = 1890
preceding1 = Department of Works and Railways
dissolved = 1 July, 2003
superseding = Public Transport Authority
jurisdiction = Government of Western Australia
employees =
budget =
chief1_name =
chief1_position =
parent_agency =
child1_agency =
website =
footnotes =

Western Australian Government Railways (WAGR) was most common name of the Western Australian government rail transport authority from 1890 to 1976. It is, in its current form, known as the Public Transport Authority (PTA) of Western Australia.

History of Operations

In earlier times it had an extensive system of railway branches and lines throughout Western Australia. The network of branches were of vital importance in the state prior to the expanded use of motor transport for the moving of agricultural, forestry and mining products.

Legislative restrictions were implemented at some stages to limit competition from road transport. Notably in the 1930s through to the 1950s the Transport Co-ordination Board kept strict control over trucking, buses and commercial road traffic.

The transformation from WAGR with a full range of branches listed belowndash through to Westrail (another name during its changes) to the PTAndash caused a loss of local branches, and sidings.

The move from a small customer oriented system to a predominantly bulk carrier main line system, in the late twentieth century left many smaller communities smarting from the loss of local employment and facilities usually associated with the older style of working. However in the wheatbelt, bulk handling of grain continued despite the changes.

Some branches were isolated from the main system, such as the Marble Bar and the Hopetoun lines. Most branch lines in the system were constructed by the 1930s. The main era for closures was in the post-World War II era of the 1950s when many non-paying branches were closed.

With the completion of the standard gauge line to Kalgoorlie in the mid 1960s, many lines closed and by the early 1970s, dieselisation had seen diesel power had completely replaced steam locomotives.


*1877-1890: Department of Works and Railways (also known as "Public Works and Railways)"
*1890-1914: West Australian Government Railways (I)
*1914-1922: West Australian Government Railways and Tramways
*1922-1930: West Australian Government Railways, Tramways and Electricity Supply
*1930-1946: West Australian Government Railways, Tramways, Ferries and Electricity Supply
*1946-1949: West Australian Government Railways, Tramways and Ferries
*1949-2000: West Australian Government Railways (II)
*1975: WAGR adopts the brand name "Westrail"
*2000: The freight business and the "Westrail" name were sold to Australian Western Railroadndash a subsidiary of Australian Railroad Group (ARG) and the freight rail lines were leased to WestNet Railndash another subsidiary of the ARG. WAGR continued to own the track, but WestNet manages it under the terms of a 49-year lease. The public entity is renamed to the Western Australian Government Railways Commission (WAGRC).
*2003: WAGRC renamed to Public Transport Authority (of Western Australia) (Source: "State Records Office of Western Australia website")


The WAGR operated a wide variety of services throughout its history, including the more standard country and suburban passenger and freight workings as well as a limited electrified service, early country railcar services, a road bus service and overnight sleeper services to distant destinations.

Named Services

Named services were largely unknown on the WAGR until the expansion following the Second World War. The introduction of named services was part of an effort to increase the prestige of a railway system which had long been viewed as antiquated and inefficient. With the exception of the Perth - Bunbury services, the named trains of the WAGR were sleeper services. [ "Book a Sleeping Berth" advertisement for all sleeping services of the time - page 70 of the WAGR Timetable booklet for 1969 ] The services were (with years operating) -

* The Albany Progress between Albany and Perth (1961 - 1978)
* The Australind between Perth and Bunbury (1947 - present)
* The Kalgoorlie between Perth and Kalgoorlie (1962 - 1971)
* The Midlander between Perth and Geraldton (1964 - 1975)
* The Mullewa between Perth and Mullewa (1961 - 1974)
* The Albany Weekender between Perth and Albany (1964 - 1975)
* The Shopper between Perth and Bunbury (1964 - 1975)
* The Bunbury Belle between Perth and Bunbury (1964 - 1975)

The Westland

Of special significance to West Australian named services is the Westland Express. The Westland operated between 1938 and 1969 and underwent numerous renovations. It is distinguished by being the only named service in WA until the Australind's inception in1947.

(Source: Rob Clarke, "What's in a name?" in Geoffrey Higham (2007) "Marble Bar to Mandurah - A History of Passenger Rail Services in Western Australia" pp107-127)

Electrified Services

While the current Western Australian urban passenger network under Transperth Trains is entirely electrified, between May 1924 and March 1969 the State Electricity Commission operated the only 1067mm narrow gauge electrified line in Western Australia as part of the WAGR network. The line was a half-mile in length and operated in East Perth. [Don Finlayson (Ed.) (1986), "Steam Around Perth", Australian Railway Historical Society W.A. Division (Inc), Lamb Print, West Perth., ISBN 0-9599690-4-7 p14] The electric locomotive used on the railway is preserved at the Rail Transport Museum in Bassendean, though is currently not on display.

Country Diesel Railcar Services

In the 1940s and 1950s, usage of the "Governor Class" Diesel services on country lines was common, and services within distance of a couple of hours of Perth were accessed - rather than the longer more distant locations serviced by the overnight sleeper trains.

Road Bus Service

Where lines were closed in the 1940s and 1950s , or passenger services discontinued, Road Bus Services were introduced. Most of the services and the same routes continue to the present. .

The Rail Road Services commenced in 1941 with one vehicle, and by the 1960s there were more than 50 buses in service. The Dual purpose passenger/freight buses that commenced in 1949 had a Foden chassis and Gardner 6 cylinder diesel engines. They were green and cream in livery. WAGR also operated articulated trailer buses. In the 1950s the main passenger bus was made of an AEC chassis with a 6 cylinder diesel engine. In the early 1960s the 3 Scenicruiser Guy chassis and Leyland 6 cylinder diesel engined vehicles in red and cream colour schemes commenced on the Perth-Albany and Perth Narembeen routes. They were named 'Pride of the West', 'Queen of the South', and 'Wheatlander'.

In the late 1960s Hino Buses were being utilised as long distance travel buses for the Perth-Meekatharra, Perth-Esperance, Perth-Geraldton, and Perth-Albany Services [ WAGR Timetable booklet 1969, p.81 ]

In the early 1970s the WAGR Bus service included seasonal 6 day 'Wildflower Study Tours' from Perth and along roads to and from Geraldton through the northern Wheatbelt [ Rail and Road in Western Australia 1971-1972 p.27 ] .

In the early 1970s the "King Karri" Scenicruiser buses ran from Bunbury through Maniump, Pemberton, Northcliffe, Walpole to Albany at the same time the Albany Progress overnight train was still operating - making it possible to do a round trip by rail from Perth to Albany and bus from Albany to Perth via Bunbury. [ "Rail and Road in Western Australia, edition 1971-1972, p.38 - timetable on p.39 ]

In the mid 1970's some services reflected where rail services had either closed or had ceased providing facilities for passengers - the following selection is the not the total service at the time [ WAGR 1976 Rail Timetable booklet]

* Albany-Denmark-Nornalup-Walpole Road Bus Service
* Perth Terminal-Wooroloo Hospital-Wundowie-Northam Road Bus Service
* Perth Terminal-Toodyay-Goomalling-Wubin-Mount Magnet-Meekatharra Road Bus Service
* Wagin-Katanning-Pingrup-Jerramungup Road Bus Service

Railway Road Truck Services

There were also road freight services, while the restrictions on non-government trucking were still in forcewith suburban truck services between Perth and Midland, Perth and Fremantle, Perth and Kewdale and Perth and Gosnells. The Country services were extensive having Perth and country rail stations as terminal locations. [ WAGR Timetable booklet 1969, p.59 - with at least 19 separate services at that date ]


The WAGR operated a large number of unique steam, diesel and electric locomotive classes. Often suffering from lack of available funds the WAGR locomotive fleet often consisted of locomotives far older than their expected operational life. Only one electric locomotive was operated by the government during the WAGR years.

Early Steam Locomotives

The first WAGR locomotives were two 1879 2-6-0 tender engines, later classified as the M class, built in England in 1875 and shipped to WA by sea. They operated on the first government railway in Geraldton, some 450km north of Perth. [Geoffrey Higham, (2007). "Marble Bar to Mandurah - A History of Passenger Rail Services in Western Australia" Bassendean, W.A. Rail Heritage WA. ISBN 97800959969092 p190] The opening of the Fremantle to Guildford railway in 1881 saw the use of two 0-6-0T tank engines from the British Robert Stephenson and Co, numbered Numbers 1 and 2 and later classified as the C Class in 1885. The C class engines were later given small tenders to increase fuel storage. C1 was later renamed 'Katie' and is currently preserved at the Rail Transport Museum. [Jeff Austin, "Locomotive C1 - Katie" in Geoffry Higham, (2006). "All Stations to Guildford - 125 years of the Fremantle to Guildford Railway", Rail Heritage WA, Bassendean, published in 2006 to mark the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Fremantle-Perth-Guildford railway in Western Australia]

The contractor responsible for the construction of the Fremantle-Guildford railway, John Robb, sold his locomotive to the WA government also in 1881, and it became Number 3. Number 3 became to prototype of the WAGR A class 2-6-0 tender locomotives. [Higham. Ibid. p190] The A class locomotives were soon supplemented by the B class 4-6-0T tank engines which had twice the haulage capacity of the A class. During this time the WAGR had been greatly expanded over the Darling Scarp and into the large agricultural strip to the East, specifically to the centers of Chidlow, Northam and Toodyay (then Newcastle). With the beginning of WA gold rushes in 1888 the railways required massive expansion and in 1889 the WAGR received a larger version of the A class which had been used in the construction of the private Great Southern Railway in Albany, on the southern coast of Western Australia. [Higham. Ibid. p191] The new locomotives were a vast improvement over previous types and became the WAGR G Class, of which a total of 72 were eventually ordered, becoming the railways' most numerous type for its entire history. The G class existed in two forms - the initial 2-6-0 configuration and a later 4-6-0 type with improved running stability. The G class were immensely successful on a wide range of duties, and although phased out of mainline workings in the early 20th Century, they lingered until the very end of steam in WA, with two examples still working as shunters at Bunbury in August 1972. [Steve McNicol, (1994). "W.A.G.R. Steam Locomotives in Preservation", Railmac Publications, Elizabeth, South Australia p13]

The steep 1 in 30 gradients over the Darling Scarp presented a major problem to the early railway system, so in 1893/94 the K class 2-8-4T tank engines were introduced for traffic on this Eastern Railway. The K class were the first class of locomotives designed new for the WAGR, and some were later ordered for use in South Africa. The K class were unfortunately too heavy for branch-line operations and were so restricted to main-line services. [Higham. Ibid. p192] In 1896 two new classes were introduced to the WAGR, namely the N Class 4-4-4T suburban tank engines and the O Class 2-8-0T&T, so classified for the presence of tenders and boiler-side fuel-storage bunkers. The N and O classes shared a standard boiler and cylinders which gave them compatibility. The N class were primarily used on suburban passenger and shunting duties - a role which they dominated for almost two decades. [Higham. Ibid.] The O class were used initially on mainline goods services but were quickly relegated to branch line services where they served successfully. In the event further orders were placed until the class totaled fifty-six, with 10 being built locally at the Midland Railway Workshops. [McNicol. Ibid. p.16]

The R class 4-4-0s represented a radical departure from previous WAGR locomotive design. The engines featured the largest diameter wheels of any WAGR locomotive at 1.45m, which allows for higher speeds at reduced power. Given the nature of WA's railways, however, this was not beneficial and the class saw limited service in their intended role as express engines, but continued to serve in country areas (such as around Northam) for many years. [Higham. Ibid. ] The class numbered 24 and were withdrawn in the mid-1920s when replaced by much larger locomotives. [McNicol. Ibid. p14]

Early 20th Century Steam Locomotives

The onset of the 20th century saw the introduction of many new locomotives to the W.A.G.R. Notable examples included the E and F class engines of 1902 which were near identical with the exception of their wheel arrangements. An additional variant of the E class was provided as the Ec class, built in the United States. The E class were used for passenger services and were accordingly given the larger diameter driving wheels in a 4-6-0 configuration, while the F class freight locomotives had a 4-8-0 arrangement, providing extra power at the expense of speed. The D class 4-6-2T suburban tank engines were likewise introduced in 1902 and replaced the N class engines in suburban operations. All three classes, with the exception of some individual locomotives, underwent the process of superheating in 1912 to become the Es, Fs and Ds classes respectively. [Higham. Ibid. p193] Also in 1912 the M class garratt-type locomotives were introduced, representing the first use of this type of locomotive in full-size mainline operation. The class was well adapted to WAGR's light branchlines and tight-radius curves thanks to its articulation. [Higham. Ibid]

Interwar Locomotives

Suffering from the effects of both the First World War and the Great Depression, the WAGR introduced relatively few locomotive classes in the years between World War One and World War Two. The P class 4-6-2 pacific-type locomotives were introduced in 1924 and in 1938 an improved version, the Pr Class was constructed at the Midland workshops. 8 P class engines were converted to Pr class between 1941 and 1944 to alleviate war time stresses on the aged WAGR locomotive fleet, most of which dated back to the 19th century. [Phillipa Rogers. (1999) "Troops, Trains and Trades - The Wartime Role of the Railways of Western Australia, 1939-1945" Bassendean, W.A. Success Print, ISBN 0-646-38403-1, pp6-7]

Post Second World War Steam Locomotives

In the years following World War Two, the WAGR underwent a massive expansion and quickly introduced new services and many new locomotive classes.


Mainline diesel locomotives arrived on WAGRys in 1953 with the introduction of the WAGR Y class and in 1954 with the X Class.

ervices to Patrons

Chief Mechanical Engineers of the WAGR

* Charles Yelverton O'Connor - Was the inaugural 'Engineer in Chief' of the Public Works Department which was the body controlling the early form of the WAGR [Higham. Ibid. pp190-192]
* Thomas Forth Rotheram - Was the Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) of the WAGR from 1900. He died in 1903. [Higham. Ibid. p193]
* E. S. Hume
* E. A. Evans
* F. Mills - CME during the late 1930s Fact|date=September 2008


Lines and Operational Centers

Main Lines

In rail administration, lines were given generic titles such as the Eastern Railway, the South Western, rather than after the destination.
*Metropolitan - ER - Eastern Railway - Suburban
*Bunbury - SWR - South Western Railway
*Kalgoorlie - EGR - Eastern Goldfields Railway
*Mullewa - NR - Northern Railway
*Leonora - EGR - Eastern Goldfields Railway
*Meekathara - NR - Northern Railway
*Esperance - EGR - Eastern Goldfields Railway
*Albany - GSR - Great Southern Railway


For a different way of identifying branches/routes see Quinlan and Newland. [ * Quinlan, Howard & Newland, John R. (2000) "Australian Railway Routes 1854-2000" ISBN 0-909650-49-7 ]
*Ajana Branch
*Boulder Branch
*Brookton-Corrigin Branch
*Bullfinch Branch
*Bunbury to Katanning Branch
*Busselton Branch
*Collie to Brunswick Junction Branch
*Collie to Wagin Branch
*Denmark Branch
*Flinders Bay Branch
*Northampton Branch
*Hopetoun Railway
*Hotham Valley Branch
*Lake Brown Branch
*Lake Grace Branch
*Meekathara Branch
*Mundaring Branch
*Mundaring Weir Branch
*Nannup Branch
*Narembeen Branch
*Narrogin to Collie Branch
*Northcliffe Branch
*Ongerup Branch
*Pingrup Branch
*Pinjarra to Boddington Branch
*Port Hedland - Marble Bar Railway
*Sandstone Branch
*Toodyay Branch
*Upper Darling Range Branch
*Wiluna Branch
*Yuna Branch

Operational Centres

For most of the years that the WAGR existed as that entity, main offices, and divisional offices and buildings were all within a short range of Perth Railway Station. Rationalisation of the diverse addresses and locations occurred with the construction of the East Perth Head Office building.
*Head Office - Management - East Perth
*Regional Centres (Current and historical)
** Narrogin
** Northam
** Fremantle Railway Workshops
** Midland Railway Workshops
*Marshalling Yards - various yards have existed in the Perth Metropolitan area -
** Leighton
** Midland
** Kenwick
** South Fremantle (Robb Jetty).
*Grain Silos (Current and historical)
** Bellevue/Midland
** Fremantle,

Legacy and Preservation

A large number of locomotives and rolling stock types of the WAGR, as well as many examples of WAGR architecture and railway infrastructure have been preserved, both in Western Australia and other places around the world, notably the other Australian States.


ee also

* Rail transport in Western Australia

Further Information

* Affleck, Fred N. "On track : the making of Westrail, 1950 to 1976" . Perth : Westrail, 1978. ISBN 0-7244-7560-5
* Gunzburg, Adrian.(1984) A history of W.A.G.R. steam locomotives Perth, W.A : Australian Railway Historical Society, Western Australian Division. ISBN 0959969039
* May, Andrew and Gray, Bill. "A History of WAGR Passenger Carriages". Perth:The Author, 2006. ISBN 0-646-45902-3
* WAGR Publicity Section, Perth. Pamphlets and information sheets produced in the early 1960s.

The Rail Heritage WA website

External links

* State Records Office has a web page with the largest collection of records available about the WAGR.
* [http://www.pta.wa.gov.au/scripts/viewoverview_contact.asp?NID=1256 PTA overview]
* [http://website.lineone.net/~asmay/wagons.htm WAGR goods wagons information]
* http://www.wacarriages.com/ WAGR passenger carriage history]

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