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Wolseley is an interesting study in how railways change with time. During the war it was an important depot with a large oil storage facility and loco servicing facility. It was also a change of gauge station with the narrow gauge (3'6") branch line to Mount Gambier.
Post war, the redevelopment of the state and the booming economy of the 1950s saw the branch line converted to broad gauge (5'3") to cope with the increasing timber traffic. In the 1970s (date?), a new station building was provided. However the advent of the long awaited standardisation of the Melbourne-Adelaide line, and declining traffic over the branch, saw the station effectively marginalised and the branch line abandoned, due to the lack of justification to gauge-convert it once more!
Now the station and yard are little more than a grain siding. Passenger trains no longer stop here, the town has wasted away, and what was once a busy (albeit remote) railway junction is now a railway archaelogist's photo paradise.
Ian S. Douglas wrote to me, having unearthed a bit more history about Wolseley, and its role during WWII. He had a reply from Ken Altus, the Chairman of the Tatiara National Trust in Bordertown SA on 16th June 2005, in reply to an enquiring letter. Ken quoted from a "History of the Tatiara", written by Alan Jones:
The RAAF constructed No 12 Inland Aircraft Fuel Depot early in WWII. The RAAF established 31 of these fuel storage depots at various inland sites considered secure from attack by sea-borne aircraft. Two others were in South Australia - Port Pirie and Crystal Brook.
Initially two standard 120,000 gallon storage tanks and one 40,000 gallon ethyl mixing tank and a barracks, etc. were erected at Wolseley. These tanks were camouflaged to look like farm buildings. The depot commenced operation in mid 1942 with a personnel establishment of a sergeant, a cook, and three guards. Later, three additional tanks were erected, but these were only dull painted, and not camouflaged.
When in May 1944 the Air Board decided to close down the inland fuel depots, fuel stacks had already been transferred from the South Australian inland depots to coastal installations. On June 14th 1944, the Wolseley Depot was disbanded and the property sold after the war ended.
Another correspondent, Mark Soya, wrote to me with a fascinating glimpse into life as a signalman at Wolseley:
I viewed your photos of the Wolseley Railway yard with both nostalgia and and a touch of sadness.
You see, my father Stan Soya (spelt Soja in those days) was the Wolseley railway station signalman. The Station Master was John Dix who became a family friend. I used to go to the Wolseley primary school with the Dix children.
Dad was stationed there from 1969 - 1971. Although I was only around 6 years of age I have vivid and fond memories of the time. In those days the station was the original timber structure that included a passenger waiting room with fire place and a canteen. The "Overland" would at times stop at the Wolseley Station and deliver supplies from Adelaide on its way to Melbourne. I still remember the deliveries of Ice cream for the local Eudunda Farmers Co-op store packed in dry ice and wrapped in a thick canvas role.
As a child I often played around the silos and in the shunting yard. On more than one occasion whilst walking to the station to visit Dad, we lived in a railway house on the main line about half a mile or so east of the station, we would disturb a brown snake sunning itself on the rails.
In the time Dad was stationed there I remember the going from the staff & hoop system along with rows of levers to change points to a "state of the art" electronic system with knobs, switches and lit strips showing the position of trains.
In that time the station canteen was abandoned and the "Overland" no longer stopped.
Your beautifully taken photos brought many memories flooding back. The platform where once I used to play, where passengers milled and goods at times were stacked now overgrown with weeds, the original timber station a distant memory and no doubt a town now largely silent except for the whispers of ghosts long past.
John, to many, your photos are little more than railway memorabilia, for me they were a beautiful and nostalgic trip down memory lane to a time in my life some 40 years ago that I had almost forgotten about .
For this, I thank you most sincerely.
My thanks to all the people involved in tracking down this history. I have to admit that these photos brought some memories back for me, too. When I was around the same age that Mark recalls (but a few years earlier for me ), I travelled several times on the Overland between Melbourne and Adelaide. Wolseley was a dark and mysterious place - literally, for it was always night when we stopped there, and the train stopped long enough that I would invariable wake up to look out the window at men bustling around with bags and trolleys, or quiet grain silos and sidings.
I have travelled on the Mt Gambier line, as it happens - in fact during the time Mark's father was stationed there!! I had to get back to Adelaide from a caving expedition to whence we had been given a lift by car there, but this was not available on the way back. We (my future wife and I) caught the Bluebird service, and would have of course travelled through Wolseley. But at that stage of my life my camera was more excited by the scenery inside the train, not outside it!
Because Wolseley was off the main highway, when travelling by car I did not otherwise see the place in daylight - until one day I decided to detour to investigate further. I'm glad I did.
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