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The Riesling Trail Story

Chapter 2. Clare to Spalding Line
Clare Railway Services
Building the Clare to Spalding line


 The Express and Telegraph (Adelaide, SA) Thu 29 Apr 1920  Page 1 

The- Railways Commissioner is inviting tenders for the completion of the Riverton to Spalding railway. The line from Riverton to Clare was opened on July 5, 1918.

  • The length is about 27½ miles, and the work was carried out under contract, by Mr. George Baxter, with the exception of a small distance adjacent to Riverton.

  • The Clare to Spalding section, with the exception of plate-laying, and ballasting, was let in 1918 to Mr. D. J. McClelland, but the work was subsequently transferred to Mr. Baxter, who is carrying out this contract.


Tenders are now being invited for

  • the ballasting and laying of the permanent way upon the formation under construction under this contract,

  • together with the construction of the final portion of  a distance of the railway into Spalding, a little over two miles.



Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA)  Thu 24 Jun 1920 Page 2

Although it was announced several weeks ago that Messrs. Stacey and Brennan, railway contractors, were the lowest tenderers for the work of ballasting and plate laying on the Riverton-Spa!ding line

it was ascertained yesterday that the Government, has not, yet, definitely accepted any lender.

It is understood the work,

  • which will occupy several months,

  • will provide employment for a fair number of hands,

  • and the delay on the part of the Government in coming to a decision in the matter is, of course,

  • preventing the successful tenderers from getting on with the work

  • which is also of great importance to the State.


The Register (Adelaide, SA) Fri 6 Aug 1920  Page 7

From S. TRENGOVE, Spalding:—

About the year 1914 a Bill was passed through Parliament authorizing the construction of a railway between these two towns.

This 50 miles of line has been let in three sections !

  • The first (Riverton to Clare) was completed more than two years ago,

  • the second section (Clare to within two miles of Spalding) is still under construction.

  • The third has not been commenced.

We farmers want to know why this extreme delay.


A reinforced concrete bridge over the Broughton was completed in 1919 at a cost of well over £10,000, and there these thousands of pounds stand mutely waiting for a tardy department or a slow contractor to 'speed up.'

Further, a reservoir has been completed, and is in the same position as the bridge — waiting.

Who pays the interest on these works representing nearly £20,000?

On the second and third sections of the line about 1,000,000 bags of wheat have been stacked; approximately 500,000 are now waiting removal to the seaboard.



The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA) Wed 11 Aug 1920 Page 6

The Minister for Railways declined in the House of Assembly on Tuesday to give Mr. Gunn the reasons of the Government for accepting the highest tender for the Riverton to Spalding railway.



The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA)  Thu 19 Aug 1920 Page 8

To the Editor.

Sir - Being one of the unfortunate contractors who were turned down in the

above matter I hope you will allow me to express my views on it.

Before going to the trouble and expense of getting out an estimate for the work we enquired whether it was to be let by contract and were told that it was.

We went to a lot of trouble and expense to get our tender ready and on June 1 went to the Railways Commissioner's office to see the tenders opened.

We were informed that ours was the lowest tender, and were asked to hand over a farther deposit of £400, making £500 in all.

Two days later it was announced that ours was the lowest tender, and our price was given as £40,000.

Thinking we were going to be treated fairly, we made all the necessary arrangements to proceed with the work, and ordered several thousands of pounds worth of plant. and were waiting and ready to pay the further deposit of £1,400. making 5 per cent. of the total amount.

After waiting about a fortnight to be asked to sign up and proceed with the work we began to get anxious and made enquiries....(read more)

l am, &c,

F. H. STACEY. August 18, 1920


Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA)  Fri 13 Aug 1920  Page 4

Mr. W . Harvey, in the House of Assembly on Thursday, returned to the question of the scandal connected with the contract for the Spalding railway,

He stated that it was in the public interest that the matter should be cleared up.

He therefore asked the Minister for Railways the reason why the tender of Mr. Baxter had been accepted instead of the lowest tender.

The Minister replied that the Government was not compelled to accept any tender.

Labor members protested against the nature of the reply, but the Minister would not make any further statement.



 Observer (Adelaide, SA) Sat 11 Sep 1920 Page 31


The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gunn, pictured at left) asked, in the Assembly on Sept. 2,  what the Government intended to do regarding the building of the Clare to Spalding Railway.


The Minister for Railways (Mr. Hague) replied that a  contract was let to Mr. George Baxter for the completion of the line.

  • A necessary notice in compliance with the terms of the contract had been served on him, and

  • if the work was not immediately proceeded with the Government would terminate the contract, and carry out the job departmentally.



The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA) Tue 15 Mar 1921 Page 11 

Spalding, March 12 1921


The Premier (Mr. Barwell). in addressing the electors here on Friday, referred to

the railway from Riverton to Spalding, which was begun nine years ago.

  • Much had been done of late, he said, and

  • to-day the line was only 13 miles away.

  • The completed earthworks were about eight miles distant, and

  • the plate laying into Spalding should, under ordinary circumstances, be finished by May next.

John Gunn.jpg
Broughton River Rail Bridge
First day of construction of the Clare R
Scandal !
James McGuire, Commissioner of Railways

Above: James McGuire, Commissioner of Railways and Tramways in S.A, standing third from the left in a group of men in front of a railway carriage during a visit to the Eyre Peninsula - 1920.

Clare Railway Station yard.png



Observer (Adelaide, SA) Sat 16 Apr 1921 Page 33

The work of constructing the railway over a distance of 23 miles to link up Clare with Spalding, was begun several months ago by Messrs. J. Timms, and by (Illustrated left: pastoralist) Sidney Kidman, and G. Baxter, and satisfactory progress has been made.

  • On Tuesday evening Mr. Kidman stated that he inspected the scene of the operations last week, and

  • he expected the work to be completed within three or four months.



The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA) Thu 26 May 1921 Page 6 


Another section of the Riverton-Spalding railway was opened for goods traffic.

The portion of it being operated is between Clare and Andrews, 18 miles north of Clare. The traffic is handled by the contractor, Mr. George Baxter.



Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA)  Tue 10 Jan 1922  Page 2


The new railway line from Clare to Spalding (24 miles) was officially opened

to all classes of traffic on Monday, but there was no ceremony.

Describing the line the secretary to the Railways Commissioner (Mr. Chas. Boykett) in reply to press questions, said:—

"Clare is 91 miles from Adelaide, and the stations and sidings en route to Spalding are:

  • Barinia (95¾ miles),

  • Milne (101¾ miles),

  • Andrews (108 ¼ miles), and

  • Spalding (115 miles)."

"The line was constructed by Mr. G. Baxter."

"There will be three trains each way along the line weekly

—from Clare on Monday. Wednesday, and Friday.

—and from Spalding to Clare on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

These trains will connect with the existing service between Clare and the city."



The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA) Thu 23 Feb 1922 Page 6 

The Commissioner of Public Works (Hon. W. Hague), the Railways Commissioner (Mr. J. McGuire), and the principal railway officers will to-day inspect the Clare and Spalding railway line.



The Minister will investigate on the spot matters concerning the  Clare railway station.

  • Complaints have been made that owing to the passenger platform being on the side of the railway opposite to the town,

  • there is danger to the passengers in crossing the rails.

  • Mr. Hague also will inspect a level crossing at Wasleys, which is said to be dangerous.

Clare Railway Station Saga
Spalding Railway Station 2.jpg
Final Cost


Northern Argus (Clare, SA)  Fri 12 Oct 1923  Page 4

The report of the Railways Commissioner for the year ended June 30, 1923,

contains the information that

  • the cost of the above line was £540,847, and

  • the loss on running after paying interest and working expenses for the year was £24,626.

  • Locomotives -- The track was not strong enough to carry Webb’s big engines that were introduced in 1926.

Historical Notes by John Wilson
Barwell Bull - Pichi Richi Railway Railc
Historical Notes by John Wilson:
The Railway Guarantee

There were requests from all parts of the South Australian to have Parliament authorise railways.

  • Parliament devised a guarantee process whereby landholders serviced by a proposed new railway would have to underwrite any losses.

  • It was a farcical scheme that was promptly repealed.

  • The Riverton to Spalding Railway was one such line.

Some Engineering Concepts

A good strong railway (e.g. wide gauge) allows heavier engines pulling greater loads at faster speeds.

  • Flimsy construction (e.g. narrow gauge) with tight curves, steep grades and inadequate ballast dictates inefficiency and high maintenance costs.

  • Parliament was squarely focused on building many railways at the cheapest possible cost.

  • By about 1917 it dawned on them that the railway system was heading into a spiralling loss situation, and threatened to bankrupt the State.

Elections, Premiers and Governments 1901 –1930

It was a period of political volatility, during which Labor and Liberals would polarise their political position.

  • In those early years there was a Labor-Liberal coalition, but it didn’t last long.

  • Both sides of State Parliament used railways to catch votes.

  • The Barwell government of 1920 finally took action, but it cost them the next election.

Railways: Barwell tackled in a far-sighted way the rehabilitation, through a £5 million programme, of the State's notoriously uneconomic railways, personally recruiting a brilliant American expert, W. A. Webb, as director.

  • In 1924 Webb imported petrol driven Brill railcars, with Clare becoming the first destination to be served.

  • The public knew these new passenger railcars as 'Barwell Bulls'.

  • As for Barwell, he was the only South Australian Premier to have a Clare connection, yet where in Clare do we find him honoured? There’s not even a Barwell Street.

  • The first passenger services were slow mixed trains. A better service was provided in 1924.



Northern Argus (Clare, SA)  Fri 13 Apr 1923 Page 5

[To the Editor.]

Sir— Looking back at the early history of this railway, and the "mad" project of

getting this line, as it appeared to many, what will be news to most of those that

met on Monday night to discuss improvements to increase our present means of

of transit, is that committees were formed at Riverton, Rhynie, Undalya, Auburn,

Watervale, Clare, Hilltown, and Spalding.

These committees worked practically as one body to accomplish the purpose, vi«.. the line from Riverton to Clare to Spalding.

Side issues that were attempted were left severely alone


.......We considered the Government were slow in introducing the bill for the line.

A public meeting was arranged to meet Mr Butler, now Sir Richard.

  • I said to the late Hon J Howe that the deputation would comprise 60.

  • Eighty were present from all parts of the proposed line.

  • I believe in numbers for this business ; they carry weight.

The figures quoted by Mr Pickering showed, I think, a credit of £ 1,800 in the estimate.

The above will help to explain my seeking to get Spalding line with us, at the same time getting them a daily service, when the necessary plant is available.

I am, Sir, &c,

W. G. Lewcock

Convincing Politicians
Railway Tenders Compared
Clare Railway Station 11 Aug 1917.jpg


The Register (Adelaide, SA)  Wed 8 Sep 1920  Page 6

The Minister of Railways (Mr. Hague) in the Assembly on Tuesday, told Premier Sir Richard Butler that a comparison of departmental and other tenders for railway works was as follows:

— Riverton to Clare —

  • Contract 1, 1915, £95,319 departmental estimate. £70,028 lowest private tender;

  • contract 122, 1915, £15,105 departmental estimate., £14,705 lowest private tender;;

— Clare to Spalding—

  • Contract 30, 1918, £63,806 departmental estimate. lowest £53,863;

  • contract 23, 1918 (bridge), £9,440 departmental estimate, lowest £9,240;

  • contract 30, 1920, £30,674 departmental estimate. lowest £40,320;


Further Railway Costs and Estimates were tabled on Wed 15 Sep 1920.


Keep Reading:

In this series:

The Story of Clare's Riesling Trail


Chapter 1: Clare gets a Railway

Chapter 2: Clare to Spalding Line

Chapter 3: Clare Railway Station saga

Chapter 4. Clare Railway declines

Chapter 5: Riesling Trail Planning & Building

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