Free for educational use
Constructing the East-West Rail Link
Year of production - 1979
Duration - 0min 54sec
Tags - Australian History, communication, federation, identity, water, see all tags
How to Download the Video Clip
To download a free copy of this Video Clip choose from the options below. These require the free Quicktime Player.
Premium MP4 rail_pr.mp4 (6.6MB).
Broadband MP4 rail_bb.mp4 (3.1MB), suitable for iPods and computer downloads.
You can buy this clip on a compilation DVD.
You can buy the program this clip comes from.
About the Video Cliptop
Constructing the East-West Rail Link is an excerpt from the film The Rail Way (26 mins), produced in 1979.
The Rail Way: A wide-ranging look at Australian railways – from the city underground to the railway of the remote outback. We see the six locomotive coal giants of central Queensland and the picturesque Normanton-Croydon rail car, epic journeys of the transcontinental Indian Pacific and a half-day vintage steam train excursion. The film is introduced and narrated by Patsy Adam-Smith, well known for her many books on Australian railways.
The Rail Way was produced by Film Australia for the Department of Transport.
On 14 September 1912, Australia’s Governor-General, Lord Denman, turned the first sod for the Trans-Australia Railway to link Australia by rail from Brisbane to Sydney to Melbourne to Adelaide to Perth.
This project had been promised at the time of Federation in 1901, to encourage Western Australia to join the new Commonwealth.
Two parties working from east to west and west to east met at 1.45 pm on Wednesday 17 October 1917. Sir John Forrest, former Premier of Western Australia and at that stage a Federal parliamentarian said: ‘I rejoice to see this day. Western Australia, comprising one third of the continent, hitherto isolated and practically unknown, is from today, in reality, a part of the Australian Federation.’
- What were Western Australia’s reasons for not wanting to part of the new commonwealth?
- When did they join the rest of the colonies in deciding that they would be part of it?
- Look at a map of Australia. Why would a railway linking Adelaide to Perth be wanted?
- Why was it such a massive undertaking?
- The main equipment available for building the railway was human muscle (3,500 men), 750 camels and horses, trains able to run on the completed parts of the tracks and very little mechanised earth-moving equipment. There were no roads, no permanent water supply and no local produce available.
Here are some problems that faced the builders. How would you solve them?
- Accommodation for the workers
- Water supply
- Food for workers and animals
- Earth-moving equipment
- Health and sanitation
Look at the scenes in the video clip to see evidence of how some of these problems were addressed.
- Today, Perth is still seen as one of the most isolated capital cities in the world. Do you think that the construction of the railway helped curb the feeling of isolation? What points do you think a Western Australian would put forward to argue otherwise?
Navvy: a worker employed in making roads, railways etc.