NT cattle’s return to transport by rail could save producers $120 per head to SA, study finds

A study looking at the viability of transporting cattle on rail to Darwin and South Australia is being conducted by the NT Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade. Key points:A study has looked into a potential return of the cattle on NT rail  Rail transport has not been used for cattle since 1998Pastoralists could save up to $120…

NT cattle’s return to transport by rail could save producers $120 per head to SA, study finds

A research study taking a look at the practicality of carrying livestock on rail to Darwin and South Australia is being performed by the NT Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade.

Key points:

  • A research study has actually checked out a possible return of the livestock on NT rail
  • Rail transportation has actually not been utilized for livestock because 1998
  • Pastoralists might conserve as much as $120 per head on freight to South Australia if including rail transportation

Currently, all Northern Territory livestock are transferred to markets on roadway trains, however a desktop evaluation has actually discovered pastoralists might conserve by putting livestock on rail for a part of their journey.

The proposition focuses on livestock trucks and trains operating in tandem.

Mr Christian stated stations would truck livestock to rail heads in centres such as Alice Springs or Tennant Creek where they would be packed onto trains and required to their potential markets.

A map showing station routes via truck to train. 

Station paths through truck to train. (

Supplied: James Christian


” There’s currently a rail lawn developed at Kulgera … there’s the backyard here in Alice. Both require a little bit of a remodeling, they require a retouch, and the railway would require to be checked to ensure its all right.

Mr Christian is describing the train facilities that currently takes a trip from Alice Springs to the end of the East Arm Wharf.

” In the lack of anything essential like quarantine, the livestock might leave the train at the very end of East Arnhem Wharf and stroll throughout the wharf and directly into the live export boats,” he stated.

Can it be done once again?

The last time livestock taken a trip by rail in the NT remained in 1998 from Alice Springs to Gepps Cross in Adelaide.

Herbie Neville, a livestock market veteran and branch supervisor of Elders Alice Springs, utilized to arrange livestock trains for markets in South Australia.

The trains were as regular as 3 loads a week and took a trip no faster than 30 kph.

NT cattle getting unloaded at Darwin Wharf.

NT livestock getting unloaded at Darwin Wharf in 1925.(

Supplied: Library and Archives NT


They might bring approximately 3,000 head of Territory livestock throughout the dry landscape of the Central Australian desert and into either Darwin ports or the busy stockyards of Adelaide.

Transporting livestock by means of rail was at its height in the mid to late 1980 s, nevertheless in the late 1990 s the trains made their last stop as roadways monopolised animals transportation.

Mr Neville stated he has a hard time to see a possible return of rail transportation to his market.

” There’s no spur line down in the south and there’s many various markets, and the feed-lotters have actually got their own trucks, their own spelling lawns. I can’t see it returning.”

Life on the rail

The modest function of the train drover, who utilized to survive on the carts to make sure security of the livestock on board, is now a fading memory.

A train cattle train.

A train livestock train heading south to Adelaide.(

Supplied: Library and Archives NT


Andy Summers, who was 16 when he worked as a train drover, stated life on the rail was characterised by long days, huge nation, and routine stock checks.

” I was on the old Ghan, we utilized to go from Alice to Marree. It was a quite sluggish journey,” he stated.

Gary Prior, another gamer in the NT’s livestock rail video game, utilized to run the Roe Creek Cattle Yards in Alice Springs throughout the 1980 s and remembered the time fondly.

” I did truly enjoy it, it was a great task and a great period to be in,” he stated.

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