Construction of the first light rail lines began in Western Australia during the 1870s. However a railway network did not begin to grow until the late 1880s
with the commencement of the construction of the Great Southern line from Beverley to Albany by the Western Australian Land Company in 1888. This was followed by the construction of a line connecting Walkaway, near
Geraldton, with Midland in 1894 by the Midland Railway Company.
Both lines were constructed with private capital in exchange for grants of land, which were sold in 350 to 500 acre blocks in districts adjacent to the new lines.
These connected with shorter existing lines which spread from Fremantle through Perth and Midland. Other railway lines connected Geraldton with Northampton,
Beverley with York and Bunbury with Boyanup. By the early twentieth century a rail line had been extended from Perth through Northam to Southern Cross and Kalgoorlie.
The opening of the transcontinental railway line in 1917 was, therefore, the culmination
of two decades of agitation on the part of Western Australian politicians to link the Western rail network with the rest of Australia. For many, the railway line was the final
link in the chain of Federation. The official party which rode on the first railway carriage consisted of State and Federal figures, including Sir John Forrest, former Western Australian Premier and Deputy Prime Minister.
The railway finally provided a land link for Western Australians with their eastern
neighbours. Apart from increasing trade between the States, the train provided an opportunity for many to travel.
The journey across the Nullarbor was a long and often uncomfortable ride. For nearly
two decades it was the only alternative to taking a steamship from Fremantle, Albany or Esperance.