Railways in Western Australia
The opening of the transcontinental railway line in 1917 was the culmination of two decades of agitation on the part of Western Australian politicians. 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.
Until the introduction of the Indian Pacific service in 1970, travel between west and east involved changing trains and railway gauges whenever crossing State borders. Yet for all its inconvenience, perhaps because of it, the railway remained an important symbol of national unity.