Barrier Highway

Todays Barrier Highway makes short work of what the early miners and railway engineers had to contend with a plain of dry, barren, flood-prone country flanked with low ranges. It was quite literally a barrier they had to overcome.

But dont be in a hurry to cross it.

The highway follows the remains of the narrow gauge rail line that opened in 1888 (look for the low embankment close to the bitumen as well as numerous low bridges to thwart flash floods). Freighting ore to Port Pirie by steam train required huge amounts of logistical, material and human support and inevitably, small agricultural outposts like Yunta, Oodla Wirra, Manna Hill, Olary and Cockburn grew into substantial railway townships.

Some are a shadow of their former selves but all contribute to the story and all are worth exploring. Look for the beautiful steel water tanks (some with period advertising), and the occasional railway station sporting gorgeous late Victorian design. A few pubs continue to serve great places to unearth a story or two and enjoy some outback hospitality.

You might see emus, hawks and kangaroos on the drive across these haunting plains, but keep an eye out also for the Indian Pacific making its transcontinental odyssey between Perth and Sydney. Its another contemporary achievement made possible by the engineers of the little train line.

Explore Barrier Highway:

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Heritage Rail Trail Directory: