Australia’s Trans-Australian Railway was a vital piece of national infrastructure that officially opened on 22 October 1917. The promise of its construction had been made prior to Federation of the Australian colonies in 1901 to encourage a reluctant Western Australia to join the proposed Commonwealth.
Crossing 1,600 kilometres of the Nullabor Plain, Australia’s driest and most isolated terrain, the line connected the gold mining town of Kalgoorlie in the west with Port Augusta in South Australia, becoming a vital component in the trans-continental route between Perth, the Western Australian capital, and the bulk of the new nation’s population in the eastern states.
Used during the construction phase, Commonwealth Railways G class locomotives hauled trains for the first two decades of Trans-Australian Railway operations. At the time of the photograph featured on this centenary postal and numismatic cover, they’d been replaced by C class locos which were capable of meeting demand for increased loads. Like its contemporaries, engine C 66 was constructed at the Queensland engineering company Walkers Limited, which had built its first locomotive in 1873.
Incorporating an Australian commemorative coin struck by The Perth Mint, the Australia Post issue also features stamps portraying travel posters from 1930 and 1960. Extolling the romance of rail travel during the age of steam, the first stamp includes an image of a camel. Ideally suited to Australia’s arid conditions, these animals were imported during the 19th century from India and Afghanistan to aid outback exploration, transport and construction. The second stamp, entitled ‘To the West’, depicts a GM class diesel locomotive constructed by Sydney-based Clyde Engineering, first seen on the Trans-Australian Railway in 1951.
Just 7,500 of these stamp and coin covers will be released, each featuring a Kalgoorlie first day of issue postmark dated 4 July 2017.