An exhibition providing a “glimpse into the history of the Gawler to Angaston Railway” has opened in the LEO Gallery in Gawler.

The exhibition has photographs, objects and artefacts loaned and donated by the community and community organisations to commemorate the 110thanniversary of the opening of the Gawler-Angaston train line.

The gallery is sponsored by Member of Parliament, Mr Tony Piccolo and is located at148 Murray Street Gawler.

Speaking in State Parliament during the week and at the official opening of the exhibition, Mr Piccolo said the building of the railway wasn’t without controversy.

“In 1874 a Royal Commission recommend the building of a railway line into the Barossa Valley, yet by the1880s still no action had been undertaken,” said Mr Piccolo.

“In 1889, the Hon. James Martin MLC, a resident of Gawler, moved a motion in State Parliament to get things moving in line with the recommendations of the 1874 Royal Commission, but it was not until 1897 that the first Angaston Railway Bill was introduced, which gave the opportunity for the Commissioner of Public Works to start gathering firm estimates for the construction of the line.”

The final Angaston Railway Bill was then passed at the end of 1909 to include the Angaston extension. Construction of earthworks began in September 1909 by the contractor Smith and Timms Co., which had won the contract to build the line.

Mr Piccolo said petitions both supporting and opposing the construction of the railway were lodged in State Parliament.

“Over the years the line enabled the transport of various goods including potatoes, and other produce grown in the Barossa Valley,” said Mr Piccolo.

“Very quickly after the official opening of the rail line, local businesses, clubs and organisations, plus the public, began to place more demand on the railway. Picnic trains were being organised, as were tourist trains by local wineries and children's parties and school outings.”

“During World War 2 soldiers were transported on the line because a military camp had been established at Sandy Creek.”

“The aim of the exhibition is to bring to life the history of the line, and the people involved with it, to a new generation who may not be familiar with its history.”

“The exhibition also pays homage to all the workers who used picks and shovels to construct the track.”

The exhibition was formally opened by Mr Robert Sampson, the Executive Officer at the National Railway Museum.

Mr Sampson briefly outlined the history of the line and the important role it has played in the economic and social wellbeing of the Barossa community.

Mr Sampson stressed the need to maintain the rail corridor as he believes there are many opportunities to build a viable train service based on tourism.

The exhibition is open to the general public until Friday 1 October 2021 during normal office hours.