History of the Loopline

In the last few years of the 19th Century, Kalgoorlie was more important to the economy of Western Australia than Perth. In 1895, two years after Paddy Hannan discovered gold 5 km north of here at Kalgoorlie, the rail was laid from Perth to Kalgoorlie, and in 1897 continued to Boulder.

The Goldfields were very busy then, with more people arriving every day and this railway was their main transport to work. As many as 100 trains a day, consisting of steam locos pulling up to ten Gilbert carriages, ran through Boulder, carrying miners to their shifts.

Even up to 1916 there were more trains daily from Kalgoorlie to Boulder than from Perth to Fremantle. Freight, boilers, compressors and winder motors were shipped from England to Fremantle, and then railed here.

The main freight, however, was timber for underground mine supports, as well as firewood for the various steam engines and water condensers. A network of timber railways ran out into the bush, where three thousand men were housed in temporary camps, cutting ten thousand tonne of wood per week and sending it in on light rail to the Loopline.

In 1902 the line was continued from Kamballie to Trafalgar, Brown Hill, Hill End, and Hannan Street to complete the loop. This was known as the Outer Circle. This Station, called Boulder City, had five lines and an island platform.

There were overhead footbridges at each end of the platform and a pedestrian subway, which led onto Burt Street. A staff of twelve manned Boulder Station and there were eleven other Stations on the 18 kilometre run around the full loop.

At the northern end of this station is a wide subway crossing Burt Street, Boulder's main shopping area. From 1903 trams ran along Burt Street under this subway up to the Boulder Block, also known as the Dirty Acre, a rip-roaring area full of Hotels, shops and other service venues. The Boulder Block has since been removed to make way for open cut mining.

The Loopline was originally planned as an ore tramway, even before the line reached Kalgoorlie. In 1896 the line was extended to the suburb of Williamstown, before it was decided to make a diversion to Boulder and around to Kamballie to the southeast.

The mine managers were furious, maintaining that their crushings were sustaining the whole colony. The merchants and the people of Boulder felt that they deserved priority, as it was their labour that produced the gold.

The mines won, and in 1897 the line was laid as far as the southern end of Lakeview. This formed the Inner Circle railway between Hannan Street, Boulder City and Kamballie. The mines, much to their disappointment, had to put in their spurs and sidings at their own cost.

To the north of Boulder City Station lay the Golden Gate Station. This was the busiest Station in Australia in the early 1900s, being the distribution point for the mines in Boulder.

Two Stationmasters with porters, guards and office staff handled a train every ten minutes. There were brick Station buildings, four passenger lines, a subway, a large signal box and freight traffic marshalling yards for the extensive mining activity nearby.

With the arrival of the electric trams in 1903 this started the decline of the Loopline as the transport of choice for the Goldfields. Until 1916 more railway traffic ran daily from Kalgoorlie to Boulder than from Perth to Fremantle.

Although gold mining was a protected industry during the First World War, many men had left the Goldfields to fight in Europe and the mining and woodline activities slowed down. The Depression of 1930 was strongly felt in the Goldfields and the Hannan Street  Kamballie Loop was abandoned in the same year.

This closed the following stations: Williamstown, Croesus, Brown Hill, Hill End, Trafalgar and Kamballie. The railway was reduced to mostly carrying cargo, transporting woodline products and general goods to and from mines and towns.

In 1955 Boulder City and Trafalgar were closed as staff and ticket stations. Goods trains operated to Kamballie and in the seventies only one oil train ran daily. For a time a railcar called the “Tin Hare” travelled between Boulder and Kalgoorlie stopping at all the railway sidings and rail crossings, but when Westrail closed all non-standard lines east of Merredin, the railway was handed over to the mines.