Tracking down Semaphore's miniature railway history

Historical research


miniature railway,

The National Railway Museum is searching for stories, photos and any other information about a miniature railway that used to run at Semaphore; we believe the railway was in operation during the 1940s and 1950s.

From what we have been told, and can see in the three photographs we have located, the train used to run along the foreshore and then did a loop over the water on a track that ran adjacent to the Semaphore Jetty. The train was owned by George Richmond, who also owned the Gee Whiz amusement ride at the time.

In the early days of the train ride passengers rode aboard carousel horses attached to the carriages. Mr P. Davidson has told us of his memories of the ride in the 1950s, here is an excerpt;

“I remember during the 50's riding this little train during the summer months. Although, during my era, the horses had been replaced by bench seats, where we would sit and dangle our legs over the side onto a platform, which would clear the sand by a couple of inches! It was possible to actually touch the sand with your toes.

The engine shed where the train was stored seconded as a tunnel having of course entrances/exits at both ends. We talk of aromatherapy, and even now whilst writing I can still smell the greasy aroma from that shed and the salty smell of sea-grass.”

Reportedly the train track was destroyed during a large storm that occurred in 1954, after that the ride was discontinued. On the 21st of December 1992 a new miniature train ride was established between Semaphore and Fort Glanville by the Port Dock Station Railway Museum, which later became the National Railway Museum.

If anyone has any additional photos, information or stories they would like to share about the train that ran at Semaphore during the 1940s and 50s please contact NRM curator, Moana Colmer, at




Thanks for the blog post! What an interesting piece of history.
The Mile End railway museum did not ever have a train ride at Semaphore and the Museum itself was only started in 1963. The current train ride at Semaphore was started just after the the then MERM was moved to Port Adelaide in 1988. I just forget the exact date though. Before that time the only little train ride at Semaphore that I know of and actually went on was one near the old Dodgem car pavillion that was there with the anusements. It was only a kids ride and consisted of a simple loop of track set out on the grass there. It was a permanent of sort fixture but it could be moved if required. I was a member of the MERM at Mile End and also a member of the Port Dock Station Railway Museum which I still am a member of only they changed the name to The National Railway museum a few years back.
Hi David, I've updated the dates. The Mile End Railway Museum (which became the Port Dock Station Railway Museum in 1988 and later the National Railway Museum in 2001) began in 1963, this year is the Museum's 50th anniversary. The Semaphore rides began in 1992 and last weekend we celebrated the 21st anniversary of the Semaphore to Fort Glanville railway. Thanks, Moana
Thanks Amanda, yes it's really interesting and we hope to create an exhibit about the train at the Museum with the next 6 months. We'd love to hear a few more stories from those who remember it! 

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