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Recollections of Semaphore and the Train

When Andrew Heslop: Social Entrepreneur, Commentator & Community Advocate shared a photo and some recollections of growing up in Semaphore in the 70s on the ARW Facebook website late last year, it brought back some wonderful memories for many people. Andrew wrote; “My grandparents lived at Semaphore and I mostly grew up with them, listening to 5DN 972 on the kitchen wireless. At 15 my first job was at 5DN working on Saturday afternoon. Here’s a shot of Semaphore Road with a double track railway. SAR country trains would bring people direct to Semaphore for holidays at the hotels, holiday lets and boarding houses which once defined the suburb. The railway line closed in 1978”.

Photo supplied by Andrew Heslop. The old Red Hen at Semaphore

Photo supplied by Andrew Heslop. The old Red Hen at Semaphore

The line was originally opened in 1882 and branched off at Glanville Station and ran along the centre of Semaphore Road, until it terminated right next to the Esplanade. Semaphore station was located east of Esplanade Road. The Exeter station was located to the east side of where Swan Terrace and Woolnough Road intersect. The original stations have been demolished and practically no evidence of the stations remains. The original rail track was also dismantled,

One of those who commented was Channel 7 newsreader and TV personality Graeme Goodings who wrote; “It never ceases to amaze me that pictures of Adelaide in the 20’s, through to the early 70’s show a city that appears far more progressive and exciting that it does today.

Others had fond memories of both the train and Semaphore itself. Noeline Overall too grew up in Largs and Semaphore and caught the train from Glanville to Semaphore beach and the shops; “It was an icon on Semaphore Road, sadly missed! And, yes the conductor with the hand bell!! Many Adelaide things like this are removed for the worse. We have gone backwards at times as a city”.

Christine Rundle also remembers the “great fun we had in Semaphore and spending lots of summers at my grandparent’s home in Newman Street. I often drive down that street now, past their old 2 storey home and often think I’d love to be able to see inside the old place again, sure there’d be a few changes but I’m also hopeful the old walls might remember me”.

Of course we recently featured a story on the Red Hen trains here on the ARW website and Edward Burgess commented on how he made lots of trips to Semaphore on the Red Hen train. “It was a massive mistake to remove this wonderful service. I was down there the day it closed, protesting, but to no avail. The conductor with the handbell on the old brill trains was an unusual sight”.

Lisa Adelaide explained how each year her family came down to Semaphore from the Adelaide Hills for summer holidays. “We stayed in a flat attached to an old house in Hart Street. I loved walking to the fun fair. I also remember concerts at night in the sound shell. They are such happy memories.”

Just finally, Patsy Kelly Quinn summed up the feelings many people have for the beach side suburb when she commented; “Semaphore, the place where everyone knows each other and you will always catch up for a chat with a friendly local. We have been here since 1962 and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else on earth. My sister and I caught that train every day for years into the city for work.”

13 Responses to Recollections of Semaphore and the Train

  1. Peter Michalak October 13, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

    A little known fact – I recently spent several months researching the redhen railcars for a presentation at the Modelling the Railways of South Australia Convention, and in doing so found that the redhens were fitted with air operated bells under their driving compartment, specifically for working over the Semaphore to Glanville section – i guess in order to save the poor guards arm!

    • Adrian July 11, 2019 at 11:02 pm #

      My Grandfather was the Station Master at Semaphore Station – and one of the highlights was going with him to his work

      My Grandparents lived on Military Road, Semaphore opposite a hospital (on the beach side)

  2. Ian Barton October 14, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    I remember when the auto bell was introduced. Prior to that the guard stood at the front door ringing a large cowbell alerting everybody that a train was approaching. Apparently the public was too deaf to hear the red hen’s engine or too blind to see it approaching. It would appear the public had no trouble spotting buses or cars moving down Semaphore Road as they were not required to have a cowbell. I suspect somebody got a special payment for suggesting “Maybe a cowbell will do the trick”!!!

  3. Stephen B October 14, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

    I worked at the SAR then AN and STA on red hens. A sad day when the bells got disconnected and removed. But thus is an interesting shot as it is a very early one of a Red Hen, when the roofs were silver, a disaster with diesel fumes and also the radiators are not mounted on the roof. They were originally down low near the engines, but overheated in summer whe sitting in a station just like the photo, so they got moved to the roof. As did the next batch had the Rolls Royce engines changed to Detroit

  4. David Sarkies January 30, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

    While the railway line was dismantled when I was really young, I still remember the convenience of being able to get to Semaphore by train. These days you either have to drive, or walk from Glanville station. I can understand why the removed it – you can’t really have a train running down the middle of a main road.

  5. Cliff Olds February 8, 2016 at 3:15 pm #

    Loved the photo. I was a kid when the steam locos operated there. The line was not double tracked to Glanville, the second track was a runaround. The old overhead water tank can be discerned on the extreme left of the photo. The F class steam tank locos topped up their water supply from it before running down the adjacent track to attach to the other end of their train. In later years two 55 model Brill railcars coupled back to back ran a shuttle service between Semaphore and Glanville, the leading car hauling the trailing car in each direction as there was no multiple unit capability in those old cars. After that, the Red Hens reigned supreme until closure on 28th October 1978.

  6. Alex July 15, 2016 at 3:43 pm #

    In the early 60s, our family would walk from South Road Hindmarsh to catch the train at Croydon station to Semaphore beach. Dad and mum were loaded up with tent, and food for the day, and after a whole day at the beach, we’d get home after dark.

  7. wendy takos August 12, 2016 at 12:56 pm #

    I would like to contact Andrew Heslop in regards to the photo of the old Red Hen at Semaphore. Is this possible?
    I am an historian seeking memories and enjoyed those published on this site.

  8. Wayne Sanders September 19, 2016 at 9:37 pm #

    The picture of the Red Hen on the siding brings back memories when every so often people would leave the Semaphore or Federal hotels a bit shickered and forgot about that rail way siding, Backing their cars clean over the edge. It always provided some entertainment watching them trying to remove the cars before the next train come.

  9. Pam January 8, 2017 at 1:33 pm #

    I remember getting the train from Glanville to Semaphore as a kid. On a hot day after school mum would take us to sit on the lawns at Semaphore. When dad finished work he would bring down fish and chips for our tea and we would watch the amateur acts in the rotunda near that large beach pavilion (which I believe later became a restaurant). Also remember burning my feet on the hot ground while looking at the stalls and merry-go-round. And the little train that ran among the sand hills… and sitting on the cannon in front of the clock with the angel on top… and the beach biscuits from the shop on the jetty.

  10. Allan July 16, 2019 at 12:02 pm #

    In the late sixties I was the organist at Semaphore Methodist Church, opposite the Exeter railway station. On several occasions, during church services, I would time the road-testing of a new piece with the arrival of the train at the station, using the sound of the train’s bell and Diesel engine to mask my fumbles on the keyboard.

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