Small historic railway town which calls itself 'The Capital of the Flinders'
Quorn is an historic town in the Flinders Ranges which came into existence as an important railhead. Its location in the Flinders Ranges and its old style charm has seen Quorn chosen as the setting for historic scenes in movies as diverse as Wolf Creek, Gallipoli, The Shiralee, The Sundowners, The Lighthorsemen, Sunday Too Far Away, The Last Ride and Robbery Under Arms. It is a charming, historic town worth exploring and the surrounding area tells the harsh story of trying to farm successfully on very marginal land on the edge of the desert.
Quorn is located 335 km north of Adelaide and 40 km north-east from Port Augusta. It lies 293 metres above sea level at the southern end of the main Flinders Ranges.^ TOP
Origin of Name
The town came into existence in 1875 and was named after Quorndon in Leicestershire. The name was given to it by Governor Jervois whose private secretary came from near Quorndon.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
Quorn Historic Buildings Walk
There is a pleasant and informative Quorn Heritage Walk (see https://www.walkingsa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Quorn-Heritage-Walk-brochure-updated-2019-printable.pdf for a downloadable brochure) which includes 30 buildings most of which are on either Railway Terrace or First Street. Many of the buildings date from the late 19th and early 20th century when the town was an important railway centre. Of particular interest are:
1. Railway Station
The station was built by F. Fricker of Queenstown for £2,862. Work commenced on 29 July 1914 and the station was operating by late 1915. The white sandstone walls came from A.C. Williams’ quarry and the bricks were made at Harradine's Clay Pit and Brick Kiln. The building is characterised by a bull-nosed iron roofed veranda with cast iron decoration. By 1956 Quorn was closed as a railway depot but in the 1970s the Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society was created and the historic line was officially re-opened the line on 20 July 1974. The railway station now houses the Flinders Ranges Visitor Information Centre.
2. Court House
Nestled beside the Town Hall at 19 Railway Terrace is a small sandstone building, the Court House was erected in 1879 at a cost of £587. When it closed the building was leased to the Quorn Local History Group.
3. Town Hall
Located on the corner of Railway Terrace and Seventh Street, the Town Hall is on the Register of the National Estate which notes: "The Town Hall is significant as evidence of the growth of Quorn railway township in the north of South Australia. Its position opposite the railway station reflecting the importance of the line to the township's existence. Built in 1891, it stands on the site originally granted for the purposes of providing an institute and was a major project for the corporation formed in 1882 ... Tall rectangular hall with lower office extension at the rear, coursed rubble walls with ornate rendered details, main facade is most ornate with quoins, pediments, bands and human brackets. Simple roof forms, additions are sympathetic. Coursed rubble stone walls with rendered quoins and decorations, projecting stone plinth, corrugated iron hip and gabled roofs."
4. Post Office
Located opposite the Railway Station on Railway Terrace, the town's first Post Office was built in 1878 and a new Post Office and Telegraph office was added in 1881. It was remodelled in 1923 but the telephone exchange remained as a manual operation until 1983.
5. Police Station
Located next door to the Post Office is the Police Station. There was a police officer in the town as early as 1879 but the Police Station was not built until 1881. It cost £899.
6. Grand Junction Hotel
Located at 23 Railway Terrace and now known as the Quorn Hotel, the Grand Junction Hotel was built in 1890. It was built from local stone and was an impressive two storey building which contained both a card room and a billiard room. It was patronised by Governor Sir William Robinson in 1883 when he attended the local races.
8. Catholic Church
Located on the corner of Railway Terrace and East Terrace, the Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception Church, built in a Gothic style, was completed and consecrated in 1883.
9. R.W. Foster - The Great Northern Emporium
Located on the corner of Seventh Street and First Street, this historic store was built in 1878. Step inside and admire many of the original features and fittings.
14. Savings Bank of South Australia
Located at 37 First Street, and looking more like a private home than a bank, this two storey property with a cellar was built by a Government contractor as a saddlery in the early 1890's. It was later converted into a shop and private residence. The Bank purchased the building in 1909. The interior of the bank was panelled with polished cedar and the counter was edged in brass. An iron foot rail was mounted on the customer side of the counter. Gas was used to light the premises.
15. - 16. Carina Turner Studio and Quandong Cafe
This simple run of shops on First Street date from around 1883 with the Carina Turner Studio originally operating as an ironmongery and carpentary business and the Quandong Cafe (reputedly the oldest building in the town) being used by the CWA to feed soldiers during World War II.
18. Corner Shop on First Street
One of the most unusual buildings in town this beautiful veranda-ed bakery was built in 1879. It continued to be used as a bakery until 1957. It is a wonderful comment on the harshness of the summers in the district with its wide bull-nose veranda set back from the street.
22. The Mill
Located at 2 Railway Terrace this important building was constructed for John Dunn in 1879. Dunn was one of the most successful millers in the district and took advantage of the good years in the late 1870s when the wheat crops were substantial. Unfortunately a couple of years after it was built the district experienced a period of sustained drought which drove many of the wheat farmers off the land. It now has a motel as part of the total structure.
23. ES&A Bank
Located on the corner of Railway Street and Fourth Street, the ES&A Bank was built in 188. It only lasted a short time and closed in 1892 when the Bank of Adelaide took over and rented the premises.
25. National Australia Bank
Located on the corner of Railway Street and Fifth Street, the National Australia Bank opened in 1878. When it closed it was converted into an art gallery.
26. Masonic Lodge
This very simple building in Railway Street has an unusual history. It was originally the home of Quorn High School until it became too small. When the new school was erected the building was offered for sale and the Quorn Masonic Lodge (est. 1910) purchased if for the sum of £395.
27. Transcontinental Hotel
Located at 14-15 Railway Street, the Transcontinental Hotel was erected in 1878 by Mr Greenslade. It was the first two storey hotel in Quorn and was said to have the largest and best ventilated billiard room in the north. The balcony along the Sixth Street side of the building was added in 1920.
28. Austral Hotel
Located at 16 Railway Terrace, the Austral Hotel was originally only one storey and was called The Pinkerton when it was erected in 1878. The walls are of pecked sandstone. In 1922 a second storey was added and the name changed to The Austral.
Quorn Silo Light Show
In recent times wheatbelt towns with silos have been eager to turn these huge concrete structures into works of art. As a result literally dozens of towns have employed very gifted artists to paint huge murals on the silos - a compelling tourist attraction. At Quorn they have attempted something very original and very different: every night (around 6.30 pm in the autumn, winter and spring months and around 8.45 pm during daylight saving) the Quorn Silo Light Show projects images onto the silos. This is an experience that people can return to because there are different presentations on different nights. They tell stories about the local First Nation people, about the vital link that was the local railway and employ animation, photographs and paintings. The show can last for up to three hours. It is free and is best seen from the Railway Precinct. There is an excellent and detailed website - see https://quornsilolightshow.info - which provides times and lots of information and tips.
Pichi Richi Railway
The Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society Inc. has, since its formation in 1973, been dedicated to the preservation, restoration and operation of the Pichi Richi Railway, the first leg of the old Central Australian Railway to Alice Springs - the old Ghan route. The society has built up a collection of historic narrow gauge rolling stock of the old South Australian and Commonwealth Railways. These are restored and operated on a voluntary basis. The steam train service lasts 2.5 hours and travels from Quorn (it departs at 10.30 am) to Woolshed Flat. It returns by 1.00 pm. For more details and the timetables check out https://www.pichirichirailway.org.au/train-services/pichi-richi-explorer.
Other Attractions in the Area
Walking Trails in the District
There are a number of challenging bushwalking trails in the district.
(a) Heysen Trail - Mount Brown Conservation Park
The Heysen Trail which runs from Cape Jervis to Blinman in the Flinders Ranges, passes through Mount Brown Conservation Park which is located 18 km south of the town. The main walk in the Conservation Area is the Mount Brown Summit Hike, a 14.9 km circuit which takes between 4-7 hours. There are specific details and information at https://www.walkingsa.org.au/walk/find-a-place-to-walk/mount-brown-summit-hike/. There is more detailed information on the Conservation Park at https://www.parks.sa.gov.au/find-a-park/Browse_by_region/flinders-ranges-outback/mount-brown-conservation-park.
(b) Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park
The Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park lies 12.7 km north-west of Quorn. The Dutchmans Stern Hike is a 10.6 km circuit which takes around 5 hours through steep terrain. For more detailed information check out https://www.walkingsa.org.au/walk/find-a-place-to-walk/dutchmans-stern-hike.
(c) Devil's Peak
Devil's Peak is located 11 km south of the town. The Devil's Peak Walking Trail is 2.4 km return. It takes between 90 minutes and three hours, is across steep terrain and offers impressive views over the southern Flinders Ranges. For more detailed information check out https://www.walkingsa.org.au/walk/find-a-place-to-walk/devils-peak-walking-trail.
Cradock is located 74 km north-east of Quorn. Like many of the tiny settlements in the area, it prospered briefly when the rains were good and collapsed during a period of extended drought. It is now little more than a memory and a particularly delightful sandstone church, St Gabriel's Catholic Church, which was designed by Thomas Burgoyne, built in 1882, and opened in 1883. It is now included on the South Australian Heritage Register. There is an excellent and detailed history of the town at https://www.southaustralianhistory.com.au/cradock.htm.
Yourambulla Caves Historic Reserve
Yourambulla Caves Historic Reserve is located 57 km north of Quorn on the Flinders Ranges Way. Sadly it is currently closed. The caves are an important Aboriginal art site. There is a walking trail that leads to the stairs below the cave. The cave contains many paintings, all of which are in excellent condition. There is also an interpretative sign showing the meaning of the painted symbols used. The art portrays "the Dreaming" in which artists record the exploits of their ancestors, outlining rituals and explaining the creation of land formations, animals and plants. The view out across the plain from the caves, which lie below Yourambulla Peak, is impressive. The colours of the cave paintings echo the colours of the dry, brown landscape which lies below.
Kanyaka Station Ruins
Located 42 km north of Quorn on the Flinders Ranges Way, the Kanyaka Station Ruins date from 1851 when Kanyaka Station was a huge property (984 square kilometres) on the limits of the desert where the first owner, Hugh Proby, established a cattle run. Dramatically Proby, who was the third son of the Earl of Carysfort in Ireland, was drowned while attempting to cross the Willochra Creek.
His family shipped a granite slab out from Ireland with the inscription:
"SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF HUGH PROBY, THIRD SON OF THE EARL OF CAREYSFORT; WHO WAS DROWNED WHILE CROSSING THE WILLOCHRA CREEK, AUGUST 30th 1852. AGED 24 YEARS."
Kanyaka Station was sold to Alexander Grant who, with his partner, John Randall Phillips Jr, changed from cattle to sheep and built a sixteen-room homestead, overseer's cottage, stables, men's kitchen, sheds, huts, a massive woolshed, carpenter and blacksmith sheds and nearly forty kilometres of dry-stone wall fencing.
Kanyaka attempted to be self sufficient and independent. Supplies such as sugar, tea, flour, tobacco, boots, gunpowder, clothes and other items were bought in bulk as transport was slow, expensive and often unreliable. The station had its own cows to provide milk, butter and cheese, pigs for bacon and a vegetable garden. It became one of the largest properties in the district and grew to support a station population of nearly 70 families but the inevitable droughts (it was the drought which lasted from 1864-1867 which destroyed the economic viability of the property) drove the people away so that all that is left today are the ruins of the buildings. The buildings include remnants of a stable and harness room, a woolshed and an overseer's cottage. Detailed information about the ruins and their history is provided on a number of excellent information plaques which include photographs of the buildings before they became ruins. There is also a very detailed history of the property at https://www.southaustralianhistory.com.au/kanyaka.htm.
* Prior to European settlement the region was home to the First Nation people, the Nukunu, whose traditional lands range from near Crystal Brook to north of Quorn.
* The first European settlers arrived in the 1850s.
* The town was surveyed in 1878 and named after Quorndon in Leicestershire. That year the government sold plots of land in the area.
* On 18 January, 1878 Governor William Jervois officially launched the Great Northern Railway at Quorn.
* By 1879 it had become an important stopping point on the Great Northern Railway line when the narrow gauge railway reached Quorn from Port Augusta.
* In 1880 the Quorn-Hawker railway line was opened.
* In 1883 a new Court House was completed at the cost of £587.
* Quorn's second railway station (the current one) was opened in 1915. It cost £5,724 to construct.
* In 1917 Quorn became hugely important as the point where the north-south and east-west railway lines crossed.
* From 1917-1937 Quorn was an important stop on the Trans-Continental Railway.
* In 1923 the term "The Ghan" was first used for the railway at Quorn.
* Electricity was installed in the Court House in 1925.
* By 1929 the railway which passed through Quorn had reached Alice Springs.
* In 1937 the rail from Port Pirie to Port Augusta was opened and Quorn was bypassed.
* Through World War II when over 400 people in the town were working for the railways. During this time over 1,000,000 troops passed through the town and it has been estimated that the local branch of the Country Womens Association provided over 1 million meals to the servicemen.
* The standardisation of gauges, and the establishment of the standard gauge railway to Marree in 1956, saw the town's importance decline. The last passenger train through Quorn that year.
* In 1973 the Pichi Richi Railway Preservation Society was formed.
* By the 1980s the railway through the town had been closed.
* The Nukunu First Nation people maintain ongoing connection to the country and in 2019 they had their native title claim recognised and formalised in the Federal Court.^ TOP
Flinders Ranges Visitor Information Centre, 19 Railway Terrace, tel: (08) 8620 0510. Open 9.00 am - 5.00 pm Monday to Friday and 10.00 am - 3.00 pm weekends.^ TOP
There is no dedicated Quorn website. However http://www.frc.sa.gov.au/tourism does provide useful information on the town.^ TOP