Australia’s Longest Straight Line?

On August 10, 2010 · 7 Comments

Lines continue to fascinate me, both imaginary and real. I found myself pondering the website of Australian Rail Maps, looking at their Outback and Top End page. I’d heard about a specific segment crossing the hauntingly desolate Nullarbor Plain and I intended to investigate it further. It’s here, between kilometre 797 west of Ooldea (South Australia) and kilometre 1,275 west of Loongana (Western Australia) that the track runs exactly straight without a single curve, jog or turn.

View Longest Straight Railroad Line – in a larger map

Reputedly this is the longest continuous stretch of absolutely straight railroad anywhere on earth. The segment runs an amazing 478 km (297 miles) dead straight through one of the emptiest quarters imaginable. It’s long enough to be visible when I zoom the map image far enough out to show the entire Australian continent.

The Indian Pacific, a passenger train operated by the Great Southern Railway, provides an opportunity for visitors to experience this segment in person. Service runs in both directions twice a week, with the total trans-Australian journey taking about three days coast-to-coast.

There is very little to see beyond the beauty of the Nullarbor itself although there are a couple of towns located along this straight-arrow path.

View Larger Map

The town of Forrest, named for John Forrest the first Premier of Western Australia, somehow clings to life upon the outback. It held a minor historical distinction as an air passenger stop on a route between Perth and Adelaide a couple of generations ago. That was back in the early 1930’s when airplanes couldn’t cover long distances without refueling. They had to bunny-hop their way across the continent in brief spurts. Airplanes would drop down to the strip at Forrest, refuel, and continue with their longer journey. People could overnight there in a local hotel if they desired. Life was fine.

It doesn’t seem like there’s much there today judging by the satellite image, other than a few buildings and the airport itself.

View Larger Map

The town of Cook seems a lot larger, but looks can be deceiving. The town existed solely to support the railroad. It lost its primary purpose in 1997 when private owners took control of the railroad and decided they no longer needed Cook. The Indian Pacific still stops here — the only scheduled passenger stop along the Nullarbor route — providing a chance for people to stretch their legs while the locomotive refuels.

However only a few residents remain and it will likely become a ghost town soon. Many of the buildings seen in this image have been abandoned, left behind to slowly crumble into the harsh terrain.

Is this the longest completely straight line in Australia? Is it the longest straight line in the world? I don’t know but I haven’t been able to find any longer. I uncovered some vehicular roads that claim to have great lengths but nothing on the order of this railway. I suppose that’s because highway engineers put a few curves and wiggles in the roadbed on purpose to keep drivers from falling asleep. That’s much less of an issue with a train.

I’m certain that the very knowledgeable readers of the Twelve Mile Circle will rise to the challenge and mention any longer lines in a comment if they are aware of any. Remember, I’m talking about an actual contiguous line etched upon the terrain such as a road or a pipeline. it should be visible in satellite imagery, not something like a national border that has been surveyed and designated with boundary markers.


On August 10, 2010 · 7 Comments

7 Responses to “Australia’s Longest Straight Line?”

  1. Thias says:

    Nice post, I really liked the town ‘Forrest’. I just love abandoned cities, roads, railtracks, etc…

    Would you know what’s the longest straight road line in the US? It’s probably in the west somewhere, but where exactly?

  2. Owen Dyson says:

    I know the posts to this page are now almost old enough to be growing mould but I was interested to read the posts and your web page. Yes, the railway is gun barrel straight for a long way.

    Little did you realise you can also find what is reported to be (but I’m not saying definitely is) the longest straight stretch of road and it is not too far from the railway. It is in Western Australia, it forms part of the Eyre Highway and it is 90 miles, or 144 kilometres without a bend. It is two lanes of bitumen road and, yes it can be seen on Google Earth. It runs from a bit east of Balladonia (‘Balla don e u’ where ‘don’ is pronounced like ‘down’ without the ‘w’ and ‘ia’ is pronounced like the ‘u’ in up) to a little west of Caiguna (ki goo nu – again the ‘u’ is pronounced like the ‘u’ in up and you need to put the ‘n’ sound and the ‘u’ sound together). I live in Perth Western Australia and have driven it several times and, quite frankly, didn’t realise I had done so on any of the occasions :-). The entire Eyre Highway is so flat and straight (all 1670 something Km of it depending on who you ask and where you start and end it) you don’t realise you’ve actually driven the ‘straight’ bit until you get several hundred kilometres to the east of the Western Australia / South Australian border and you start making some turns. The scenery is quite magnificent in its complete lack of features. The Nullarbor Plain is flat like a billiard table top and treeless – Nullarbor means treeless. I kid you not. The tallest shrub might be 2 metres tall if you are lucky. Certainly nowhere to stop, hide and have a pee 🙂

    • Owen Dyson says:

      PS – In fact if you look at either of your Google maps above, look south west of Forest and much closer to the coast you’ll see both towns I mentioned and the road between them. You might need to increase the magnification a bit.


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