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 – twelvemilecircle.com 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.
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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.
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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.
Nullarbor Links, the "World’s Longest Golf Course" officially commenced operations with an inaugural tournament and an opening tee off on October 22. It will run through October 27, 2009, with a closing dinner in Kalgoorlie. Western Australia. What makes this the longest? Its eighteen holes are strung along a 1,365 kilometres (848 miles) route through some of the most amazingly empty terrain on the Australian continent.
Sure, the superlative is a bit of a gimmick but it does grab one’s attention. The holes themselves are of normal length, but the distance between each hole is tremendous. Walking obviously isn’t an option and neither are golf carts. Players need to bring an automobile or truck and drive to the next hole because it might be another 100 kilometres away. Playing at a leisurely pace seems to take about five to seven days according to the reports of early reviewers although theoretically it could probably be completed in two or three days with some determination.
Ordinarily most travelers would speed right through the Nullarbor Plain along the Eyre Highway on the way to somewhere else. Thus the project is envisioned as a way to attract tourists to a very remote corner of Australia and have them stay for awhile. Sponsors hope that some of them might now take their time, enjoy the scenery, stop at some of the widely-scattered towns and roadhouses, learn a little about the area and leave a few dollars behind to create jobs and help support the local economy. About 600 players have already completed the course since its soft opening in August 2009. Imagine the impact wealthy visitors could have on so many of the very small towns that sponsor holes along the course now that its officially opened and gaining some attention.
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Nullarbor Links is also touting itself as a destination unto itself. Golfers are known to take holidays specifically in pursuit of their sport and they are not bashful about using their disposable income to support their habit. Interest has been generated from prospective visitors in Europe, Asia and North America who want to the distinction of completing the world’s longest course. These are people who probably never would have traveled through the area otherwise. Sponsors are attempting to draw these visitors into the vast interior by describing it as the "Real Australia" and a place to go once one has seen the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. This is explained in more detail in a video interview on the BBC website.
The holes themselves are arranged to provide ecological, cultural and historical perspectives. Stretching from Ceduna to Kalgoorlie, they offer the full gamut of Nullarbor experiences. Nullarbor Links covers such a wide expanse that it crosses into three time zones. Well, two time zones officially plus the unusual but locally-recognized Australian Central Western Standard Time” (ACWST). I posted an article on ACWST previously because it is rather odd. It is based not on the hour or the half-hour, but on the quarter hour (UTC+8:45). In fact that’s how I found out about Nullarbor Links a couple of days ago. I kept getting Google hits on the site looking for information on the Australian golf course that extended into three time zones and apparently my page kept popping up as a positive hit.
Here are the holes:
- Hole 1: Oyster Beds – At Ceduna Golf Club
- Hole 2: Denial Bay – At Ceduna Golf Club
- Hole 3: Windmills – At Penong Golf Course
- Hole 4: Wombat Hole – At Nundroo
- Hole 5: Dingo’s Den – At Nullarbor Motel
- Hole 6: Border Kangaroo – At Border Village
- Hole 7: Nullarbor Nymph – At Eucla Golf Club
- Hole 8: Watering Hole – At Mundrabilla Motel
- Hole 9: Brumby’s Run – At Madura Pass Motel
- Hole 10: Eagles Nest – At Cocklebiddy Motel
- Hole 11: 90 Mile Straight – At Caiguna Motel
- Hole 12: Skylab – At Balladonia Motel
- Hole 13: Sheep’s Back – At Fraser Range
- Hole 14: Golden Horse – At Norseman Golf Club
- Hole 15: Ngadju – At Norseman Golf Club
- Hole 16: Silver Lake – At Kambalda Golf Club
- Hole 17: Golden Mile – At Kalgoorlie Golf Club
- Hole 18: CY O’Connor – At Kalgoorlie Golf Club
Some of the holes on either end seem to be collocated with existing golf course. Those in the middle, however appear to be standalone holes maintained specifically for the purpose of the Nullarbor Links project.
Hole 6 at Border Village is located within ACWST. This has the distinction of being the only spot in South Australia that follows the weird little unofficial time zone. The remaining ACWST locations are all in Western Australia. Hole 11, known as 90 Mile Straight, recognizes one of the most famous stretches of the Eyre Highway. This is a ribbon of tarmac that runs, literally, 90 miles in a straight line without a single curve. Many other of the holes also have interesting stories and those can be viewed using the links provided above.
It’s quite an interesting concept for the promotion of tourism, and shows once again that geo-oddities can have popular mass appeal when packaged properly.