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Penfield Rail Trail - Trail Description



Penfield Rail Trail

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Type: Rail-side trail
Location: Adelaide Northern Suburbs – between Salisbury and Edinburgh North
Start/end: Salisbury to Edinburgh North
Status: Open
Length open: 7.4km
Surface: Sealed
Terrain: Flat
Best seasons: All seasons
Public transport: Train
Contact Region: South Australia
Penfield Line Junction (2020)
Penfield Line Junction (2020)
Suitable for walking Suitable for cycling touring hybrid bikes



  • This shared use trail (walking and cycling) is located in the northern suburbs of Adelaide and links Salisbury Railway Station with the northern industrial and Defence precincts via the railway corridor where possible and by adjacent paths and roads where the railway corridor is not accessible.
  • Although much of the Penfield Trail is not strictly a rail trail, it gives cyclists and tourists the opportunity to view the remains of a once busy and important railway line. Some of the railway corridor is still within Defence land and is not accessible. Care must be taken on the short on road sections and at all road crossings.
  • Penfield Model Engineers Society which has extensive landscaped grounds and railway networks is at the eastern end of Woomera Ave (1.5km from West Ave).
  • The entire area on both sides of West Ave was once all part of the munitions manufacturing industry with numerous factories serviced by a number of spur lines. Now much of the southern part has been repurposed for general industry. Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) occupies a large portion of land to the north of Purling Rd and East of West Ave. RAAF Edinburgh, which also includes a large Army component, occupies a large portion of the land West of West Ave and north of Sturton Rd. Both DSTO and RAAF Edinburgh are closed to the general public.
  • From the northern end cyclists can head east to return to the Gawler railway line at Elizabeth or head north-west to access the Stuart O'Grady Cycleway to Gawler.
  • There are no public facilities, shops or cafes along this trail.
  • The Penfield Rail Trail is of varying width and quality but walkers and cyclists can pass safely in all areas.
  • There is no signage relating to this trail which must be self-navigated.


The Adelaide to Gawler railway line will close for seven months to facilitate major works for the Gawler Rail Electrification Project. Extra express bus services will be added for commuters from Gawler to the city and back but bicycles cannot be carried on Adelaide Metro buses. The total line closure will run from 25 April to the end of November 2021.

Salisbury to Penfield 1 (3.2km)

  • This section features a smooth hot mix surface with some paved sections.
  • From Salisbury Railway Station, find the cycle path along the western side of the station. Head north, cross the Salisbury Highway on the pedestrian bridge and continue northward. At the Little Para River cross the Little Para River Cycle Trail and continue north across the pedestrian bridge. At the next fork, veer right to pass between Salisbury High School and the railway line on a paved path which terminates on Langford Tce.
  • Continue northwest along Langford Tce with the Main North Line on the right side. At the northern end of Langford Tce, right turns are not permitted so cyclists must use the ramp on the right side and proceed on the footpath along Bagster Rd, crossing the Main North Line before then crossing Bagster Rd to access the closed-to-traffic First Ave.
  • First Ave is a tree-lined closed road. The Penfield Line corridor lies between this road and the Main North Line. At the north-western end of First Ave, take the cyclepath to the left to follow close to the Main North Line, crossing the Penfield line corridor in the process.
  • The cyclepath ends at West Ave. Penfield 1 station was just to the northeast of this point but no remains are visible. The security checkpoint at the entrance to the old Weapons Research Establishment (WRE, later DSTO) lies to the east. Some buildings are still in use but access to this area is no longer restricted.
  • Behind Salisbury High School near Langford Tce, a subway passes under the Main North Line leading to a pedestrian overpass over the Gawler line. From this overpass, the remains of the Penfield line are visible diverging from the Gawler line and ending abruptly at the edge of an industrial estate. This piece of line is sometimes used to park railcars which have terminated at Salisbury.
  • As you pass Compton St on Langford Tce, you are near the old Hilra station which was located on the opposite side of the Main North Line in what is now an industrial estate. No evidence remains of Hilra station.
  • On the northern side of Bagster Rd there is some old railway infrastructure and ballast within the railway corridor of the old Penfield line which lies between the Main North Line and First Ave.
  • Midway along the cyclepath at the north-western end of First Ave there are visible remains of the Penfield Line on the right side. The two tracks of the Penfield Line curve to the right whilst a single line continues straight ahead to the old Bulk Stores (of which some sawtooth roof buildings still exist). Ballast and a number of concrete culverts remain near the line junction.

Penfield 1 to Penfield 3 (2.9km)

  • This section is initially on road or footpath, then a good quality sealed cycle path which lies to the west of the Penfield line corridor.
  • Proceed north along West Ave which is usually fairly quiet in this section. The eastern footpath is a good option for children or adults not wishing to remain on the road. Take care at the junction with Woomera Ave.
  • Prior to the Purling Road roundabout cross to the eastern footpath to minimise road crossings. North of Purling Rd the trail is a good quality path well away from the road.
  • Approaching Taranaki Rd roundabout, Penfield 3 station remains are visible on the right.
  • At the eastern end of Woomera Ave (1.5km from West Ave) is the Penfield Model Engineers Society which has extensive landscaped grounds and railway networks.
  • The first road crossing north of the Purling Rd roundabout is the DSTO main entrance which can be busy during peak hours.
  • The Penfield line crossed just to the west of the DSTO security gate and Penfield 2 station was located just south of the entrance road. No evidence remains of the line or station in this area.
  • North of the DSTO main entrance the Penfield railway corridor can be discerned from remaining ballast, culverts and tree lines.
  • Close to the fence line of RAAF Edinburgh are several sawtooth roof red brick warehouses which still have loading platforms evident on their eastern side. They were serviced by a spurline which crossed West Ave north of Taranaki Rd.
  • Platform and shelter remain of Penfield 3 station near Taranaki Rd., now overgrown with trees and bushes.

Penfield 3 to Edinburgh North (1.2km)

  • This section is on a good quality sealed cycle path which lies to the west of the Penfield line balloon loop. An alternate route is to travel via Taranaki Rd past Penfield 3 station and turn left into East Ave which, for much of its length, is closed to traffic but open to cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Both routes terminate at Bellchambers Rd, Edinburgh North.
  • Turn right onto Bellchambers Rd to travel to Elizabeth and the Gawler rail line.
  • At various times of the year, depending on crops and grazing, the route of the balloon loop can be discerned.
  • RAAF Edinburgh has an AP3C Orion aircraft and a Leopard Tank on display near its main entrance.

Background Information

Penfield railway line is a defunct railway in northern Adelaide which was used mainly for industrial purposes in the World War II years. It started just north of the Salisbury station on the Gawler line. The line then went north west and then turned north through Defence land in what is now Edinburgh. It serviced four stations; Hilra, Penfield 1, Penfield 2, and Penfield 3. It was double track for the whole length. The line had a balloon loop for trains to go the other way. The line was closed and dismantled in 1991.

The line opened in 1941 to service various World War II armaments factories at what was then known as Penfield. As it was built for industrial purposes, sidings branched off both the Up and Down tracks at many locations. The largest siding went into what is now RAAF Base Edinburgh. During the war years this branch line was used by many passenger trains carrying workers to the munitions factories in the area as well as freight trains carrying raw materials in and armaments out. Passenger trains were necessary because Salisbury was still a semi-rural community at the time and most of the workforce had to be brought in from other districts.

The No. 2 Explosives and Filling factory which sprawled over four and a half square miles of plain in the Penfield area was completed and in production by mid 1942. It employed 6,500 persons working a six-day week around the clock in three shifts. It was served by 25 passenger trains daily of which nineteen were from Adelaide, the other six from Gawler, Hamley Bridge, Tanunda, Angaston and Kapunda via an especially constructed connecting curve from the main North line to the Penfield branch line.

A more limited peak hour passenger service to Penfield continued after the war, serving staff at the government Weapons Research Establishment, later to become the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO).

The balloon loop was closed on 8 June 1983 following the derailment of a train composed of railcars. Services continued to Penfield 3 on the Down track and returned on the Up track using a crossover located just south of Penfield 3. The Up track beyond Hilra was closed on 14 April 1984 along with most of the sidings. The remaining sidings were closed in 1986, and single track went for the whole length of the branch by the end of the 1980s.

The remaining peak-hour trains were withdrawn from the Penfield branch in January 1991, due to low patronage and the need to fund an upgrade of the worn-out track. The track was dismantled in the same year but several hundred metres of track from Salisbury station was kept so that trains from Adelaide terminating at Salisbury could change direction back to Adelaide on it. The short spur remains, but the next section through Hilra station has been replaced by the road through an industrial estate.


For maps of the Penfield Rail Trail and other cycle paths see the link below:
Cycle Instead

Gawler line train services:
Adelaide Metro

For more information or to report problems see link below:
City of Salisbury


Support Services and Attractions


Penfield Model Engineers Society

RAAF Base Edinburgh

December 2020

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