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Penfield Rail Trail

South Aust. metro

Location: Northern suburb of Adelaide
Length: 7 km
Surface: Sealed
Start / End: Salisbury to Edinburgh North
Public Transport: Train
Suitable for:
  • Cycling – Mountain BikesCycling – Mountain Bikes
  • Cycling – Touring and Hybrid BikesCycling – Touring and Hybrid Bikes
  • PramsPrams
  • Scooters and Inline SkatesScooters and Inline Skates
  • WalkingWalking

  • Rail Trail
  • On Road
  • Potential RT
  • Other Trail
  • Former Railway
View Map
  • Historic WWII munitions plant with extensive rail and tramway network
  • Links Salisbury Railway Station with the northern industrial and Defence precincts
  • Passes alongside RAAF Edinburgh
  • Semi-rural alternative to busier urban routes between Salisbury and Elizabeth

Nearby Attractions

  • Historic remains of Penfield railway
  • RAAF Base Edinburgh
  • Penfield Model Engineers Society railway park

Last updated: 28 April 2024

This flat trail 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.

The trail gives cyclists and tourists an 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.

Penfield Model Engineers Society has extensive landscaped grounds and railway networks and is at the eastern end of Woomera Ave (1.5 km from Penfield Trail).

From the northern end cyclists can head east to return to the Gawler railway line at Elizabeth or head northwest to the Stuart O’Grady Cycleway to Gawler.

There are no facilities, shops or cafes along this trail.

There is no signage relating to this trail; it must be self-navigated.

Section Guides

Salisbury to Penfield 1 (3.2 km)

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 Salisbury Highway on the pedestrian bridge and continue north. 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 that terminates on Langford Tce.

Continue northwest along Langford Tce with the Main North Line on the right. Right turns are not allowed at the northern end of Langford Tce, so cyclists must use the ramp on the right and proceed on the footpath along Bagster Rd, crossing the Main North Line before then crossing Bagster Rd to reach closed-to-traffic First Ave.

The Penfield Line corridor lies between First Ave and the Main North Line. At the northwestern 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 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 beneath 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 that have terminated at Salisbury
  • As you pass Compton St on Langford Tce you are near the old Hilra Station on the opposite side of the Main North Line, in what is now an industrial estate. No evidence remains
  • On the northern side of Bagster Rd there is some old railway infrastructure and ballast within the railway corridor of the old Penfield line between the Main North Line and First Ave
  • Midway along the cyclepath at the north-western end of First Ave remains of the Penfield Line are visible on the right. The two tracks of the Penfield Line curve to the right while 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 (2.9 km)

This section is initially on road or footpath, then a good quality sealed cycle path to the west of the Penfield line corridor.

Proceed north along West Ave, which is usually quiet in this section. The eastern footpath is a good option for children or adults who do not wish to ride 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 (1.5 km from West Ave) is the Penfield Model Engineers Society, with extensive landscaped grounds and railway networks
  • The first road crossing north of the Purling Rd roundabout is the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) main entrance, which can be busy at peak hours
  • The Penfield line crossed just to the west of the DSTO security gate and Penfield 2 station was just south of the entrance road. No evidence remains of the line or station
  • North of the DSTO 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 roofed red brick warehouses that have loading platforms evident on their eastern sides. They were served by a spurline that 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 (1.2 km)

This section is on a good quality sealed cycle path 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 on to Bellchambers Rd to travel to Elizabeth and the Gawler rail line.

  • the route of the balloon loop can be discerned at various times of the year, depending on crops and grazing
  • RAAF Edinburgh has an AP3C Orion aircraft and a Leopard tank on display near the main entrance

Do you know of a bike hire or transportation service on this rail trail that should appear here? If so, let us know at admin@railtrails.org.au.

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Background Information

Traditional owners

We acknowledge the Kaurna people, the traditional custodians of the land and waterways on which the rail trail is built.

Rail line history 

Penfield railway line started just north of the Salisbury station on the Gawler line,  then ran northwest and then turned north through Defence land in what is now Edinburgh. It served  Hilra, Penfield 1, Penfield 2, and Penfield 3 stations and 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 serve 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 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 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 sprawled over 11.65 square kilometres of plain in the Penfield area in mid 1942. It employed 6500 people working a six-day week around the clock in three shifts. It was served by 25 passenger trains a day; 19 were from Adelaide, the other six from Gawler, Hamley Bridge, Tanunda, Angaston and Kapunda via a specially built 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 DSTO).

The balloon loop closed in June 1983 following the derailment of a train of railcars. Services continued to Penfield 3 on the Down track and returned on the Up track using a crossover just south of Penfield 3. The Up track beyond Hilra closed in April 1984 along with most of the sidings. The remaining sidings were closed in 1986, and single track went for the 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 were kept so that trains from Adelaide terminating at Salisbury could change direction back to Adelaide. The short spur remains, but the next section through Hilra station has been replaced by the road through an industrial estate.

Gawler rail line reopens Sunday 12 June 2022

Posted: 10/06/22

After almost two years of closure, the Gawler Rail Electrification Project is nearing completion and ...

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