Proud history of the Granite Island train: It's as clear as blue and white

RIGHT COLOURS: The train that ran across the Causeway from 1956 to 1966 by Keith and Kathleen Roney.
RIGHT COLOURS: The train that ran across the Causeway from 1956 to 1966 by Keith and Kathleen Roney.

The grandchildren of those who operated an important part of Victor Harbor/Granite Island's history are on a mission to set the record and colours straight.

Before the iconic and tourism friendly Granite Island Horse Drawn Tram was introduced in 1986, the mode of transport was firstly a 1955 petrol powered Ferguson 4-cylinder tractor (1956 to 1966), which was replaced by a Land Rover in 1966.

Up until 1954, the Granite Island train was a two tiered tram car pulled by a Clydesdale horse. This service ceased due to essential repairs being conducted on the causeway, following extensive storm damage in 1955.

Interestingly, repairs to strengthen the causeway further for the continuation of the Horse Drawn Tram were not resolved with increasing costs becoming a key issue. In 2021, a new causeway will be built at a cost of more than $31 million.

Keith Gordon Roney was awarded the tender to run the train service in 1956 at the sum of two pounds a week to run the 1955 petrol powered Ferguson 4-cylinder tractor towing rubber tyre passenger carriages. Each carriage could hold about 14 persons.

Kathleen and Keith Roney with the train and carriages they used to transport locals and visitors to and from Granite Island.

Kathleen and Keith Roney with the train and carriages they used to transport locals and visitors to and from Granite Island.

The tractor was modified to look like a train engine and the carriages were built by local craftsman K G Munchenberg in Victor Harbor. It was painted blue-and-white and the family of Keith and Kathleen Roney want this displayed in honour of their legacy.

The train is currently on display at the Southern Fleurieu Historical Museum painted green and gold, which were the colours post 1966 when the Land Rover was used.

Keith and Kathleen's grandson Mike Chenoweth said the train should be blue and white to be historically correct.

"The history of my Grandpa's train seems to have been lost. As I spoke with other members of my family, I found out that I was not alone with my sentiments," Mike said.

"I am one of Keith and Kathleen's 13 grandchildren and remember quite well the school holidays when both I and my siblings would take great delight in helping pull the carriages out each morning, sweep and mop them out and ready them for the day."

The service ran for nine months of the year. It began in late 1956 (just before Christmas) and by the end of the summer of 1957, had proved to be a hit. The cost of a ride was a shilling, which is about 10 cents in modern currency.

So successful was the service that Keith ran the train for the next 10 years. In late 1966, Keith applied for the renewal of the lease, but was unsuccessful and the tender was won by another party.

Mike Chenoweth is on a quest for the Granite Island train to be painted in blue and white.

Mike Chenoweth is on a quest for the Granite Island train to be painted in blue and white.

"This was very upsetting as he had built the train from scratch and had developed a thriving business from it. Keith and his wife Kathleen then went on to run the kiosk at Horseshoe Bay, Port Elliot," Mike said.

Mike has been in contact with the Southern Fleurieu Historical Museum and aims to get the train painted in its original colours, blue and white in honour of his grandfather.

The museum conceded that the colours were blue and white, but painted the train green and gold as it covered the period the Land Rover pulled the carriages (1966 to 1986).

"The museum replicated the period when the Land Rover pulled the carriages and painted everything green and gold and this was paid for by Victor Harbor and Alexandrina councils," a museum spokesperson said.

This story It is as clear as blue-and-white for train first appeared on The Times.

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