Once a vibrant station on the Great Northern Railway Line where passengers on The Ghan could seek rest and refreshment, the Hawker of today is a sleepy hamlet of a couple of hundred people.
Hawker thrived in the glory days of inland train travel when the journey could be enjoyed in the luxury of a first class cabin, with meals taken in the dining car accompanied by the finest of crockery and table service of the highest order. It was a far cry from the battering served up by a Cobb & Co coach, although delays could run into several days due to track damage.
Of course the same journey can still be enjoyed today and The Ghan finally runs all the from Port Augusta to Darwin in the Northern Territory. These days it's no longer the fastest way to arrive, but in all likelihood, it's the classiest and most comfortable. Much like ocean travel, the modern Ghan is an exercise that focusses on the journey rather than the destination.
The little South Australian town of Hawker was abandoned by the railway in the 1950's when the gauge was changed over from narrow to standard and Hawker was bypassed as a stop.
The district around Hawker had seen pastoralists settle as early as the 1850's with the rail line bringing a real future to the place in the 1880's. Being only the second station on the line meant that a great deal of enthusiasm and belief existed in the pioneering project and the result can be witnessed in the grand architectural styles of the day. Buildings tended to be built from stone and brick rather than commonplace tin and timber, proving that Hawker was destined for longevity.
Hawker is perched at the southern fringe of the stunning Flinders Ranges and is 55km from Wilpena Pound. The landscape is classic outback - arid red plains, endless in one direction, stretching into jagged rock ranges in the other. Kangaroo, emu, and cockatoo encroach on the vista and then after irregular rainfall, Sturt's Desert Pea springs to life bringing a salt and pepper sprinkling of blood red blooms.
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