Paving the Way for Settlement

The town of Alice Springs was originally called Stuart, named after John McDouall Stuart, an explorer who mapped a route from Adelaide on the south coast to the north coast around Darwin in 1861-62. It was this route that enabled the Telegraph Line to be built. The Stuart Highway between Adelaide and Darwin that runs through Alice Springs is also named after him in honour of his exploits. However there was confusion over the main settlement being called Stuart and the settlement at the Telegraph Station being called Alice Springs that in 1933, the town was officially named Alice Springs. 

The route that Stuart had mapped opened the way for European settlement into the Red Centre with many pastoral Leases being granted. However numbers were still fairly small until the discovery of alluvial gold in 1887 at Arltunga, 100km’s east of Alice Springs, which caused a population boom. Camel trains, the original form of transport in the outback driven by immigrants from what is now Pakistan, travelled north bringing much need supplies. However, the Great Northern Railway from Adelaide was moving north and by 1891 had made it as far as Oodnadatta, 700km’s south of Alice, reducing the distance the camel trains had to go.  

By 1929 the railway between Adelaide and Alice was complete making the use of camels redundant. The railway was named the Ghan after the cameleers who had made transport in the interior possible and been incorrectly referred to as Afghan Cameleers. In 2004 the original vision of a railway running from south to north was realised with the completion of the Darwin to Alice section meaning the Ghan now travels twice weekly between Adelaide and Darwin stopping at Alice on the way through.