The Henley Line

Did you know that there was once a ‘street railway line’ right next to Military Road that ran all the way from Grange to Henley Beach terminating at Kent Street just past where the Henley Police Station is today? Both steam locomotives and later (from 1956) Redhen railcars operated on the line.

Map showing the Henley Lines 1940-1957
Image credit: Barrington R., (2022) “When Henley Had A Railway“, Modelling the Railways of South Australia Convention (MRSAC)

The line opened in February 1894 as a light rail extension of the existing Adelaide to Grange line. Stations with platforms and shelter sheds were built along Military Road at Kirkcaldy (adjacent to Grange Road), Marlborough Street, Main Street (known as Henley Beach Jetty Street) and a terminus where Military Road intersected with Henley Beach Road which was the site of the first Henley Beach station.

When new transport competition in the form of electric trams from the Municipal Tramways Trust (MTT) coming from Adelaide and terminating opposite Henley Jetty began servicing Henley Beach in 1909 the South Australian Railways (SAR) built a direct connection to the Port Adelaide line to avoid passengers needing to change trains lines at Woodville to continue their journey to Grange and Henley and relocated the Henley Beach Station closer to the Jetty between Main Street and Kent Street.

However, over the years there was considerable unease from local residents about the operation of the Henley railway. Their concerns probably would have included the loud noises coming from freight trains shunting at all hours of the night, the heavy black smoke from the coal burning steam locomotives (before the introduction of the Redhens) and the general safety concerns for public safety with the railway line and Military Road being so close to each other.


Locomotive on Military Road

Oil buring F class locomotive running along Military Road after just crossing Reedie Street and now steaming toward Marlborough Street on 8 March 1957. (Information and photo in "Barrington R., (2022) "When Henley Had A Railway", Modelling the Railways of South Australia, source unknown, Photo: Geoff Grant, NRM Collection.)

In response to this, plans were made to relocate the line further inland and a reserve was created alongside Wright Street for this purpose which included a double track electrified line that would continue as far as Glenelg where it was to turn inland and follow the route of an earlier railway that ran from Glenelg to North Terrace!  However, Adelaide was not ready for such a scheme at that time and sadly, the final solution was two new bus routes. As a result, the extension of the railway line from Grange to Henley Beach was closed in 1957.

Today there is still a station at Henley Beach, but it is a Police Station! A few of the houses on Military Road seen in some of the photographs here and in the Gallery section of the website still exist today (2023), though most have been demolished over time and new townhouses and apartments built in their place.

The text above has been largely sourced from an article by Barrington R., 2022, “When Henley had a Railway“, in Modelling the Railways of South Australia Convention, (MRSAC).   Other articles about the railways of Grange and Henley Beach can be found in several of the H&GHS Journals.


Do you remember the Henley Line along Military Road when steam trains and Redhen railcars ran along it? Please share your memories.

1 Comment

  1. John Aitchison

    My father was the Organist at Henley Beach Congregational Church in the early 1950s, when I was a toddler, and I can just remember the puffing of steam locomotives outside as we sang our hymns, and the sound of the bell which the driver (or fireman?) rang – for safety reasons, presumably – as the trains passed along the Military Road.


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