Terowie is a small town 220 km north of Adelaide, in northern South Australia. The word terowie is an aboriginal word meaning hidden waterhole. The town had originally been named Shebbear on August 9, 1877, by the South Australian government. This name was changed by Governor Barclay-Harvey to Terowie on November 20, 1941.
Terowie’s main raison d’etre was to serve as a transshipment point at the railway break-of-gauge. The broad gauge line from Adelaide (via Burra) ended at Terowie, and a narrow gauge line continued 20 km on to Peterborough, where lines from Perth, Western Australia, Alice Springs, and Sydney met. The line was extended through in the 1970s, and Terowie went from a thriving township into decline. The railway was closed and removed entirely in the early 1980s, however many relics remain.
The town was home to a busy staging camp during World War II, due to the break-of-gauge and the busy traffic on the major north-south-east line.
Terowie retains a number of authentic 1880s buildings, and has been declared a historic town. Due to the significant history of the town, it remains a town of interest to those interested in rail history. While now a very small town with few facilities, these factors combine to make Terowie a destination for photographers, historians and rail buffs. The town is now in the Regional Council of Goyder.
The pioneering Hollywood filmmaker J.P. McGowan was born in Terowie in 1880.
On March 20, 1942, General Douglas MacArthur, made his famous speech at Terowie regarding the Battle of the Philippines, in which he said: “I came out of Bataan and I shall return”. He made this speech while transferring trains.