The celebrated travel writer Paul Theroux once said, “I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I was on it.”
I’m sure every train aficionado will relate.
In Australia, trains made an advent only in the mid-19th century. Today the country boasts some of the world’s greatest journeys on wheels that are filled with luxury, heritage, scenic splendour, romanticism and even adventure.
The Ghan A national treasure, The Ghan has enthralled travellers since its inaugural journey in 1929. It continues to be a top choice for savvy travellers seeking authentic Australian adventure with all the comforts and luxury that come with travelling by rail. Covering a distance of nearly 3000 km, the trans-continental journey between Darwin and Adelaide in either direction weaves through the spectacular outback following the footsteps of pioneering Afghan cameleers. Guests travel in style with the choice of Platinum or Gold Class, both of which offer an all-inclusive package comprising of on-train accommodation in well decorated individual cabins with ensuite, premium lounge facilities, all meals and beverages both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, and immersive off-train excursions to showcase the very best the heart of the continent has to offer. This includes exploring the scenic Katherine Gorge, city of Alice Springs, opal mining settlement of Coober Pedy, and outback towns of Marla and Manguri, depending on direction of travel.
Indian Pacific Another Aussie icon, the Indian Pacific connects Sydney and Perth via Adelaide, each way covering a distance of 4352 km in 65 hours. Offering similar classes of all-inclusive travel packages like The Ghan, Indian Pacific guests explore the vast beauty of the spectacular coast-to-coast landscape between the Indian and Pacific Oceans in most impressive way. Off-train excursions include outback experiences at Rawlina and Cook, and exploration of cities like Kalgoorlie, Adelaide and Broken Hill, the birthplace of Australia’s industry giant BHP which started its journey there as Broken Hill Proprietary Company. A memorable experience of the voyage is crossing the famous Nullarbor Plain, the name Nullarbor being Latin for ‘no trees’. The 478-km stretch through a dry, desert-like, tree-less, rocky terrain features the world’s longest length of straight railway track.
The Overland This bi-weekly 800-km journey in each direction provides a scenic way to travel between Melbourne and Adelaide, passing through picturesque Aussie townships of Murray Bridge, Bordertown, Nhill, Dimboola, Horsham, Stawell, Ararat and Geelong in 10.5 hours. As the journey is during the day, only seating options are available: the Red Premium category includes all meals and non-alcoholic beverages.
Spirit of Queensland Travelling 1681 km between Brisbane and Cairns in 24 hours, five times a week, the Spirit of Queensland, a pride of Queensland Rail, redefines the modern train travel experience with a comfortable and convenient way to access spectacular Aussie holiday destinations in sunny Queensland like the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays, Townsville and Cairns and everywhere in between. All passengers enjoy the nostalgia of long-distance rail travel while unwinding in leather Premium Economy seats or indulging in the ample space of innovative RailBed – a conveniently spacious seat by day, lie-flat bed by night. RailBed guests can enjoy all-inclusive meals prepared using seasonal Queensland produce and served directly at the seats.
Puffing Billy Australia’s premier preserved steam train, Puffing Billy takes holiday makers through the magnificent Dandenong Ranges, located only one hour east of Melbourne, the same way it did its original mountain track from Belgrave to Gembrook. Many visitors from around the world enjoy travelling aboard Puffing Billy as a stand-alone experience or sometimes as part of a Melbourne day tour to relax and breathe in the fresh air whilst the train makes its way through the temperate rainforest brushing past lush fern gullies and Mountain Ash trees.
West Coast Wilderness Railway Claimed as the world’s steepest steam railway, this railway started its journey in 1896 as a lifeblood of a copper mine in remote Queenstown in Tasmania. Its construction in a rugged terrain was conquered by using an inventive rack and pinion track technique that’s still in use. Unfortunately after 67 years of successful freight runs between the mine and foreshore at Strahan, located around 40 km away, miners abandoned its operation. The whistle toot was heard again in 2014, when the journey was resumed on the same route as West Coast Wilderness Railway, a touristy venture, to bring alive history and to offer guests a deep immersion into a unique cool-temperate nature, only accessible by this extraordinary rail odyssey.
The Ghan, Indian Pacific and the Overland are operated by the Great Southern Railway (www.greatsouthernrail.com.au)
Spirit of Queensland is operated by Queensland Rail (www.queenslandrailtravel.com.au)
For Puffing Billy and West Coast Wilderness Railway, check respectively www. puffingbilly.com.au and www.wcwr.com.au