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Australian Trains

Go by Rail on Transcontinental Journeys

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The Ghan

The Ghan on its journey through the heart of the Australian continent

Courtesy Great Southern Railway

  • Australian trains link the cities of Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin, Brisbane — and up to Cairns from Brisbane with the Sunlander — crossing the continent east to west and south to north.

Since 1970, when standard gauge rail tracks were completed between Sydney and Perth, the Australian transcontinental train of note has been the Indian Pacific which runs east to west (and west to east) through the lower half of the continent, from Sydney through much of Outback New South Wales and South Australia and the Nullarbor Plain to Perth in Western Australia.

For Australia, the Indian Pacific — linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans by land — carried, and still carries, with it the cachet of adventure and romance, much like the Orient Express and other great trains of the world.

Now, not only is there an east-west continental crossing by rail but competing for the mantra of romantic long-dustance train travel is the Ghan which has traveled since 1927 between Adelaide in South Australia and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory but has now extended its south-north continental route — through the heart of Australia — to the Northern Territory capital, Darwin, at Australia's Top End.

Transcontinental train travel

The Ghan and the Indian Pacific belong to the same railway family, Great Southern Railway, which also operates The Overland between Melbourne in Victoria and Adelaide and the Southern Spirit from Adelaide and Melbourne to Brisbane.

Along the Queensland coast Queensland Rail's Sunlander travels the 1681 kilometres between Brisbane and Cairns.

It is now possible to take just the one train from Adelaide to Darwin on the south-north continental crossing. Not only that, but passengers from Sydney or Perth (on the connecting Indian Pacific) and Melbourne (from the connecting Overland) — or from Cairns or Brisbane — can link to the Ghan at Adelaide for all-the-way train travel to the Top End from Sydney, Melbourne, Perth or the Queensland coast.

On the rail trip from Adelaide to Darwin, there is also the option to disembark from the Ghan at Alice Springs, and take a few days in the Red Heart of Australia, including a visit to that famous rock monolith, Uluru, before continuing one's journey.

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