The Ghan actually started in the late 1800s with the grandiose dream of linking Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north. Floods and other problems resulted in an unreliable train service and the extension to Alice Springs was only completed in the late 1920s. Before that time, the Ghan only went as far as Oodnadatta and passengers continued their journey to the Alice on Afghani-led camels.
The Ghan derives its name from the Afghans who led the camel trains.
The old Ghan was a colorful, if somewhat rickety, train and it starred in the Australian film Mad Max III, after which it was rarely used.
The new Ghan started operating from Adelaide to Alice Springs in 1927 when the Alice Springs rail extension was completed. It would take at least three quarters of a century before tracks were laid all the way to Darwin. In February 2004, the Ghan went on its first 2979-kilometre journey from Adelaide to Darwin in about 48 hours with two nights on the train and a daytime break of around two hours at Alice Springs and Katherine Gorge.
Types of service
Ghan passengers have the option of taking the superior Gold Kangaroo Service with day and overnight sleeper accommodation with ensuite twin or single berths, and other services, or the standard Red Kangaroo Service which can be booked with a sleeper cabin or a daynighter seat. Motorail facilities are available if you wish to take your car with you. All these services should be booked in advance.
Other features of the Gold Kangaroo Service include Restaurant Car dining at no extra cost; Lounge and Bar Car for relaxation, refreshment and video entertainment; dedicated cabin steward service; and, if desired, a double-size Deluxe Cabin for an extra charge.
On the Red Kangaroo Service, meals and snacks may be purchased in the Diner and Buffet Car. There is also access to the Red Kangaroo Lounge Car. Shower and toilet facilities are available in each carriage.
Check out the Ghan fares and timetables.
- (Photo courtesy of Great Southern Railway)