Long have rail journeys inspired our cultural consciousness with their allure. Since the brothers Lumiere took inspiration and captured one of the first, and most potent pieces of film in 1895 – The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station, rail travel has embodied the principles of invention, curiosity and discovery which drove the industrial revolution nearly 200 years ago.
Inexorable as their motion, trains as a mode of transport continue to captivate.
What could be more thrilling than to explore the Australian wilderness ensconced in a streaking bullet lined with comfort, pausing only for the culture and excitement of its various stops along the way on one of many rail tours now available to the public?
The Ghan Railway
Racing through the heart of a vast and incredible continent, traveling on the Ghan railway unlocks scenes which elude the motor vehicle, and shrink in significance thousands of feet below aircraft.
An abbreviated version of its former title, ‘The Afghan Express’, The Ghan is so named in honour of the Afghan cameleers who once traced a route across some of Australia’s most inhospitable territories.
Slicing through diverse panoramas of earthy, russet plains, soaring mountain ranges and traversing both dry, arid landscapes and verdant tropical climates, the Ghan enables anyone to power past scenes of diverse and thrilling natural beauty, bisecting the continent on its trip from Adelaide to Alice Springs.
The Sunlander Journey
The Sunlander is Australias most popular rail journey, flying from Cairns to Brisbane, achieving 1681 kilometres in less than three short days.
Once a steam-hauled locomotive, it was converted into a more comfortable, air conditioned vehicle in the 1950s.
The stops on offer vary from tour to tour, although popular destinations include Sydney, Adelaide, Cairns, Alice Springs, Port Douglas and Barossa Valley.
The Telegraph Station Cultural Reserve in Alice Springs tells the story of how the painstaking process of the overland telegraph line was first put down across the continent –anyone on a rail trip will already have an interest in such things!
Barossa Valley is one of the world’s greatest wine regions, bursting with green, sun-drenched vineyards and hosting annual Wine Shows.
The National Aboriginal Cultural Institute in Adelaide exhibits authentic artwork, as well as hosting didgeridoo and dance performances for its captivated guests.
Then, for more rail-related education, The National Railway Museum in Port Adelaide has giant steam locomotives to clamber inside, huge models of the switches used to change tracks and maps spread to show the principal routes across the country.
Best of all, it has a giant model railway, which shows in miniature the journeys traced across Australia by its formidable rail network.
Have you traveled by train in Australia? What did you think of the experience?