Monday, April 21, 2014

2014 Easter Trip on The Overland train to Melbourne

It's been a while since I wrote on this blog, but I certainly haven't forgotten about it - just been so busy! I have many more Japan trains from my trip in January 2014 still to show, but today I want to focus on an Easter 2014 trip I took on the Overland train from Adelaide to Melbourne.

The Overland train has a long history, having started back in 1887. The train travels between Adelaide and Melbourne several times a week.

The train itself these days is run by Great Southern Rail (, a company based in Adelaide. Recently they cut back the 3 times a week daily Overland service to just 2 weekly, running from Adelaide to Melbourne on Mondays and Fridays, and Melbourne to Adelaide on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

For me personally, I have travelled on the train several times, once when it was still running a night service with sleeper cabins - I really miss this option as it is no longer an option today and was very convenient for weekend shopping trips to Melbourne.

This brings me nicely to the reason for riding the Overland during the Easter long weekend this year. My wife and I decided to travel to Melbourne for 2 days to relax and enjoy the shopping and some train related activities (of course) while there!

My fear is that the Overland train service is endangered now more than ever, with the reduction  of train trips making it harder to use, and the higher cost using the train than driving, using a bus or catching a plane to Melbourne. The train is also considerably slower than all of those options, and is heavily subsidised by the South Australian and Victorian governments to keep it running.

But for the Easter Friday service it was almost fully booked out, with only two single seats not filled on the whole train! It is very encouraging that people still see the value in the service, and I wanted to show some of the Overland journey and interesting places along the way to you today!

The train departs from Adelaide at 7:40am, with check-in required to be completed by 6:40am! This of course means getting up quite early to get to Adelaide Parklands Terminal (formerly called Keswick Terminal).

Unfortunately taxi is the only realistic way to get to the Adelaide Parklands Terminal nowadays, since the demolition of the nearby Adelaide Metro Keswick railway station which used to allow some other connection options from Adelaide Railway Station. Having said that, I used to use a taxi even when it did exist so it makes sense....

Check in inside the Adelaide Parklands Terminal is nice, and very slick airport check-in style, complete with luggage check-in:

There is a Cafe and Train souvenir shop also within the terminal. The Choo Choo's Cafe was doing good business, however the train souvenir shop was not open. This seemed a strange decision with a full train with people having nothing to do for an hour prior to departure...anyway.

Keen to take a look at the train itself, I quickly ran to Platform 1 to take some photos:

Since the removal of the overnight service from the Overland a number of years ago now, there is now the choice of Red Service or Red Premium Service cars. Red Service premium includes better seats and extra food menu items served to your seat. Here is a view of Red Service signage:

Here is the Red Premium Service Signage with green stripe along the carriage:

I took a photo of the front of the Overland, prior to the Diesel Loco being attached:

 Next is the Baggage car, with plenty of work going on to load the bags prior to departure:

I have to say the train looks nice still, despite it's age:

Here is a view of the U Red Service carriage with Purple colour stripe along the side, with the Diesel Loco from Pacific National now attached to the front of the train:

Here is some shots of the Diesel loco NR114 from the rear and the front:

From the front I then ran to the back of the Overland train as the Motorail carriage (for transporting cars) was being shunted into position by Diesel Loco 8108:

Shortly after this shot 8108 moved away:

Today my wife and I booked Red Premium seats, which were Seats 1 and 2 on Carriage B. Upon entry you can see the carriage interconnect doors, which you activate by pushing a button next to the door (timer based).

Seat identifiers above the seats, with slidable window blind to block out the sun (certainly is needed during the day):

For passengers who are departing at an intermediate station prior to Melbourne (eg. Murray Bridge, Bordertown, Horsham, Geelong, etc), Great Southern Rail stores their luggage (where possible) at the entrance to each carriage in a rather ingenuous way using the luggage puller and existing hand rail to keep them in position! This is the view of this arrangement from my seat:

In the above shot you can also just make out the overhead luggage shelf for storing carry-on luggage.

Our departure was delayed (after everyone was aboard) when it was found that one of the carriages towards the front of the train had issues with it's brakes and needed to be swapped out. A spare carriage was shunted into place, which took 45 minutes.

Eventually we did get on our way, with a promise from the conductor that they would try to make up the time during the trip.

Once underway I took some photos of sights along the way. With Easter train line closures in Adelaide meaning the Seaford and Belair lines were not running at all (to complete the connection of the Tonsley line to the main lines going south), the opportunities to see any other trains were limited!

Here is some photos as we passed the new Adelaide Showgrounds stations, with a train photographer with tripod on the platform (clearly since no trains were running on the suburban lines through that station).

A quick shot of Goodwood station as we passed it:

Next we made our way through the Adelaide Hills, which reminded me why train travel is so great - you get to see countryside you wouldn't otherwise get to see:

We pass through the former Mt Lofty Railway Station in the Adelaide Hills, now used as a B&B with the platform not used, so you cannot stop at this station:

Not long after this we were asked for our desired breakfast option from the Menu below, which includes a separate menu list for Red Premium Service passengers:

We chose the Chive Omelette with Toasted English muffin and shaved ham, which arrived quickly to our seats (which have a fold out table like in an airplane) and it tasted surprisingly good:

Some more nice scenery could be seen through our train window while munching away on our breakfast:

At this point a toilet trip was needed, which provided the opportunity to show the toilet facilities contained in each carriage on the Overland train:

Confusing, the lock door option is Green, and unlocked is Red! No wonder people regularly get caught with their trousers down. GSR reminds people of this at the start of every trip. Perhaps changing the colours would avoid more of these incidents! Anyway...

We then stopped at Murray Bridge railway station to pick up some passengers.

A few years earlier in 2011, I took some photos around Murray Bridge station to show the scene better here (it hasn't changed much), to show the Overland train passing through the current railway bridge, and the surrounding former railway wharf area.

View from the Murray Bridge Railway Station platform:

Murray Bridge Railway Station Building is surrounded on the platform side by a fence which is locked except shortly before when the Overland is expected to arrive:

There is no access inside the station building itself, which is used for other purposes:

Down by the Wharf area of Murray bridge, is a weigh bridge which is left in situ:

From the wharf you can see the current railway bridge across the Murray River:

An old steam loco and storage carriages are also left on the Murray bridge developed wharf, hinting at a significant railway past:

 Below you can see the Overland train passing through the Murray Bridge railway crossing, this service going from Melbourne back to Adelaide:

And here is the Overland stationary at Murray Bridge Railway Station platform:

Back now into 2014, the Overland then crossed the Murray River at the regional South Australian town of Murray Bridge. Below you can see the original Railway bridge, which is still used today as a road bridge:

Continuing past Murray Bridge, we see a freight train loco near the regional South Australian town of Tailem Bend.

Although the Overland does not stop at all at Tailem Bend Railway Station, it is a beautiful preserved Railway Station with a great museum in it that is well worth a visit - here is some photos of it that I took from a visit there in October 2011:

View of the tracks from the Tailem Bend Railway Station platform (now fenced off since no trains stop here and all trains pass through at full speed):

Views inside the Tailem Bend Railway Station building, now set up as a great museum to railway history in the area:

As you can see it really is well worth a visit to Tailem Bend for a railway enthusiast!

Next, the Overland train moves through another disused Railway Station, this time at the small South Australian regional town of Tintinara. Back in January 2012 I took some photos of the Tintinara former railway station and platform views which may be of interest.

This is the view from the Tintinara Railway Station building (now used as a craft store) and disused platform showing the goods platform on the other side towards the Viterra grain silo:

Platform view from Tintinara looking the opposite direction:

Tintinara platform sign and goods shed:

Another view of the Tintinara platform side and building:

View of the front of the former Tintinara Railway Station building, with hints of it's railway past on the walls:

Bouncing back to 2014 again, we continued our Overland train journey to the South Australian border town, appropriately called Bordertown. You can still stop here on the Overland on request, and here is the platform sign:

The railway station building is disused and bordered up these days sadly, with a low quality bus shelter built for waiting passengers:

I think the Bordertown Railway Station would look great again if it was renovated like Tailem Bend:

Just beyond Bordertown railway station is some silo's:

We then cross the border into Victoria:

Interestingly enough, just after crossing the border into Victoria, we pass a very small town called Serviceton with a large disused railway station that acted as a customs house for goods passing between the states a long time ago.

Originally the town of Serviceton was actually part of South Australia, but due to an error made when building the railway station on location, the whole town was built on the wrong side of the state border and was eventually handed back to Victoria!

I visited Serviceton railway station back in January 2012, and took some photos that may be of interest - it is worth the visit if passing through. The present custodian of the railway station should walk over if you are coming to visit and will happily open the station for visitors who want to look inside, which is actively under restoration internally:

Serviceton Railway Station entrance:

Serviceton platform side view:

Serviceton Railway Station Customs House plaque, showing customs used the building from 1889 to 1910:

Serviceton Railway Station platform side view towards Melbourne. The Overland passes through here on the way to Melbourne (you cannot stop here though and the platform is fenced off from the running railway tracks):

Inside the renovated Serviceton railway station building:

Trans-Australian railway posters are on the walls inside the station like this one:

Back again onto the Overland and we continue on to regional Victoria towns like Horsham and Ararat. We stopped at Horsham Railway Station briefly:

At Ararat Railway Station, the Vline Victorian Country railway service terminates there from Melbourne. They use modern Diesel Bombardier trains as shown below, which use similar bodies and carriages to those built for Adelaide Metro as Electric trains on the Adelaide Seaford line:

It was around here that we had our lunch, again served at our seat on the Overland. I chose the Fish and Chips and a Hamburger:

We then saw some more nice scenery passing through the Grampians as we ate:

We then passed through Geelong (sorry, no pictures of it) where we dropped off passengers, before arriving at Southern Cross Station in Melbourne, just after dark.

To my surprise the Overland train did indeed make up the time lost at the beginning of the trip in Adelaide, and we arrived into Melbourne on time at 6:50pm!

Here is some pictures of the Overland at Southern Cross Station:

We arrived at Southern Cross Station, Platform 2B:

The Overland carriage where we were seated for the day:

Everyone quickly gathers around the Overland baggage car at the rear of the train, as the security people unload the baggage car so passengers can grab their stuff and leave. It was very chaotic once they allowed people to collect luggage and I am sure there must be a better way to manage this - Airports manage it everyday!

Here is the Overland stopped at Southern Cross (on our way out) showing the Diesel Loco has gone already:

Some suggestions I have for Great Southern Rail for the Overland service, having travelled on it a few times now:

1. Bring back the overnight service on friday nights Adelaide to Melbourne, and return overnight service to Adelaide on Sunday night, arrive Monday morning. This would tie up nicely schedule wise with the normal existing Adelaide to Melbourne Monday service. Use a few existing Indian Pacific/Ghan red sleeper class carriages for it since those two trains are only running once a week now. I know a lot of people would use this Overland overnight service from Adelaide to go weekend shopping or go to weekend AFL games in Melbourne, instead of having to use buses or driving there.

Seriously who is regularly going to take a day off on friday, plus two extra days off (Monday & Tuesday) to take the train over on Friday and the return train Melbourne to Adelaide on a Tuesday? Only retired people I assume. I had to wait for Easter Friday and Easter Monday holidays to do it - using an overnight bus service to come home from Melbourne to Adelaide on Sunday night, arriving Monday morning (because no Overland return train service available on Sunday).

2. Make the Overland journey price competitive to plane or bus travel from Adelaide to Melbourne - this price difference is costing you lots of customers. Advertising the Overland service would also be helpful, rather than focussing only on the Ghan and Indian Pacific.

3.  Improve the speed of the service. When travelling on the section from Ararat to Melbourne, I observed that Country Vline Diesel trains were overtaking us and so going much faster than the Overland on the same sections. If you can make up 45 minutes lateness during the day why wouldn't you make the trip at least 45 minutes quicker all the time, and preferably faster still?

4. Open the train souvenir shop at Adelaide Parklands Terminal when the Overland is running - you are losing business here in Adelaide by not opening it.

Anyway, it's just my feedback and I can't imagine GSR will change things to accommodate my needs, but hey, it's worth a shot!

I hope this Overland journey was interesting for you - I had a great time travelling on the Overland train from Adelaide to Melbourne and recommend people to try it if you get the chance.


  1. Excellent Overland Journey Log with great photos.

    1. Thank you very much! It was a great trip and I am glad you enjoyed my blog entry :-)