Thursday, January 21, 2016

Trip on The Ghan to Alice Springs and return

In late December 2015 my wife and I travelled on the Ghan from Adelaide to Alice Springs, and returned on the Ghan on the New Years Eve/New Years Day 2016 train journey. It was a lot of fun, and plenty of photos to share of course!

Starting point was Adelaide Parkland Railway Station. For our trip up to Alice we had organised a Gold Class Twin Cabin. On the way back, a Platinum twin cabin! :-)

Here are some photos of the Ghan train at the platform, awaiting boarding. Click to expand any photo.

As I moved further down the platform I could see the Red Class carriages:

Close up of the Comeng (Commonwealth Engineering) build plate on one of the carriages. Built in Australia.

Gold Class carriages with the flags for boarding:

Keen to jump aboard, I took some photos of our gold Class Twin Cabin for this trip:

The top bunk bed is a pull down bed, which is taken care of by the Great Southern Rail staff while we are having dinner:

Close up of the room number and passageway of our Gold class carriage:

With ten minutes to go I raced up to the opposite end of the train to try to get a photos of the diesel locomotives out front, but unfortunately the train was too long to reach them!

On my way back to our cabin I noticed that the Private Carriage car was also hooked on for this trip! It is booked out by a group of people wanting a carriage all to themselves!

Close up of the Australian coat of arms on the side of the carriage:

A quick shot of the Platinum service carriages:

After that it was back onto our gold class cabin as we were about to set off. Here is some photos of the self contained bathroom, with toilet, shower and washbasin.

With that, the Ghan was underway! I grabbed some photos of the 8050 Diesel shunting loco in the yard as we departed:

As we headed north towards Adelaide CBD we can see the Seaford electrified line infrastructure and rails from a different location!

Here we are about to pass by the New Royal Adelaide Hospital, which is nearing completion:

At this point you can see where the Adelaide Metro line diverge to terminate at Adelaide Railway Station.

We continue north and pass the old Wye signal cabins, still in situ and unused for many many years.

We then see the northern Adelaide Metro lines alongside us (Gawler, Outer Harbor and Grange) coming out from Adelaide Railway Station:

We then arrived a short time later in the suburb of Islington where we can see some old and not so old trains around the Islington Workshops:

This looks like an old Overland carriage, heavily covered in grafitti unfortunately:

Going further north we see the Dry Creek Depot, where the Adelaide Metro trains are serviced and stored when not in use.

As we pass the G&W goods yards in Dry Creek we can see more old AN era and GM diesel trains:

Some more modern G&W trains are also on display as we pass by:

A little bit further on we reach the modern SCT train facility at Bolivar:

After this we quickly move into South Australian grain country:

One of the more interesting fun things to do was the follow the train on my iphone using the gps tracker on Google Maps. This worked for a while until the mobile signal inevitably cut out as we went further north. It was fun:

Some old abandoned and unused rail infrastructure is alongside as we pass through:

At this point we got the call up to go to a late lunch, with a short wait in the lounge car:

Lunch was delicious - here is the menu. I couldn't resist the beef of course:

The Queen Adelaide Restaurant carriage was full to the brim with diners. This train journey has been sold out for some time.

We reached a large long curve, and we were told we would be able to see the train well at this position - they were right :-)

Close up of the Ghan locos taking us north:

The scenery starts to change as we head out of grain country and towards the Flinders Ranges and Port Augusta.

We are nearing the gateway to the Outback - Port Augusta.

Salt lake on our approach to Port Augusta:

Here we are in Port August railway station yard - the Yard Limit sign lets us know.

Close up as we enter Port August railway station:

Here is a well maintained and actively used turntable:

Arriving into Port Augusta - on the right side you can see the narrow gauge railway line for the Pichi Richi Railway, which travels on the original Ghan route to Alice Springs, which ceased in 1980 in favour of the current standard gauge line alignment that is located far away from the rivers and lakes that caused so much trouble on the original line:

It was nice to have this piece of Ghan history alongside to remind us of the long and fascinating history of this train.

We were not permitted to leave the train here which was a pity. I remember Port August well from my train trip on the Pichi Richi railway a few years ago.

As a reminder I snapped a photo of the storage shed for the railway as we passed. I need to travel on it again one day.

Port Augusta Platform and signboard:

It is possible to detrain here if this is your final destination.

Below is the cafe I remember I used to go to when the Ghan used to allow passengers to leave the train for 30 minutes back in the 1990's when I last travelled on the Ghan in Red class to visit my family in Alice at Xmas time. Seems a shame we can't do that anymore.

As we move through Port Augusta we can see some of the significant railway infrastructure sidings for Pacific National here:

Looks like Pacific National Crew cabins. I wonder where these carriages came from originally?

Once past Port Augusta, we get into the Outback proper as we head north.

With the recent rains there is more green that I expected, and some rivers with water too!

This kind of scenery is rare to see in the Outback!

As we continued on our journey the landscape soon reverted to the normal Outback - few trees and lots of dirt! The occasional mountain appears on the horizon too.

Trucks in the distance on the main highway north to Alice Springs.

This short shows how the Outback is really a tough landscape - but from within the Ghan it is comfortable indeed to watch it go by!

As the sun started to set we approached Lake Hart, a salt lake most of the time, which looked spectacular:

As it happened this sunset was around Dinner time! I arranged the timing of dinner to the expected sunset so we could enjoy these sights while we munched on our dinner:

Hard to go past the lamb - I didn't. It was delicious.

Here you can see the sunset happening from the restaurant car:

Dessert was great too:

Food on the Ghan in Gold class is much better than the snacks I used to buy in Red Class back in the 1990's. This is one area I am pleased to say has improved!

When we arrived back at our Gold Class cabin after dinner, the staff had converted our cabin into the beds, ready for sleep! Here is the top bunk:

You can see the ladder leading up to the bunk here:

Here is the bunk on the bottom.

During the night I took the opportunity to take a wander down to the Red Class Matilda Cafe carriage, which as you would expect at 4:30am was deserted!

The reason for getting up early was to see one of the highlights of the trip - a stop at Marla, a remote township in remote North south Australia, to have breakfast and view the sunrise:

Here is the Marla Railway Station sign:

Breakfast provisions, bacon and egg sliders with coffee and tea:

And here of course, is why we were stopped here. Absolutely amazing views - no words needed:

As the sun rose we could see better just how remote this part of South Australia really is:

Sunrise Reflections on the Ghan.

In this shot you can see the moon and the train together.

Further down the train in the distance were the Red Class passengers:

Some final shots around Marla Station before we headed back onto the train:

Here you can see the track switching gear:

Kinda curious if they use this other line at all...

Back on the train and we went a got some more sleep.

Later in the morning Brunch is served. There is no breakfast as such since that was served in Marla, and no full lunch either - hence Brunch!

At this point we are in the Northern Territory:

We pass the Iron Man sculpture, put there by the railway workers when the new standard gauge line to Alice Springs was constructed in the late 1970's.

We crossed the Finke River which has plenty of water in it due to the recent rains:

Despite the recent rain, there was no doubting we are in the middle of the desert here:

We then started our arrival into Alice Springs, and things start to get considerably greener, which makes quite a sight:

Here we are about to pass through Heavitree gap:

A friend of mine from Alice was kind enough to take this photo below as our train arrived at Alice Springs Railway Station:

Shortly after we arrived at Alice Springs Railway Station. There is no platforms here, so step down steps are used for passengers to exit the train.

Alice Springs Station sign:

Outside the main station building in Alice Springs - showing the Camel sculpture, celebrating the amazing history of the ghan train journey, which originally was completed with camels during the construction of the original narrow gauge line.

Close up of the Sculpture and plaques:

Here is a view of the Macdonnell Ranges - never seen it so green and I lived in Alice Springs for 8 years!

While in Alice Springs, I took some photos of the impressive Ghan artwork on the back of the Coles Supermarket building:

This is the view of Alice Springs from Anzac Hill. No question, Alice is an oasis in the desert.

While in Alice I also visited the Ghan Preservation Museum, which I will cover in it's own dedciated future blog entry!

Returning to Alice Springs Station for our return journey to Adelaide, we have 28 carriages for the trip down:

Inside view at Alice Springs Railway Station:

There is also a small train souvenir shop in Alice Springs station building:

Some final shots in the building:

I then went outside as the Ghan train from Darwin was approaching the station - here is the view from the station building. Unfortunately today was raining:

Some freight trains in the background sidings:

Here is shots of the Ghan approaching:

Diesel Loco's NR74 and NR75 running the trip, same as on the trip up from Adelaide.

We boarded the train to check out our Platinum Twin Cabin:

Bathrobes too:

Close up of the comfy chairs!

Unlike the Gold cabins, the Platinum cabins had security passes to enter the rooms, and had plenty of room and a dedicated staff member to look after us.

The movable table in the cabin splits and reveals the cushions you can rest your feet on:

Another benefit in Platinum Class is that you can see out on the left and right side of the cabin without leaving the cabin.

Close up of the Platium Service sign on the cabin door:

View down the passageway on the Platinum carriage:

Close up of our room number:

View from the cabin of the rather wet outside in Alice Springs. I have not seen so much rain in Alice before in my life as I did on this trip!

Some views of the bathroom in the platinum cabin - the shower has a proper glass door:

The shower itself:

Bathrobes to relax in the cabin:


Views of the seat buttons for attendant call, lights, power and music channels:

Platinum Dining card times are written down as a guide - but basically you can go anytime in that time window to get fed:

Welcome Champagne as we set off:

Scenery as we left Alice Springs to the south - The Todd river was flowing after several days of heavy rain:

Lunch was served soon after departure - Platinum service has it's own dedicated restaurant car which is much more comfortable than the Queen Adelaide Restaurant, with full size normal seats, couples could sit by themselves and so on:

Entertainment on offer while relaxing in the car:

The restaurant car includes this lounge section too:

Here is the lunch we had:

Some more photos of the tables in the restaurant carriage:

The view of the Outback passing outside:

When I saw these desserts coming out for other people, I had to have one:

Sunset in the Outback. Due to the delays in the train journey due to the heavy rain requiring a sighting car in front of the train to check the rails for safety (checking for wash-aways), we didn't do the planned stop at sunset. That was a shame but everyone understood safety was more important!

The crew setup the restaurant carriage with New Year balloons and someone on the trip was even there on their honeymoon!

Welcome to 2016 on the Ghan!

Drinks were flowing and dinner was served:

While at dinner the crew prepared the Platinum cabin for sleeping. The room looks quite impressive when we came back:

We even got a nightcap Port and chocolates!

In the morning, we grabbed some final shots of the train as we came back to Adelaide:

The Ghan trip was a fantastic journey and thoroughly recommended. It is not a cheap trip, but it is a wonderful treat for a special occasion!


  1. Thanks for sharing! We travelled on the Ghan last year (wonderful trip) and are taking our third trip on the Indian Pacific in April this year.

    We really appreciated your information and tips about the Seven Stars in Kyushu, and travel in Japan in general. We LOVED the trip! Some pics here if you're interested.

    Best wishes
    Karin in Canberra

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