Saturday, 28 April 2012

South on The Ghan 2: Alice Springs to Adelaide

Last time I wrote about the first leg of my journey on The Ghan transcontinental train, from Darwin to Katherine. The journey continues below...

1. Interior Comforts. Time for some more shots of the train's interior, I think. Here's the Queen Adelaide dining car, followed by the Outback Explorer bar:


2. A Station Like Alice. The morning after we'd left Katherine, we arrived in Alice Springs. I'd last been here for the Alice Desert Festival (read about my experience here), but arrived by plane of course.

In the centre of Australia, this was the original terminus of The Ghan's route, which ran north from Adelaide. It wasn't until 2004 that the line was extended the additional 1500 kilometres to Darwin.

You can see a statue of one of the Afghan camel drivers who gave their name to the train here, at Alice Springs Station:


3. The Old Ghan. Although the railway linking Alice Springs and Adelaide dates from the 1920s, its route has changed over the years. Nowadays the standard gauge line runs a long way west of the original route, which was prone to flooding and other mishaps.

The original line is remembered at the National Road Transport Hall of Fame just outside Alice Springs, which incorporates the Old Ghan Train Railway Museum. Located on a stretch of track from the original rail route, the two museums hold an interesting mix of road and rail transport, including earlier Ghan rolling stock:


4. Empty Spaces. After we left Alice Springs, there were a lot of scenes like this out of my cabin window - flat empty desert with scrubby vegetation and distinctive red earth. At some point here we crossed the border into South Australia, but the scenery looked much the same:


5. Pichi Richi Diversion. About 9am Friday morning, some 66 hours after leaving Darwin, we arrived in Port Augusta. Here we left the train for an excursion on the Pichi Richi Railway, a tourist operation which runs original Ghan carriages over a section of the earlier route to the town of Quorn.

This isn't a usual side-trip for Ghan passengers. This edition of The Ghan was a special train commemorating Anzac Day, Australia and New Zealand's national war remembrance day, and supporting the Returned & Services League.

The Ghan played a huge role in transporting troops north during the dark days of World War II and the Japanese air attacks on Darwin and other northern settlements, hence the military connection. Those troops rode on the tracks which pass through Quorn, and I was told the Country Women's Association outpost near the station served a million meals to soldiers during the course of the conflict.

Here's a pic of the train in motion through the low dry hills leading to Quorn, and a shot of the engine at rest in the town:


6. Terminus. Finally, after nearly 3000 kilometres of rail and 74 hours since we left Darwin, we arrived in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. And all without changing our watches, crossing a national border or producing a passport even once:


Disclosure time... On this trip I travelled courtesy of Great Southern Rail.