On This Day …

Sunday, 4th August, 1929

Central Australia and the Northern Territory are my favourite parts of this country. But, even when I was growing up the road north from Adelaide was rough. I remember my Dad driving on the side of the road in our 4WD, because the off-road experience was smoother than the corrugated Stuart Highway — named after John Michael Stuart, who was the first European to cross the central expanse.

Way back, the way was too rough for even wagons and coaches. So, camel trains were the solution. Camels were imported from Afghanistan and Persia to cart goods into the red centre. As time progressed, the idea was raised that a train line would serve the purpose better. And so, in 1878 a track was begun from Port Augusta (north of Adelaide). I suppose it was a difficult project given the isolation and climate of the outback. By 1891 they’d only laid tracks to Oodnadatta, some 735kms. Then there was a gap of thirty-five years before the last 500kms to Alice Sprints was attempted.

And so, on 4th August, 1929, the Afghan Express set out on its first journey through the outback with 120 passengers on board. Now shortened to ‘The Ghan,’ this train trip is an Australian icon. The original dream that the line would travel all the way to Darwin, a total of 2,969kms, was not fulfilled until very recently — in 2004. (I happened to be living in Darwin at the time and remember it being quite a big deal!)

Have you ever travelled on The Ghan? Perhaps some other long train trip? I’d love to hear your stories.

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Published in: on 3rd August, 2012 at 10:19 am  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I love how most things get cropped in our language. ‘The Ghan’ from ‘The Afghan Express’… although the lover of history in me may just prefer the original name. No matter….

    I once took a train trip from my mum’s hometown in Greece to my dad’s hometown. It took a few hours but the scenery was worth the chug-a-chug and I did have to pinch myself.

    I was on a slow train in Europe. One more dream crossed off the list. xx

    • It is amazing how us Aussies shorten and nick-name everything, isn’t it? I’ve always wondered where the name ‘The Ghan’ came from. Train trips are great for enjoying scenery, but I haven’t been on a really long one at all.

  2. Hi Amanda,
    I’d love to travel on “The Ghan”, along with my children. I think it would be a great trip and much easier than driving. šŸ™‚

    I’ve been via train from Rockhampton to Longreach a couple of times. 650km at 80kms/hr. Slooooow! From the other side of Emerald to Longreach the landscape is the same-flat and boring!

    I can’t complain though, my dad once travelled from Cairns, FNQ to Rocky, then out to Longreach… all on one $11 pension ticket. Over 1700kms. Not bad!

    • Hi Lucy. Much of the scenery from Adelaide to Darwin is pretty uninteresting too – I’ve done it by car several times. Those pension train tickets are great, aren’t they? I think my folks did a trip to Perth on one of those.


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