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.

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