The Ghan Train

Formerly the Afghan Express, The Ghan takes its name from the pioneering Afghan cameleers who blazed a permanent trail into the Red Centre of Australia over 150 years ago.  The Ghan's emblem is an Afghan on a camel in recognition of their efforts in opening up the inhospitable interior to the rest of Australia.

The original Ghan line followed the route of explorer John MacDouall Stuart. On Sunday 4 August 1929, an excited crowd gathered at the Adelaide Railway Station to farewell the first Ghan train. This train carried supplies and over 100 passengers bound for the remote town of Stuart, later to be called Alice Springs. The train's whistle pierced the silence of the MacDonnell Ranges surrounding Alice Springs two days later on August 6. The train was steam hauled, and had to contend with extreme conditions including flash flooding and intense heat and, as such, was often an irregular service.

The Old Ghan ran on its light, narrow gauge track well to the east of the track it travels today.  As well as termite damage, it was savaged by fire and flood.  Flash flooding, when the normally parched river beds spilled out onto the low lying desert plains, frequently washed away the track completely.  Legend has it the Old Ghan was once stranded for two weeks in one spot and the engine driver shot wild goats to feed his passengers.

In 1982. The Old Ghan rail track was abandoned in favor of a new standard gauge line built with termite proof concrete sleepers further to the west in order to avoid the potential flooding and other problems encountered along the old route.

The Ghan currently operates twice weekly with return services from Adelaide to Alice Springs.

The Ghan enters its next exciting phase with the Alice Springs to Darwin rail-link under construction.  Great Southern Railway will operate The Ghan to Darwin when the rail-link opens in early 2004, further enhancing this legendary train's status among the world's greatest rail journeys. 

We were told the inaugural trip from Adelaide to Darwin is sold out at $12,000 per ticket.

The Facts:

Length of journey (Alice Springs to Adelaide):  1559km        Time:  19 hours
Average speed:  85km per hour

Passenger Capacity:  (Standard Train)      Total Capacity 244
            Gold Service (First Class) 88
            Red Sleeper Cabin 32
            Red Daynighter seat 124

Carriages (standard train):     Total no. carriages:  15 (plus Locomotive and Motorail)
           Gold Service 5
           Red Sleeper Cabin 1
           Red Daynighter Seat 2
           Dining/Lounge 4
           Staff Cabin 1
           Power Van 1
           Luggage 1

Average Length of Train:  403 metres

Average Weight of Train:  735 Tonnes (ex. Locomotive and Motorail)


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