|This year, Australia’s legendary long distance train, The Ghan celebrates 10 years since its inaugural transcontinental journey across Australia.|
|On 1 February 2004, The Ghan train departed the South Australian city of Adelaide for the very first time on its 2,979km crossing through the heart of the country to the Top End. Two days later, the train arrived at the Northern Territory capital of Darwin. To mark the milestone, The Ghan gives us 10 reasons to explore Australia by rail this year:
1. Size matters
When it takes three days, two nights and a staggering 2,797km to complete a rail journey, you know you’re in for an adventure of sizeable proportions
2. Train your palate
More than 1.3 million restaurant-quality dishes are served aboard The Ghan every year. Whether you’re up for grilled saltwater barramundi, pasture-fed pork cutlet with macadamia and sage, Coorong Angus beef medallion or wild lime and coconut tart, it’s on the menu.
3. Half a million tracks made
4. All-inclusive, all year round
Platinum and Gold Service guests on board the Ghan can now enjoy fully regionally-based dining, on-board beverages and fascinating Off Train Excursions at key stops, as standard extras.
5. Prestigious history
While the Ghan has traversed Australia for the past decade, the train itself actually dates back to 1929 when it used to travel between Adelaide and Alice Springs.
6. 40,000 years of history in a day
More than 35,000 guests last year enjoyed the ancient wonders of Katherine Gorge. Marvel at the sheer sandstone cliffs, Aboriginal rock art and cruise the tropical waters where you might even spot a croc!
7. Meet new mates
The on-board Outback Explorer Lounge is open round the clock, where you can enjoy a complimentary beverage or two and meet some new travel companions.
8. Visit a town called Alice
There’s nothing malicious about the quintessential Outback town of Alice Springs, which you can explore with your choice of complimentary Off Train Excursions.
9. Go your own way
Whether you’re up for a backpacking adventure in Red Service, travelling in comfort by yourself or with a partner in Gold Service or immersing yourself in luxury in Platinum Service, there’s on-board accommodation to suit all needs and budget.
10. Early bird specials
Book your Ghan adventure by 30 April 2014 for travel from 1 November 2014 onwards to save 25% off your journey. Prices start from £964 per person for Gold Twin Service with dining, beverages and Off Train Excursions included.
Book your Ghan Adventure now!
Alternatively, take a look at Great Rail Journey’s epic 22 day tour of Australia, which as well as the Ghan journey itself also takes in The Great Barrier Reef, dinner under the stars by Uluru, Sydney and the Blue Mountains, a Barossa Valley wine tour and 4 other scenic railways, including the majestic Kurunda Railway, with return flights from London Heathrow, from £6,075 per person.
10 Ghan facts to go’han about
1. The name and symbol of the Ghan was inspired by the pioneering cameleers (many of them Afghans or as they were widely known, ‘Ghans), who more than 150 years ago first established a permanent trail to the Red Centre.
2. In World War II, the Ghan played a vital role in transporting troops. Each year, The Ghan pays tribute to veterans with its special Anzac Tribute journey between Adelaide to Darwin.
3. From Adelaide to Alice Springs, the Ghan track originally consisted of wooden sleepers. The desert termites dined on the sleepers as quickly as they were laid. Flash flooding also frequently washed the track away so in 1980, the old rail track was abandoned in favour of a new standard gauge line built with concrete sleepers.
4. When the Ghan departed Adelaide for its inaugural journey to Darwin, it was the longest passenger train in Australian history, stretching more than 1km with two locomotives and 43 carriages.
5. The 43 carriages on the first journey to Darwin included four ‘Special Carriages’ – the Chairman’s, Sir Hans Heysen, Sir John Forrest and Prince of Wales carriages.
6. The average weight of The Ghan is 847 tonnes (single – 16 carriages) and 1,344 tonnes (double – 26 carriages), excluding the locomotive. For the inaugural journey to Darwin, the total weight exceeded 2,000 tonnes.
7. Work on the 1,420km line commenced in April 2001 with the eventual cost reaching AU$1.34 billion – AU$741 million from private enterprise and AU$559 million from the government. It remains one of Australia’s largest ever infrastructure projects.
8. When construction was finally completed in January 2004, workers had used 15 million cubic metres of earthworks, 146,000 tonnes of metal rail, 2 million concrete sleepers, 3,500 tonnes of structural steel, 2.8 million tonnes of ballast and built 93 bridges.
9. The average speed of the train is 85km/hour with a maximum speed of 115km/hour.
10. The total length of the journey is 2,979km, which takes 54 hours to complete.
Ever taken a trip on the Ghan train? Tell us how you found it!
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Here at Railway Stays we have a fierce aversion to the horribly hipster fad for ‘pop-up’ everything, and tend to turn our noses up at anything that refers to itself that way. However, we could (quite easily) be persuaded to put such petty peeves aside for the chance to enjoy dinner with Raymond Blanc on board the Northern Belle.
The imaginatively named ‘The Dinner Hosted by Raymond Blanc’ is part of the Orient Express’ new series of pop-up (cough!) dinners, which will see the UK’s most celebrated chefs host evenings on board the Northern Belle and the British Pullman.
The 100 lucky passengers who manage to bag a ticket to the first of these exclusive fine-dining events in November will be treated to champagne and canapés on the platform of Manchester Victoria station before boarding the Northern Belle. This stunning Art Deco luxury train is beautifully furnished, and each carriage is individually styled with ornate marquetry on the walls and mosaics on the floors.
As the journey begins, so will the dining – passengers will be served a seven-course meal created by Raymond Blanc himself, accompanied by champagne and fine wines. When he’s not busy in the kitchen he’ll be passing through the train to chat to his guests, talking about his love of food and sharing the story behind the evening’s menu. And as if that wasn’t enough, there’ll also be onboard entertainment with a musician and magician visiting each table, and a fireworks display part-way through the journey.
If you’re thinking that this would be the perfect evening for a big romantic gesture, you’re going to love this next bit: the Northern Belle will make a stop at Carnforth Station, the filming location for iconic British railway romance Brief Encounter, before heading back to Manchester.
Raymond Blanc is also hosting another dinner later in the month on the British Pullman, this time leaving from London, but at the time of posting there was no further information about the rest of the series or the celebrity chefs involved. Don’t worry though – we’ll keep you posted!
A Dinner Hosted by Raymond Blanc: 2 November, Manchester, from £335pp; 16 November, London, from £495pp.
Here’s the first in our occasional series of posts, bringing you some lovely luxury train news, you lucky people you.
Behind the Iran Curtain
Gotta spare 15k burning a hole in your pocket? Yep, me too. Great, why not book yourself onto the first ever private train to be allowed into Iran from Europe?
A company called MIR Corporation is behind this private train tour, which departs from Budapest for Tehran this October. The 15-day ‘Jewels of Persia’ tour passes through Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, drinking in several UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Bulgaria’s ancient city of Veliko Tarnovo, the Fairy Chimneys and cave houses of Turkey’s Göreme Valley and the ruins of Persepolis in Iran. Intrepid travellers on these inaugural trips are promised ‘a truly unique route you won’t see on any standard itinerary.’
Can’t say F-f-f–f-Fairer than that
Round the World Train Trip
Still got that urge to splurge? No problemo, quash it with this even more epic Round The World train trip, courtesy of possibly the world’s least stutterer-friendly travel agent Ffestiniog Travel. FT, as you may prefer to call them, are hitting the big 4-0 next year (hey, me too, can I crash the party?) and to celebrate they’re really pushing the boat out, or rather they’re pushing the luxury train out, with their epic 40-day Rail Holidays of the World trip.
For a mere £19,965 of your earth pounds they’ll whizz you across the globe, kicking off with a welcome dinner at the truly excellent Kings Cross St Pancras Renaissance hotel.
This world-whooping journey across the Northern Hemisphere begins in Europe, taking in city visits to Brussels, Frankfurt, Vienna, Budapest and Moscow, followed by 11 days on the privately-owned Tsar’s Gold Luxury train, with lunch in a typical nomadic herdsmen’s settlement, a Mongolian horseback riding show and even a stop in the Gobi Desert.
You’ll get to explore two of Canada’s greatest national parks, Banff and Jasper, before hopping on to Via Rail’s Canadian train, through the famously wide open Prairies, via Saskatoon (which rhymes with balloon) and Winnipeg (which rhymes with boiled egg) to Toronto (which rhymes with pronto or orthodonto.)
Then it’s a case of ‘another day, another train operator’, as you board Amtrak’s Maple Leaf service to New York. The grand rail tour to end all grand rail tours finally reaches its apotheosis with a 3 night stay in the ‘Big Apple, where you’ll get more sightseeing and a lavish Farewell Dinner, just to cushion the blow of your re-entry to the real world, back on Blighty.
Want to book this journey with Ffestiniog Travel? Make sure you quote this reference when you do: Ref: JS1
The humble Cally Sleeper to get the Orient Express treatment?