Day 2 of the “Ultimate Australian Rail Holiday” 19th May 2016 (Part One)
The Indian Pacific is due into Broken Hill at 6.30am, and despite my best efforts to sleep on, our carriage has been stirring into life from around 5.00am. There are 9 twin cabins in each Gold Class carriage, and most of our 18 passengers intend to take one of the off-train included excursions. There are four to choose from, depending on whether your interest lies in the mining history, the art, or just getting a feel for the town centre. Since Bill and I only recently spent over a week exploring Broken Hill (earlier posts start here), we are planning a leisurely saunter off the train and a catch up with some friends for a coffee. Turns out I need to get a wriggle on, because, as extremely long as the platform in this town is, it is not long enough to accommodate the Indian Pacific in one go, so the train nudges forward in stages, and we need to walk through other carriages to get to the exit before “lock down”. Each carriage is locked off while the train is at a station, which is a comforting thought, as you can leave “stuff” lying around your cabin. (It is also worth noting that a security box is provided in each cabin for your precious valuables).
We loiter long enough to see passengers disembarking up and down the length of the train, and scurrying off to a bevy of coaches taking them off to their respective excursions. As for us, we are no sooner off the train than we spy Wayne, our happy and humorous guide from our week in Broken Hill. We enjoy a chat with him while he waits to collect passengers who have used the Indian Pacific as their transport of choice to this town (on our visit we used the NSW Trainlink Explorer service).
When we last visited Broken Hill, the murals which adorn the railway station entrance were under scaffolding, so I was pleased to be able to see them in their newly refurbished state:
It’s a short stop at Broken Hill, and by 8.30am the Indian Pacific was underway again, and the hungry passengers were being escorted into the dining cars for a hearty breakfast. As I stared out the window, I realised we were passing into the Flinders Ranges and crossing over the border into South Australia, leaving behind the Mundi Mundi Plains which we had seen just a couple of months ago.
South Australia is a big dry state of 1.6 million population. It has an annual average rainfall of 22″ in the capital – Adelaide, and 10″ in the hills that surround it. Summer temperatures are hot, driven on northerly winds from central Australia, but it is a dry heat, with low humidity.
The “Queen Adelaide Restaurant” carriages all seat four to a table and we found that a great way to meet and socialise with others aboard the train. My best guess is each restaurant car seats around forty persons per turn. The decor is slightly art deco, and the glamour of starched white tablecloths and curtained windows give off an ambience of an earlier time of leisure and class. Ours had a pressed metal ceiling for example – which I failed to photograph, but here is a link if you are interested.
Coupled with each dining car is a lounge and bar carriage. This is the central meeting place for before and after meals, or just to stretch out, play games, read and talk. It was in chatting to people here that I learnt not all had enjoyed a restful night. Some complained of the square wheels on the train. Laugh. Well, they do have a point. The New South Wales (NSW) section of the track is old, rugged and runs through a varied terrain, so there is quite a bit of rocking and rolling. But I have slept on the Prague to Warsaw overnighter, and if you can achieve that, you can sleep on any train I reckon. I find train movement lulling, even when it is lurching, and in any case, the train stops altogether at various points through the night, partially for the Parkes and Ivanhoe calls, but mainly to wait the passing of freight trains whenever the single track breaks into a siding. In fact, if anything woke me, it was the gentle tug of the locomotives as they urged their massive load into motion again. I could feel the strain and resistance of our carriage, which was some half a kilometre down the track from the engines.
We are due into Adelaide just after 3pm where a six hour layover will provide a chance to take on water and supplies. As well, some passengers will leave us, while others join, and in the meantime, we through passengers will enjoy one of the four excursions on offer. As we will be in Adelaide city later on this holiday, we choose the Barossa Valley option. It’s a renowned wine-producing region north-east of Adelaide, so we are put off the train at Two Wells just after our delicious two-course lunch.
Two Wells is a small township of around 700 people 40 kilometres (25 mi) north of Adelaide. It may have a railway station, or it may have since closed, but in any case, it would not have accommodated our train. I just love the way this train can pull up in the middle of nowhere and pull out a set of steps for passengers to alight. Announcements are made over the loudspeaker system as to which carriages we need to walk through and this gives us a chance to peek at the Platinum section 🙂 Dawdling before boarding the busses also gave us the chance to check out the locomotives. One of them is a ring-in, Pacific National is a privately owned company which runs most of the freight trains on this route.
Our Barossa Valley Excursion – see Part Two
For Reference: We booked our tour through the Australian Holiday Centre: