May 01

A History of Australia by Train

by in Guest

On every continent, trains have played a major role in the shaping of transportation, quality of life and centre of population. But here in Australia, trains have been especially important. In the early days of settlement in the remote Outback, there were no means of transportation to carry freight or passengers to the settlements.

To travel to these settlements required a long and arduous journey on foot or via camel or horseback. There was also the option to travel around the entire continent of Australia by ship and then travel inland from the nearest port. This was very time consuming and it meant that freight was incredibly expensive and that people, as well as news, travelled incredibly slowly. However, these days it is possible to get anywhere in the country by train at a much faster pace.

Railroad Tracks

The very first trains in Australia began operating in 1854, but they only travelled a few kilometres as the country was still a group of very separate colonies. Then the idea was born to create a network of railways that would stretch across the country and provide a connection between all of the major settlements in Australia. However, the early railways were built as separate small lines within each state, and in order to cross the country one needed to change trains several times.

At first, the railway lines were only bound within their separate states and they served to link together important ports and cities with agricultural areas and industrial compounds. As the settlers began to explore further inland in search of more land for farms or more gold to mine, the railways were expanded to bring the farming and mining produce to the ports and capital cities. These early trains were also important for bringing supplies to very remote settlements.

It was this very early network of railways that would form the basis for what are now the transcontinental railways of Australia. The early trains that once ran on these tracks were coal-burning steam engines, which were later replaced with diesel locomotives and electric trains as the years went by. Of course, some old steam trains still operate for the entertainment of tourists and history lovers in many different locations throughout Australia.

Today’s Best Australian Train Journeys

If you want to enjoy the best that an Australian rail journey has to offer, there are many fantastic rail journeys that you can embark on today. These train rides will take you through some truly stunning scenery and help you to appreciate the vast scope of Australia. Don’t pass up the opportunity to spend some of your holiday exploring our beautiful country. Make sure to consider these journeys when booking an accommodation to make sure you are within driving or even walking distance of the station.

The Indian Pacific

One of the greatest and longest train journeys in the world, the Indian Pacific spans the entirety of Australia from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. This stunning ride will take you through the Blue Mountains and on through the tranquil countryside of rural Australia. You will see the historic towns of Broken Hill and Bathurst before finally arriving at Perth.

The journey covers a total of 4352 kilometres, which means that you will spend about three nights on the train. However, you can stretch out the trip for longer if you stop in between and enjoy some of the many attractions on the way.

The Ghan

The Ghan Australia

This train is a legend within Australian history and it is considered to be the ultimate journey through the heart of the country. The train gets its name from the early camels that were imported from Afghanistan, which was shorted by Australians to “Ghan.” The logo of the train is an emblem of an Afghan on a camel, which is a symbol of their efforts in providing transport to open up the harsh desert interior of Australia.

This amazing journey takes you past vast salt plains, rugged mountain ranges and tropical jungles. The train journey is 47 hours in total but also offers many great extra excursions.

The Spirit of the Outback

This scenic train links together Brisbane and Longreach and gives you a glimpse of the gorgeous outback of Queensland, all without having to leave your seat. You can marvel at the expanses of arid desert, while relaxing in your comfortable and air-conditioned cabin.

This 24-hour journey passes through several historic towns including Emerald, Barcaldine and Blackwater.


Railroad Tracks Image from Flickr’s Creative Commons by FuLinHyu

The Ghan Image from Flickr’s Creative Commons by Phillie Casablanca

About the Author: Robert Snow is a freelance travel writer and train enthusiast. He has toured all of Oz by train and will continue to do so for years to come.

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