January 25, 2015, 11:45 am
June 26, 2015, 7:21 am
NR74 (Port Pirie) & NR75 (Steve Irwin) - Waiting to depart for Alice Springs and Darwin at the Adelaide Parklands Terminal (aka the Keswick Terminla).
The Ghan is a passenger train between Adelaide, Alice Springs, and Darwin on the Adelaide–Darwin railway in Australia. Operated by Great Southern Rail, it takes 54 hours to travel the 2,979 kilometres (1,851 mi) with a four-hour stopover in Alice Springs.
The service's name is an abbreviated version of its previous nickname The Afghan Express. This name is reputed to have been unofficially bestowed in 1923 by one of its crews. The train's name honours Afghan camel drivers who arrived in Australia in the late 19th century to help find a way to reach the country's unexplored interior.
Contrary to being named in the cameleers' honour, the name was originally a veiled insult. In 1891, the railway from Quorn reached remote Oodnadatta where an itinerant population of around 150 cameleers were based, generically called 'Afghans'. It is reported that the 'The Ghan Express' name had originated with train crews in the 1890s as a taunt to officialdom because, when an expensive sleeping car was put on from Quorn to Oodnadatta, 'on the first return journey the only passenger was an Afghan', mocking its commercial viability. By as early as 1924, because of the notorious unreliability of this fortnightly steam train, European pastoralists commonly called it 'in ribald fashion The Afghan Express'. By 1951, when steam engines were replaced by diesel-electric locomotives, this disparaging derivation, like the cameleers, had faded away. Modern marketing has completed the name turnabout.
The Ghan was privatised in 1997 and is operated by Great Southern Rail, initially as part of the Serco Group. GSR was sold to Allegro Funds, a Sydney investment fund, in March 2015.
The Ghan normally runs weekly year round except for June until September when a second service operates. During December 2012 and January 2013 it ran only once every two weeks In addition to Adelaide, Alice Springs, and Darwin, the train also makes a stop at Katherine. The stops at Katherine and Alice Springs allow time for optional tours. Each train consists of between 16 and 26 stainless steel carriages, built by Comeng, Granville in the late 1960s / early 1970s for the Indian Pacific, plus a motorail wagon. Haulage is provided by a Pacific National NR class locomotive. Occasionally, other locomotives may be seen hauling The Ghan with the NR, such as an AN class or a DL class.
Starting in August 1929, The Ghan first ran on the Central Australian Railway originally built as a 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) narrow-gauge railway that ran as far north as Alice Springs. In 1957, the 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge Stirling North to Marree line opened between and the Ghan was curtailed to operate only north of Marree. In October 1980 the remainder of the line was replaced by a new standard gauge line, built to the west of the original line. This was extended northwards from Alice Springs to Darwin, opening in January 2004.
Construction of what was then known as the Port Augusta to Government Gums Railway began in 1878 when Premier of South Australia William Jervois broke ground at Port Augusta. The 1,070 mm (3 ft 6 in) line reached Hawker in June 1880, Beltana in July 1881, Marree in January 1884 and Oodnadatta in January 1891. It was not until 1926 that the extension of the line to Alice Springs began, and that section was completed in 1929. Until then, the final leg of the train journey was still made by camel.
While there were plans from the beginning to extend the line through to Darwin, by the time the Alice Springs connection was complete, The Ghan was running at a financial loss, and plans for connection to Darwin were put on indefinite hold. The original Ghan line followed the same track as the overland telegraph, which is believed to be the route taken by John McDouall Stuart during his 1862 crossing of Australia.
The Ghan service was notorious for washouts of the track and other delays, and a flatcar immediately behind the locomotive carried spare sleepers and railway tools, so that if a washout was encountered the passengers and crew could work as a railway gang to repair the line and permit the train to continue. This very uncertain service was tolerated because steam locomotives needed large quantities of water, and Stuart's route to Alice Springs was the only one that had sufficient available water.
During World War II the service had to be greatly expanded, putting great pressure on the limited water supplies. As a result, de-mineralisation towers, some of which survive to this day, were built along the track so that bore water could be used. When a new line to Alice Springs was built in the 1970s, the use of diesel locomotives meant that there was far less need for water, thus allowing the line to take the much drier route from Tarcoola to Alice Springs. (Wikipedia)
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