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The end of the line appears a long way off for the Indian Pacific, Australia's transcontinental train, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of its maiden voyage this week.
When the passenger service was launched in 1970, the Indian Pacific was about getting from point A to B.
But the destination now seems less important, with rail travel enjoying a "renaissance" in Australia as travellers embrace fine dining and a so-called digital detox along remote sections of the track.
Airline price wars in the early 1990s nearly killed the service, which prompted a significant rebrand.
Carriages full of seats, red class or "cattle class" as it became known anecdotally, were removed in 2016 because they clashed with the theme of luxury.
The change has not affected the train's popularity, according to owners Journey Beyond, which claim tickets regularly sell out six months in advance.
Journey Beyond chief operating officer Luke Walker says around 22,000 passengers travel on the Indian Pacific each year, with 375,000 tickets sold since 2004.
Most ticket sales — about 80 per cent of passengers — are sold to Australians, although there are plans for further promotion overseas.
"It's one of the few transcontinental rail journeys globally," Mr Walker said.
"It's more about the food and the wine now than the travel … it's a great way to take in our countryside from the Blue Mountains to the Nullarbor.
"We're finding that train travel is as popular as ever … it's enjoying a real renaissance."
Number of carriages to increaseThe train, which takes its name from the Indian Ocean on the west coast and the Pacific Ocean on the east coast, averages 85 kilometres per hour and reaches a maximum speed of up to 115 kph.
It means the journey from Sydney to Perth takes about 65 hours, with even slight delays causing logistical nightmares as the train shares the track with locomotives hauling freight.
From September, the number of carriages on the Indian Pacific will be increased from 29 to 36 as part of a $12 million refurbishment.
The additional carriages will extend the length of the train from 750 metres to around 880 metres, boosting the capacity to 260 passengers and crew.
Early work has also begun to extend the Indian Pacific journey into Fremantle, instead of the East Perth terminal where an estimated 10,000 people welcomed the inaugural train.
"We have begun preliminary work, started talking to stakeholders about possibly extending that trip into Fremantle into the future," WA's Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said.
"As you know, Fremantle is already a fantastic tourism precinct with cruise ships.
"Our discussions have begun and that would be another part of the journey ending at the Indian Ocean."
Life on the rail lineOne of the most popular crew members on the Indian Pacific is Jos Engelaar, who is set to retire this year after 21 years of crisscrossing the continent.
He is originally from the Netherlands and while some passengers struggle to pronounce his name, they never forget his face with his signature moustache.
Mr Engelaar estimates he has travelled more than 3.5 million kilometres on the train during his hospitality career.
"We were wondering that ourselves and did a bit of a calculation of how many kilometres that would have involved," he said.
"When we added it up, it came to around 3.5 million kilometres, give or take a few kilometres.
"I still love it, but I guess you can't work forever.
There are three kitchens on board, including one that has just received a $2 million refurbishment.
Chef de partie Jade Rogers says a team of seven chefs prepare about 500 meals a day, working from 5:00am to 10:00pm to keep passengers and crew fed.
"We have very limited space, so it can be quite challenging in some situations and obviously time is of the essence, but we've got some really good chefs on board," she said.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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