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Transcontinental Australian railway the Ghan has departed Adelaide on a 90-year commemorative service to Darwin.
With 235 passengers on board, the special service left on Sunday just after noon to make the 3000-kilometre, three-day journey.
First-time passengers Judy and Fred Micallef, parents of TV personality Shaun Micallef, said they didn’t know what the Ghan had planned for the trip, which added to the excitement.
“I’m looking forward to it, because I haven’t been on a trip in quite a while,” 82-year-old Mr Micallef said.
This trip includes a special stop at Pimba where guests will enjoy an open-air concert to mark the rail line’s anniversary.
Musicians Shane Howard, Joe Camilleri and Christina Anu are on the Ghan’s anniversary journey. Picture: AAP / Kelly BarnesArtists performing will include Shane Howard from Australian rock band Goanna, Christine Anu, Joe Camilleri from the Black Sorrows and Adam Thompson from Chocolate Starfish.
One of the 35 carriages on the train has also been converted into an art-deco inspired hat shop where guests can be personally fitted for an Akubra while enjoying a glass of champagne.
Mr and Ms Micalleff’s travelling partners, Chris and John Gibki, said they were looking forward to being part of history.
Ghan passengers Judy and Fred Micallef and Chris and John Gibki. Picture: AAP / Kelly Barnes“We did some research before we booked it and I thought, this is the day we have to go,” Chris, 68, said.
“We’ve been to Darwin … a number of times, but this is just something special, something exciting,” she said.
The Ghan’s first service left South Australia on August 4, 1929, when the rail line only extended as far as Alice Springs.
The managing director of the company which operates the Ghan, Steve Kernaghan, said the service had evolved considerably over nine decades. “It was certainly much more about transportation and delivering goods and services out to rural communities, but that’s part of what has made the journey really special,” he said.
“These places are connected to this train, because they fit each other, really.”
Mr Kernaghan said, now, it’s more about the high-end tourism experience than transportation.
“Every room is a self-contained suite, hot showers, five-course meals, all included in the ticket price.” In 2004, the long-held ambition of successive federal governments was finally realised and the line through to Darwin was completed at a cost of $1.3 billion. At the time it was considered the second biggest civil engineering project in the nation’s history, behind only the Snowy Mountains hydro electric scheme. Restaurant manager Jos Engelaar, who first started on the Ghan in 1999, said the 2004 trip was his most memorable.
“That was sensational,” he said.
Mr Engelaar hopes passengers on the 90th commemorative trip will receive a “mind-boggling experience.” “Something which they have only read about, and maybe only vaguely heard about, now they’re going to experience it themselves,” he said.
This article first appeared on www.adelaidenow.com.au
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