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Hello everyone from the wilds of Central Burma!
Arrived as Southern Cross station at 0700, the ticket and website said to be there at least one hour before departure.
I booked a full fare Premium Red ticket to be certain of an unobstructed window view. As I waited for the train to be shunted, I watched the XPT from Sydney (?) arrive and disgorge a motley collection of passengers who's appearance could best be described as "trashed"; they looked both worn-out and unimpressed.
The NR finally shunted the Overland to the platform around 0710 and then we all boarded. No we didn't, I was joking. We waited for another 25 minutes, the doors to the carriages locked, the staff outside grimly guarding the carriages lest someone steal a seat.
Having booked on the GSR website, I was unable to select a seat but I requested a seat on the left (south) side of the train as far back (east) as possible. So I was given a seat on the right (north) side of the train at the second-from-front row of the carriage. Other travellers were politely discussing with the GSR staff why they had booked tickets to travel together yet were spread around in the carriage. Much fun ensued as negotiations were made to swap seats; GSR staff were helpless to provide options.
Once we were underway, it was smooth sailing, er... railing, through the Melbourne suburbs with which I have no familiarity other than through movies and crime shows on TV. Interesting to watch the dual-gauge track and the assorted traffic running on it. The carriages in Premium Red were a bit old and tired and swayed from side to side, but this added to the atmosphere of the trip and I quite enjoyed it. The a/c worked fine and I could get up and walk around, something not possible in a bus or car.
The change of scenery from city to industrial to urban to countryside was exceptionally interesting and I won't bore the reader with the details of that; any half-decent Google search will find much better descriptions than I can provide. However, it was universally dry once outside the outer metropolitan area and clearly the countryside is doing it tough.
We only crossed one train for the whole trip and, sadly, there were only two grain trains in sidings, but the general range of towns and countryside and railway activity was interesting to watch. Of particular interest (to me, at least) was a collection of NSWGR wagons in a siding at Murray Bridge; they were in very poor condition and look as if they were lost!
The trip through the Adelaide Hills was very scenic and slow, Mount Lofty station was good to see having recently read about it in the ARHS magazine. Later, I hired a car in Adelaide and went back to both Murray Bridge and Mount Lofty station for a closer look; unfortunately, although I spent more than an hour at each location, there was no rail traffic passing by. This was particularly disappointing at Murray Bridge which is as stunning location, the view only enhanced by railway traffic (steam would be nice). The recently displayed Murray Bridge HO layout at various exhibitions is an excellent representation with the bonus of having regular rail traffic moving across it
We arrived into Adelaide about 30 minutes late, didn't care as I wasn't on a deadline. Plenty of taxis at the station to ferry passengers to wherever they needed to go and it seemed that the train discharged quickly. Also interesting to see current and former Ghan, Indian Pacific and Overland carriages sitting around waiting for repair or scrapping or...?
On board, GSR staff were exceptionally helpful, polite, funny and happy to do anything to make the trip enjoyable. Food choices were limited but the delivered product (curry), was excellent. Drinks and nibbles were included in the package and they make real coffee on the train too Spoke to a GSR staff member who said that she and the remainder of the staff rotate between The Overland, The Ghan and The Indian Pacific; she said that the staff would be disappointed if The Overland is discontinued and that they had no information if it would be extended.
The train was not long, an NR hauling four passenger carriages, a baggage carriage, a buffet car and a power (?) car. The NR was not troubled at any point and this is the first trip I have done behind one.
Overall impressions: a great trip, interesting scenery, good food and well worth doing. I took this trip to "tick it off" the list and to see the countryside, I was in no rush to be in Adelaide at any particular time so a slower mode of travel was very relaxing. With better marketing, this could be a very interesting tourist train but then Australia is not good at marketing those, unless it is The Ghan and The Indian Pacific... and now The Great Southern. I would happily to the trip again, but going from Adelaide to Melbourne.
This article first appeared on www.railpage.com.au
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