Australian rail adventure, anyone else been?

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Techniquest

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Hi all,

Those of you who follow the Plane Bashing thread will already be aware of it, through numerous and lengthy posts so far on the topic, but for the rest of you I'm planning my first Australian trip. I had originally hoped to go this June when I already have two weeks off, alas I'm well short of the final total I need for everything for the trip. So it's planned for 2013, with the USA in 2014 and Japan in 2015. Yes, I really am planning that far ahead!

Anyway, since I'm already getting the flights stuff discussed elsewhere, I'll keep this one focussed on the rail part. However, should you have any useful gen/tips to share with regards to the flights, do share! Currently my plan revolves around flying to Perth, then do the 3-day The Indian Pacific, then sample the XPTs (I may have given up on HSTs, but the XPT is still holding a lot of interest) on a Sydney to Melbourne trip, finally doing Melbourne to Darwin and back before flying home. The bigger version of the trip involves getting up to Brisbane and doing as much as possible of the Queensland Railways network as possible too, but that'll depend on what dates I can get off from work. That probably won't be known until January at the extreme earliest, when I hope to know that I can definitely afford the trip!

A read of this page on Seat 61 - http://www.seat61.com/Australia.htm - was incredibly helpful, and I'm still studying the best options for the trip. Got plenty of time to make up my mind I suppose!

What I'm posting this thread for is to ask if anyone else has been and if they've any useful gen to share. I'm not super bothered about the tourist-y stuff, as I'm going for the trains more than anything else. Well, and the flights of course. Any particular route more worth doing than another, or is it better to do The Ghan first then The Indian Pacific? Things like that I'd love to know, although I'm not leaving the continent until I do The Indian Pacific! Recommendations on sensibly priced hotels would also be seriously welcome, as Travelodge sadly doesn't exist out in Australia!

Thanks in advance all.
 
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DownSouth

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Local speaking here.

I don't know how current the Seat 61 info is, but The Ghan no longer starts at Melbourne. To do Melbourne-Darwin exclusively by train requires getting The Overland to Adelaide, staying somewhere for one or two nights and then getting on The Ghan.

The Melbourne-Adelaide (or reverse) trip on The Overland is a little inconvenient for connecting up, but it's a good trip which is done wholly during the day to arrive in the late afternoon. If it's during April-September you would want to do it Adelaide-Melbourne so you're not doing the spectacular run down through the Adelaide Hills in darkness, the Melbourne end of the trip being through unremarkable industrial areas.

I would suggest a different plan with a touch more variety. Perth to Adelaide on the Indian Pacific, then Adelaide to Darwin on The Ghan. From there fly to Cairns and get the QR Tilt Train to Brisbane (perhaps doing some extra QR trips from there) and then the XPT to Sydney.

One thing to be aware of with the long interstate trips here is that the interstate rail network is of critical national importance to Australia because of the freight it carries, not for the few tourist-oriented passenger services. Don't plan connections between interstate trains (includes Sydney-Melbourne XPT and Sydney-Brisbane XPT) and others because delays are quite common and the passenger operator is not liable for anything more than getting you to your destination.


If you have time in Sydney for a day or two, some of the CityRail network goes through some spectacular national parks, and is definitely worth an extra day or two and a MyMulti Pass.

If you have time in Melbourne, I would suggest the Puffing Billy Railway in the Dandenong ranges would be good.

In Adelaide, the public transport is quite cheap and would get you to within walking distance of the National Rail Museum at the former Port Dock Station in Port Adelaide. We also have what is now just the second-longest guided busway in the world and free bikes for use in the city and parklands.

I haven't been to Perth so I don't know much about what else could be interesting there.
 

flymo

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Our very own Mumrar was there failry recently and added a trip report.

I've been to Oz a few times and I really enjoyed Perth the most I think. I missed the chance to see the Indian Pacific as I went to Perth station not East Perth which is a little way away. D'oh!.

Anyway in Perth there has been a lot of investment in the local train services with electrification too. New lines have been built and old lines upgraded.
Travelling up north from Perth towards Clarkson you are in the middle of the Mitchell Freeway whizzing past cars :D

OOOOOhhhh these posts bring back memories, attached are a couple of pics from the Perth and SW Oz area.
The first one is Perth Station from the Horseshoe Bridge
DSC01001.JPG
and the other one was a surprise catch in a place called Pingaring which is in the middle of nowhere but I was driving from Albany to Hyden (where Wave Rock is) and saw this train idling away.
DSC00965.JPG

Sounds like you have a fab trip planned.:D
 

Techniquest

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Cheers for the advice gents, shall have a look at Mumrar's trip report shortly.

Flying to Perth is extremely expensive compared to Sydney and Melbourne, so not sure if that's the best bet.

Thanks for the gen on The Ghan and The Overland, didn't know that about the freight, what sort of delays can one expect? Several hours, many multiples of minutes, etc? Flying to Cairns wasn't an option I've considered, shall have to look into that. So many options, I think there will need to be a second and possibly even third trip to the other side of the world. Got to one day for New Zealand at least!

Anyway, for the moment it's time to read Mumrar's trip report and then finish off my trip report from the Irish bash. I expect I'll have another one by this time next week following my Dublin bash, so need to get on with it!
 

185

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My trip was-
Sydney-Melbourne (XPT)
Melbourne-Adelaide ('The Overland', Loco Hauled)
Flew Adelaide-Cairns
Cairns-Brisbane (TiltTrain)
Brisbane-Sydney (XPT)
Sydney-Blue Mountains-Sydney (CityRail)

The year before did NZ....
Auckland-Wellington (Overlander)
Wellington-Picton (Interislander Ship)
Picton-Christchurch (TranzCoastal)
Christchurch-Gisburn-Christchurch (TranzAlpine)
Christchurch-Dunedin (Bus)
Dunedin-Queenstown (Bus)
 

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Just to add to what has been said by others do some trips when your around Sydney just because the city is crap and you dont want to be in there for long. Ive done the Melbourne - Sydney XPT but at night and whilst it was amazing watching the sun come up over the countryside it was very uncomfortable and made me arse sore.

If your as far north as Port Douglas they have a delightful railway which only runs on a sunday but passes all the big resorts on the road - very odd and also if your lucky and get there when they harvest the sugar cane you will see those run too. And dont forget http://www.reefandrainforest.com.au/kuranda_tours.html this railway - very scenic
 

Techniquest

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Cheers again chaps, looks like I might have to make my trip into at least 10 days to fit much in! Especially considering it's more than a day's travelling to get to/from Australia!
 

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Thanks for the gen on The Ghan and The Overland, didn't know that about the freight, what sort of delays can one expect? Several hours, many multiples of minutes, etc?
Don't plan any critical connections within a couple of hours, for example at Southern Cross Station (Melbourne) if you're swapping from The Overland to the overnight XPT to Sydney. On the mostly single-track interstate lines there is simply no way to get past a broken-down train until additional locomotives arrive (common for seasonal grain harvest trains which use older locos normally kept in storage), and a derailment or flood event will see you transferred to coaches (Red class) or air travel (Gold & Platinum class) to your destination. Travel insurance may cover you for re-buying a ticket for your next train/air journey, but you would need to check with the insurer.

The Overland is rarely subject to more than an hour delay as it is the shortest interstate journey and the freight traffic on the Adelaide-Melbourne segment is pretty reliable outside of grain trains struggling to get over the Adelaide Hills - this is usually not a problem at the times The Overland comes through because of the schedules. If you're boarding/alighting at an intermediate stop (i.e. not Melbourne or Adelaide) they give you a window of ±30 minutes and will leave as soon as everybody has boarded.

The IP, Ghan, Brisbane XPT and Melbourne XPT are routinely subject to longer delays up to about three hours because of the longer distances involved, the CountryLink website shows the overnight Melbourne-Sydney XPT was expected to be roughly 70 minutes late this morning. If there is a major blockage between Sydney and Adelaide with no diversion in NSW available, the IP can be sent through Victoria and passengers for missed stops transferred to coaches or NSW CountryLink trains. When this happened last week due to flooding, it was combined with the Overland just outside Melbourne and came into Adelaide with 34 passenger/motorail vehicles in the consist!

The XPT to/from Melbourne and operates a day service each way with all seats and a night service each way with sleeper accommodation available, but sleeper accommodation is not bookable online just to make things annoying. The Brisbane XPT heads north to Brisbane at night and back to Sydney during the day, so the sleeping accommodation is converted to first class seating for the southbound service.


For the record, all of the GSR trains (The Ghan, the Indian-Pacific, The Overland) are loco hauled using NR Class locomotives which are Australian-built 4000hp proper freight locos using GE power, uniquely with the option to run at one of two lower power levels to save fuel while running a light train or when cruising on a very flat section. Privatisation legislation forces their operator Pacific National (or PN's successor) to provide GSR with the "hook and pull" service, with it being arranged so that GSR pays less if a normal PN-liveried loco is used instead of the NR Class locos liveried for The Ghan and the Indian-Pacific.
The XPT is inspired by the InterCity 125, but they use different diesel engines and Budd-designed coaches that were considered superior to the Mark 3 for Australian conditions.
The diesel Tilt Train to/from Cairns also operates like an IC125 with a power car at each end, while the electric Tilt Train on the southern end of the trip only is a true EMU. You may get other loco-hauled trains on some of the QR TravelTrain (long distance brand name) services, I don't think they have specialised DMUs for that.
Intra-state travel in Victoria is a mix of locos and DMUs, both of which are actually quite nice.
 
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Techniquest

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An extremely useful post, thank you muchly. Certainly won't be planning any critical connections then, and the overnight XPT looks like a good move if only to save a little on hotel costs.

Glad you posted about traction too, I'll be looking more deeply into that nearer the time, but good to have a bit of insight early on. Hopefully I'll be able to conjure up some form of fleetlists for spotting/bashing purposes nearer the time too, Wikipedia will no doubt have some sort of useful content on there.

Again, thanks for your post on the topic :D
 

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An extremely useful post, thank you muchly. Certainly won't be planning any critical connections then, and the overnight XPT looks like a good move if only to save a little on hotel costs.

Glad you posted about traction too, I'll be looking more deeply into that nearer the time, but good to have a bit of insight early on. Hopefully I'll be able to conjure up some form of fleetlists for spotting/bashing purposes nearer the time too, Wikipedia will no doubt have some sort of useful content on there.

Again, thanks for your post on the topic :D
Hotels? There are some fantastic Hostels in Aus (both YHA and independents) which will save you a fortune and help you to meet people.
 

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If you want a hostel in Melbourne to look at the trains then the Nomads. Its on the corner in between Southern Cross station and Flinders street and you get to see the trains pass. Frequently.
 

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If you want a hostel in Melbourne to look at the trains then the Nomads. Its on the corner in between Southern Cross station and Flinders street and you get to see the trains pass. Frequently.
Used to pass this most days when in Melbourne , looks filthy from the outside .

I took the V line to Mildura and it was a loco hauled train to Swan Hill . The Sydney Cityrail is interesting particularly the line to Wollongong , Newcastle and Kantoomba.
 

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Hostels? No ta, I've been spoiled by the luxury of Travelodge and the like. I used to big up hostels up until last year, but I'm getting too old for them now and having access to a shower with hot water whenever I want it, a double bed, a room of my own and that's clean, as well as things like a TV, kettle, tea/coffee and all those little things that you can't get with a hostel, well it's just obvious what I go for now.

Yes it's more expensive but so worth paying for. Especially if you get a bargain in a Travelodge sale, as 6 out of 8 bookings I made for my ALR in June during a sale a while back were only £10 each. You couldn't get a hostel for that much, unless it was an absolute dive.

Especially in a foreign land, I'd like to have some sort of security with my accommodation. I'm not saying hostels are bad for that, far from it, but hotels are just far better!
 

route101

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Hostels? No ta, I've been spoiled by the luxury of Travelodge and the like. I used to big up hostels up until last year, but I'm getting too old for them now and having access to a shower with hot water whenever I want it, a double bed, a room of my own and that's clean, as well as things like a TV, kettle, tea/coffee and all those little things that you can't get with a hostel, well it's just obvious what I go for now.

Yes it's more expensive but so worth paying for. Especially if you get a bargain in a Travelodge sale, as 6 out of 8 bookings I made for my ALR in June during a sale a while back were only £10 each. You couldn't get a hostel for that much, unless it was an absolute dive.

Especially in a foreign land, I'd like to have some sort of security with my accommodation. I'm not saying hostels are bad for that, far from it, but hotels are just far better!
Im sure there is Travelodge in Australia but i dont think its the same as ours . I understand , i like some privacy at times.
 

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There is a Travelodge near the Opera House I'm told, although not the same as ours indeed. Will probably be my first port of call when I arrive in Sydney! :D
 

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Wasn't according to the Kuoni book I've got, from £49 I think it said. Not cheap I know, but still cheaper than most of what I found.

Not going until sometime after April 2013.
 

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Used to pass this most days when in Melbourne , looks filthy from the outside .

I took the V line to Mildura and it was a loco hauled train to Swan Hill . The Sydney Cityrail is interesting particularly the line to Wollongong , Newcastle and Kantoomba.
It was a little bit grotty on the inside too. The line out to Katoomba is fantastic for scenery and also Newcastle. I was having a walk along one day and heard the chuff from a steam engine but couldnt get back to a decent vantage point in time.. Just saw the steam in in the distance :(


There is a Travelodge near the Opera House I'm told, although not the same as ours indeed. Will probably be my first port of call when I arrive in Sydney! :D
You have no idea how much that'll cost you.. And the Opera house isnt all that either - dont let picture postcards of a bright white beacon of architecture fool you. Though if you walk along the docks you may get to see this lovely looking ship



Also make sure you go visit the rocks area, think the pub was called the Lord Nelson there which has its own brewery, and a nice thai restaurant opposite.
 

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On the topic of Sydney and ships, the National Maritime Museum on the water in central Sydney is worth a visit. I'm yet to get there myself, but I'm told it is fantastic.
 

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I recently stayed with family in Sydney and used it as an opportunity to sample (a very small part) of the Australian rail network and take some photo's, which you can find here. I would definitely at least recommend a trip on an XPT. I wasn't able to go that far (Broadmeadow) due to time limitations, but for me it was still worth it.
 
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