Why did I go to Darwin if I didn’t plan on spending any time there? Because it’s the starting station for The Ghan.
The Ghan journeys from Darwin to Adelaide, crossing the Australian continent from north to south.
The train of up to 1 km length is pulled predominantly by a single diesel engine, although there is a second, ‘slave’ engine behind the first which is used if the principal engine fails along the way.
The train is laid out in segments which consist of passenger carriages, lounge and restaurant. Travelling as a single Gold cabin passenger I was in carriage A, the first passenger carriage on the train behind the staff quarters. The Cabins are spacious enough to entertain a guest during the day, with a wide seat, table and footrest/guest seat the other side of the table. At night, a full single bed folds down from behind the seat (rather than the seat, table and footstool making a bed like in many business class air-cabins). At the foot end (which I didn’t take a picture of!) there is a small sink, which makes that end of the cabin wider than the head end. To accommodate the cabins arranged head/toe/toe/head on each side of the carriage, the corridor down the middle curves.
We had two ‘loos at one end of the carriage and two shower rooms with ‘loos at the other end. For the 16 cabins there are therefore 4 ‘loos and 2 showers which proved perfectly adequate throughout the journey.
Although a little disconcerting when I first saw it, the movement of the train is far less obvious in this carriage than the others! Carriages B, C and D had double cabins, with bunk beds and a small shower room with a ‘loo. I mean small when I say that, I would have thought it was impossible to shower without some water hitting the ‘loo. Our showers on the other hand were very roomy!
Some of the doors between carriages were etched like these, although not all. I’m not sure why some rather than others were like this.
At the end of carriage D, we reached the Explorer Lounge which had comfortable seating and a bar (behind me in the picture).
The nice thing about the lounge car is that it has windows either side, whereas the cabins only ever look out one side of the train. The next carriage after the Explorer Lounge is a Queen Adelaide restaurant, where we ate all our breakfasts and some of our meals (more on that later). Beyond the restaurant is then another segment, made up in reverse to ours, their restaurant at the front and carriages behind. On this journey we had 4 of these segments, the train will travel with just 3 if that’s all the tickets they sell.
The extension of the Ghan up to Darwin (which used to only run from Adelaide to Alice Springs) became possible in 2004 when the building of new tracks meant that the rail gauges either side of Alice Springs were the same. This means that rather than an old Victorian train station, Darwin has a very nice modern one.