Journeys on this Train
The Ghan has a long and wild history, starting in 1878 when construction began on a line from Port Augusta. Until 1929, the last part of the journey to Alice Springs was accomplished by Afghan camel train, and that’s where today’s train gets it name. The Alice to Darwin “Top End” route, dreamed of for more than a century, was started in 2001. The first train arrived in Darwin in 2004. The service has been swamped with travelers. It takes 48 hours—two nights on board—to travel from Adelaide to Darwin over 1,852 miles of track. The Ghan has added Platinum luxury-class service, which is getting excellent reviews.
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In September 2008, the Ghan kicked off a new luxury service, limited to 24 Platinum class cabins. Each cabin is 82.5 square feet, including private, en-suite shower, sink and toilet, almost twice the size of the existing Gold Kangaroo service. It leaves Adelaide on Wednesday and Darwin on Saturdays. The cabin is converted to lounge area by day, with a moveable table and two ottomans. At night, it converts to a double or twin beds; the interior is finished in Tasmanian Myrtle wood. Each compartment has full-size shower, vanity with storage space, mirror and oversized panoramic window.
Our most recent reviewer of the train, checking out the Platinum cabins for The International Railway Traveler, found it wonderful overall. "I am sorry to leave the Ghan and even sorrier to part from the staff’s excellent care," our author said in her story. "...The service is one of the best aspects of Platinum class."
Dining is in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant in two seatings. Platinum travelers get priority seating, which we think is great. Alternatively, guests can order room service from items on the menu.
When our IRT Society travelers were on board, the lounge was a crowded place with not nearly enough room for the crush of travelers. The train managers feel that the Platinum service will cut down on the crowding; half the passengers will be dining at one time and the other half free to use the lounge.
The Ghan itself in Gold Kangaroo class is definitely on our list of World’s Top 25 Trains just because it is one of the very few transcontinental passenger train services in the world––there is a fine feeling of other-worldliness when you wake up at dawn on The Ghan and peer out to see the new day, a desert drenched in gold.
But with Platinum service, the Ghan strives to be the premiere passenger service in Australia. Platinum service offers many extras, from welcome drink and appetizer upon arrival in your cabin, to 24-hour cabin steward service, room service, complimentary nightcap, binoculars and in-room entertainment on request. Other perks: priority seating in the Queen Adelaide restaurant, at check-in and for the Whistle-stop tour bookings. It also includes hotel transfers to/from the Ghan in Darwin.
Our most recent traveler on the Ghan in Gold class was unhappy with all the little extras the railway does not offer in Gold Class. There is no afternoon tea; no complimentary chips or nuts with your welcome champagne glass, few of the little extras which for him are a delight traveling on fine trains. However, the train does offer a great perk: complimentary transfers to the train from several hotels for those in Gold Class and Platinum.
Great Southern Railways operates the Ghan and the Indian Pacific.