Indian Pacific

The Indian Pacific is an Australian passenger rail service that operates between Sydney, on the Pacific Ocean coast, and Perth, on the Indian Ocean coast. It is one of the few truly transcontinental trains in the world. The train first ran in February 1970 after the completion of gauge conversion projects in South and Western Australia.

Indian Pacific
Passenger car of the Indian Pacific train
Service typeTranscontinental passenger rail
First service23 February 1970
Current operator(s)Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions
Former operator(s)Department of Railways New South Wales
South Australian Railways
Commonwealth Railways
Western Australian Government Railways
Australian National
StartSydney Central
EndEast Perth Terminal
Distance travelled4,352 km (2,704.21 mi)
Average journey time70.5-75 hours
Service frequencyWeekly
Line(s) usedMain Western
Broken Hill
Broken Hill-Crystal Brook
Crystal Brook-Adelaide
Eastern Goldfields
On-board services
Seating arrangementsYes
Sleeping arrangementsYes
Auto-rack arrangementsYes
Rolling stockCommonwealth Railways stainless steel carriage stock
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Operating speed115 km/h[1]
Route map
Interactive map
Indian Pacific
East Perth
Broken Hill
Mount Victoria (Sydney-bound only)
Sydney Central

The train's route includes the world's longest straight stretch of railway track, a 478-kilometre (297 mi) stretch of the Trans-Australian Railway over the Nullarbor Plain.[2]

The service was originally operated jointly by the Department of Railways New South Wales, South Australian Railways, Commonwealth Railways and Western Australian Government Railways, until February 1993 when Australian National took full ownership. In October 1997, the Indian Pacific was sold to Great Southern Rail (now known as Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions).

A one-way trip takes between 70.5 and 75 hours, depending on scheduling and daylight saving periods.[3] The train currently has two classes, branded as Platinum and Gold Service.[4] A motorail service conveys passengers' motor vehicles between Adelaide and Perth.[5]


With the remaining narrow gauge parts of the East-west rail corridor being gauge converted to standard gauge in 1966, the Department of Railways New South Wales, South Australian Railways, Commonwealth Railways and Western Australian Government Railways agreed that a through passenger service from Sydney Central to East Perth Terminal be inaugurated. Originally to be named The Transcontinental, in 1969 the Indian Pacific name was adopted by a joint meeting of transport ministers.[6][7][8]

The service was originally operated jointly by the four operators whose networks it traversed, with revenues and costs apportioned Department of Railways New South Wales (28.5%), South Australian Railways (10%), Commonwealth Railways (45%) and Western Australian Government Railways (16.5%).[9][10]

The first Indian Pacific service left Sydney on 23 February 1970, becoming the first direct train to cross the Australian continent,[11] made possible by the completion of the east-west standard gauge project a few months earlier. At the time it was the third longest passenger train in terms of distance after services on the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Canadian.[12]

Locomotives and crews were provided by the Department of Railways New South Wales between Sydney and Broken Hill, South Australian Railways between Broken Hill and Port Pirie, the Commonwealth Railways between Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie and Western Australian Government Railways between Kalgoorlie and Perth. With the formation of Australian National in July 1975, it provided locomotives and crews from Broken Hill to Kalgoorlie. Locomotives were changed at Lithgow, Broken Hill, Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie.

On-board crews were originally provided between Sydney and Port Pirie by Commonwealth Railways on one service and New South Wales Government Railways on the other services, Commonwealth Railways between Port Pirie and Kalgoolie and West Australian Government Railways between Kalgoolie and Perth.

The train originally operated twice per week. In times of heavy demand, a double consist would operate. It would operate in New South Wales as two trains before being combined at Broken Hill.[13][14]

In July 1973, a third service was introduced followed in July 1975 by a fourth, these later two being extensions of existing Trans-Australian services.[15][16][17] In October 1976 a motorail service was introduced between Port Pirie and Perth.[18] Originally vehicles were loaded in Perth at the Kewdale Freight Terminal before a car loading ramp was built at East Perth station.[19][20]

The service was suspended from 2 December 1982 to 25 April 1983 due to an industrial dispute over staffing levels in South Australia.[21][22] When it resumed, the service was reduced to three times weekly with the second class sleepers replaced by sitting carriages.[23][24][25]

From August 1986, the train commenced operating via Adelaide.[25][26][27] In October 1988 the motorail service was extended through to Sydney.[28]

In June 1991, the service was cut from three times a week to two.[29][30][31] This was reduced to weekly in January 1992 between Sydney and Adelaide with two services a week between Adelaide and Perth.[32][33]

In February 1993, Australian National took over operation of the service throughout after agreement was reached with the State Rail Authority and Westrail in 1992.[34][35][36] A second service resumed in August 1993.[37]

From January 1994 the service was operated throughout by Australian National CL class locomotives.[38]

As part of the privatisation of Australian National, the Indian Pacific, along with The Ghan and The Overland, was sold to Great Southern Rail (now known as Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions) in October 1997.[39] Motive power provision was contracted to National Rail. Today the Indian Pacific operates weekly.[40] A second service operated between September and November until 2015.[41]


The route leaves Sydney and travels via the Western and Broken Hill lines to Broken Hill. It then crosses into South Australia on the Broken Hill to Crystal Brook line before heading south to Adelaide. Before the conversion of the Crystal Brook to Adelaide line to standard gauge, passengers for Adelaide had to change at Port Pirie. However, from August 1986, the Indian Pacific was diverted to make an out-and-back trip to Adelaide adding 390 kilometres (240 mi) to the journey. From Crystal Brook it heads north to Port Augusta and then via the Trans-Australian Railway to Kalgoorlie including travelling over the world's longest straight stretch of railway track on the Nullarbor Plain measuring 478 kilometres (297 mi).[42] It then heads via the Eastern Goldfields and Eastern lines to its terminus at East Perth.

Occasionally, when there is trackwork, the Indian Pacific is diverted out of Sydney via the Main South line to Cootamundra and cross-country line to rejoin the Broken Hill line at Parkes. It has previously operated via the Temora to Roto line and via Melbourne.[43][44]

In 1970, the journey took 75 hours. With subsequent infrastructure improvements and reductions to the time needed to change locomotives and crew, the journey now takes 65 hours despite the longer distance.[45]

Rolling stock

For the commencement of operations, 59 stainless steel carriages, power vans and luggage vans were built by Commonwealth Engineering, Granville to the same design as already in use on the Trans-Australian.[7][46][47] These operated in consists of 12 carriages.[47][48] A further 16 were ordered in 1971.[49]

Today, the weekly service consists of up to 25 carriages and two motorail wagons. Because of its length, the train is split in two when stabled at Sydney Central station.

Originally each of the operators hauled the train over their network with locomotives changed at Broken Hill, Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie. A further change occurred at Lithgow from electric to diesel power. Due to Westrail suffering a motive power shortage, Australian National locomotives hauled the service in Western Australia from October 1973 until March 1977.[50][51]

From January 1994 the service was operated throughout by Australian National CL class locomotives.[52] Since November 1997, it has been hauled by Pacific National NR class locomotives.[53] Seven NR class, (NR18, NR25-NR29, NR86) have been repainted in differing Indian Pacific liveries.[54][55]

The lead locomotive is assisted by a 81, G or second NR class between Sydney and Adelaide. In 2014, NR25-NR28 were repainted in a new livery that is much closer to that of Pacific National.[56] In 2018, NR29 and NR86 had Indian Pacific signwriting applied their existing liveries.[57]

Passenger facilities

The train originally offered just 52 first-class sleeping berths and 96 second-class sleeping berths. However, the train was limited to 144 passengers, as this was the number that could be serviced by three sittings in the 48-seat dining car.

From 1973, the accommodation was altered to provide 88 first-class sleeping berths and 64 second-class. The club-cafeteria car also provided a small number of second-class seats for short-distance travelers on the Commonwealth Railways segment.

From 1975, Australian National provided full sitting carriages west of Port Pirie on two journeys per week. The Department of Railways New South Wales initially resisted providing sitting accommodation over the whole journey, but Public Transport Commission HUB/RUB sitting carriages were included between Sydney and Port Pirie from 1974, with Australian National providing sitting carriages from Broken Hill to Peterborough for an onward connection to Adelaide.[58][59] By 1979 the Public Transport Commission carriages were operating from Sydney to Peterborough.[60] In 1981 this was extended to Port Pirie.[61]

Sitting carriages provided by Australian National with Commonwealth Railways carbon steel carriage stock became part of the full through service from Sydney to Perth in 1988.

The train formerly had four classes, branded as Platinum, Gold Service, Red Service Sleeper and Red Service Daynighter. The Platinum Service was introduced in 2008 as a premium class of travel. The Gold Service, the former first-class service, features either roomette or twinette sleeper cabins, with complimentary meals in the restaurant car.

Red Service, the equivalent of economy class, featured both dual-berth shared sleeper cabins and airline-style 'sit-up' seats similar to other Australian trains. It also had its own restaurant car.[62] Red Service was withdrawn in July 2016.[63][64]

The train also has a motorail service to carry passengers' motor vehicles.[65] This facility was available throughout the journey until November 2015, when it was reduced to only operate between Adelaide and Perth.

Special trains

A full Indian Pacific set made promotional trips to Canberra and Newcastle for travel agents prior to its launch in February 1970.[66]

Further trips were made to Canberra in 1981 and 1985,[67][68] and to Newcastle in 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1979.[69][70][71][72]

Following the conversion of the Adelaide to Melbourne railway line to standard gauge in 1995, the Indian Pacific made a promotional trip from Perth to Brisbane via Melbourne over 6 days in June of that year.[73][74]

Christmas train

The Indian Pacific has operated a Christmas Train with a notable music personality on board.[75]

The train stops at several locations to entertain the locals and thank them for their support of the train.[76] The locations include the remote Nullarbor sidings of Watson, Cook,[77] and Rawlinna.

Some of the performers on board have been: Nikki Webster (2000), John Williamson (2001), Marcia Hines (2002), John Paul Young (2003), Jimmy Barnes (2004), Guy Sebastian (2005),[78] Human Nature (2006) and David Campbell (2007).[79]

Media depictions

In 1980, the Indian Pacific featured in an episode of BBC Television's Great Railway Journeys of the World series, presented by Michael Frayn. In 2019 it was also the subject of an SBS slow television documentary. The entire journey from Perth to Sydney was condensed into a three hour show with no voiceover, much of it featuring footage directly from the front and sides of the train.[80] The Indian Pacific also featured in Great Australian Railway Journeys, presented by Michael Portillo, first broadcast in November 2019.


  • 18 February 1970: On a test run from Port Pirie, an Indian Pacific set struck a derailed freight train near Locksley ripping the sides out of several carriages[47][81]
  • 24 December 1975: 13 of the 25 carriages on the eastbound train derailed due to a collapsed bogie on the leading carriage, east of the remote Nullarbor Plain siding of Rawlinna.[82] Three of the 200 passengers were injured; they were flown from Forrest to Adelaide.[82]
  • 24 January 1978: The westbound train derailed near Forbes as a result of wet weather washing away part of the track.[83] The train had been diverted south through Forbes, because of washaways between Parkes and Broken Hill. Three of the 153 passengers were taken to Forbes District Hospital.
  • 18 August 1999: Zanthus train collision - the westbound train was accidentally directed into a crossing loop occupied by an eastbound train at Zanthus.[84]
  • 3 December 1999: Glenbrook train disaster - a CityRail Intercity train ran into the back of the eastbound train at Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. Seven people died, all on the CityRail train.[84]
  • 26 November 2017: At 10:12 am, just 600 metres after departing from East Perth station, the Indian Pacific, heading for Sydney, derailed. “The second carriage jumped the tracks, grinding the train-ride to a halt.”[85]



  1. "The Indian Pacific". Great Southern Rail. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  2. Facts about the Nullabor Plain Outback Australia Travel Guide
  3. "Indian Paific Timetables". Great Southern Rail. 2018. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  4. "The Indian Pacific Fares 2016-2017". Great Southern Rail. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  5. "Taking your car - Indian Pacific". Great Southern Rail. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  6. Here & There Australian Railway History Society Bulletin issue 349 November 1966 page 2
  7. Sydney to Perth in 62 Hours Railway Gazette 21 March 1969 pages 211-215
  8. Coast to Coast Glamour Trains Named Railway Digest October 1969 page 9
  9. The Indian-Pacific Network June 1970 page 4
  10. Who Owns the Indian Pacific? WAGR News Letter March 1971 page 4
  11. "Indian Pacific train turns 40". WA Today. 23 February 2010. Retrieved 25 February 2010.
  12. Standard gauge across Australia: The commercial impact Railway Gazette International 20 February 1970 pages 129-132
  13. Two Divisions for the Indian Pacific Network 1 May 1972 page 1
  14. Traffic grows on the Indian Pacific Railway Gazette International August 1982 page 284
  15. Three services weekly each way for the Indian Pacific Network March 1973 page 2
  16. And Then There Were Three WAGR News Letter June 1973 page 3
  17. A Fourth Indian Pacific Railway Digest May 1975 page 9
  18. New Motorail Service Westrail News Letter November 1976 page 8
  19. Motorail Increases Capacity Westrail News Letter March 1977 page 8
  20. Here & There Australian Railway Historical Society issue 483 January 1978 page 7
  21. "Indian Pacific back after long strike". The Age. 26 April 1983.
  22. Indian Pacific Services Resume Catch Point issue 35 May 1983 page 4
  23. Indian Pacific Returns - In a Different Form Railway Digest May 1983 page 153
  24. Intelligence Railway Gazette International June 1983 page 408
  25. Higham, Geoffrey (2007). Marble Bar to Mandurah: A history of passenger rail services in Western Australia. Bassendean: Rail Heritage WA. p. 150. ISBN 978 0 9803922 0 3.
  26. "Western Report" Railway Digest September 1986 page 281
  27. The Indian Pacific Goes to Adelaide Network October 1986 page 50
  28. Here & There Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin issue 615 January 1989 page 21
  29. More Passenger Services Get the Chop Catch Point issue 84 July 1991 page 24
  30. "Interstate cutbacks" Railway Digest July 1991 page 231
  31. Cuts to Interstate Passenger Trains The Westland issue 78 July 1991 page 7
  32. Further Cuts to Indian Pacific Catch Point issue 87 January 1992 page 22
  33. "Indian Pacific service cut to weekly" Railway Digest February 1992 page 50
  34. "IP to come under sole control of AN" Railway Digest March 1992
  35. "IP handed to AN" Railway Digest February 1993
  36. AN gets Indian Pacific Catch Point issue 94 March 1993 page 22
  37. Here & There Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin issue 670 August 1993 page 214
  38. "CLP Class Locos Take-Over Indian Pacific Workings" Railway Digest March 1994
  39. Great Southern Railway Consortium completes acquisition of Australian National Railways Passenger Business Archived 10 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine Serco Group plc 31 October 1997
  40. Indian Pacific Timetables 2016-2017 Great Southern Rail
  41. Indian Pacific Timetables 2015-2016 Great Southern Rail
  42. Vincent, Peter (27 September 2006). "Railroaded Into Fun". The Age. Retrieved 25 January 2008.
  43. The Indian-Pacific via Narranderra Railway Digest February 1971 page 5
  44. MotivePower News Motive Power issue 81 May 2012 page 17
  45. Staff, AG (22 September 2010). "Indian Pacific celebrates 40 years". Australian Geographic. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
  46. Carriage Review Railway Digest November 1986 page 351
  47. Dunn, John (2010). Comeng A History of Commonwealth Engineering Volume 3 1966-1977. Rosenberg Publishing. pp. 16–35. ISBN 9781877058905.
  48. Standard gauge across Australia: The central link in the chain Railway Gazette International 20 February 1970 page 133
  49. Market Railway Gazette International June 1971 page 214
  50. Here & There Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin issue 436 February 1974 page 9
  51. Here & There Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin issue 480 October 1977 page 10
  52. Here & There Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin issue 683 September 1994 page 263
  53. Here & There Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin issue 722 December 1997 page 457
  54. New Indian Pacific livery Railway Digest November 2005 page 46
  55. New livery for Pacific National Railways Illustrated issue 35 January 2006 page 47
  56. MotivePower Roundup Motive Power issue 95 September 2014 page 72
  57. Motive Power Roundup Motive Power issue 117 May 2018 page 74
  58. Here & There Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin issue 446 December 1974 page 3
  59. Altered Arrangements for the Indian Pacific Railway Digest February 1977 page 49
  60. Here & There Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin issue 497 March 1979 page 1
  61. Here & There Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin issue 522 April 1981 page 35
  62. "Compare Service Levels". Great Southern Railway. Archived from the original on 28 March 2008. Retrieved 18 April 2008.
  63. High rollers only for rail as Indian Pacific cuts economy class ABC News 8 March 2016
  64. Economy class cuts to Indian Pacific prompt concern in Broken Hill Railway Digest August 2016 page 10
  65. Taking Your Car - Indian Pacific Great Southern Rail
  66. "Special Agents". Sydney Morning Herald. 10 February 1970.
  67. Here & There Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin issue 526 August 1981 page 61
  68. Indian Pacific and The Alice to Visit Canberra Railway Digest July 1984 page 244
  69. Inaugaural Run ex Newcastle Railway Digest June 1975 page 12
  70. Promoting the Indian Pacific Network July 1975 page 3
  71. Indian Pacific Visits Newcastle Network May 1977 page 27
  72. Here & There Australian Railway Historical Society issue 498 April 1979 page 5
  73. Evans, John (2004), "Australia's Longest Passenger Train" (PDF), Table Talk, Australian Timetable Association Previously Australian Association of Timetable Collectors (141), p. 3
  74. "The Indian Pacific's Commemorative Rail Journey" Railway Digest July 1995
  75. Platt, Craig (21 December 2007). "Getting Into the Christmas Spirit(s)". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 25 January 2008.
  76. Simmonds, Diana (19 April 2007). "On the Right Track". The Australian. Retrieved 25 January 2008.
  77. Nader, Carol (17 December 2005). "Splendid Isolation". The Age. Retrieved 25 January 2008.
  78. Air Doctor, Issue 325, February 2006. Page 10. Great Southern Railway Spreading The Joy Of Christmas. Retrieved 2 March 2009
  79. "Indian Pacific Outback Christmas". Archived from the original on 3 January 2008. Retrieved 25 January 2008.
  80. Indian Pacific, another SBS slow TV show, is boring and profound ABC News 6 January 2019
  81. Here & There Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin issue 390 April 1970 page 2
  82. "Indian-Pacific derailed". The Canberra Times. 50 (14, 258). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 26 December 1975. p. 3. Retrieved 10 January 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  83. "Indian Pacific train derailed". The Canberra Times. 52 (14, 993). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 25 January 1978. p. 3. Retrieved 10 January 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  84. "Chronology of Australian Train Crashes". The Daily Telegraph. Australian Associated Press. 6 June 2007. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  85. Daly, Jon (26 November 2017). "'A pain-in-the-a**e': Indian Pacific derails 600m from East Perth Station". WA Today. Retrieved 26 November 2017.


This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.