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The Ghan stands at the main platform at the Adelaide Parklands Rail Terminal, 28 May 2011. Photo: Michael Gorey, Wikimedia Commons.

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GM22 Hubert Opperman in Commonwealth Railways maroon and silver livery and GM36 in Australian National green and gold livery wait for departure from Keswick Terminal (now Adelaide Parklands Terminal, with the Trans-Australian for Perth, 21 May 1986. Photo: Bahnfrend, Wikimedia Commons.

Adelaide Parklands Terminal

David Matheson

 4 February 2024

Adelaide Parklands Terminal station is the city’s terminus for four interstate train services: the Indian Pacific, The Ghan, The Overland and Great Southern. It is unique in the world as a terminal station where east-west and north-south transcontinental trains arrive and depart.


New passenger terminal for Adelaide

Prior to the opening of Adelaide Parklands Terminal, all regional and interstate trains arriving in Adelaide terminated at Adelaide station in the central business district. In 1984 these trains were operated by Australian National (previously Australian National Railways), which wanted a dedicated terminal for long-distance trains. From before its opening, Australian National referred to the new terminal as Adelaide Rail Passenger Terminal.


Adelaide Rail Passenger Terminal was officially opened by Peter Morris, Federal Minister for Transport, on 18 May 1984. Its facilities included booking and enquiries section, a cafeteria able to cater for 100 seated patrons at a time, a waiting room with seating for 100 people, a travellers’ aid room and a kiosk. The terminal was designed to service up to 2000 people a day. Parking was provided for 200 cars, four buses and up to 20 taxis. The new terminal had three platforms, each of which had a length of 500 metres: one main single-sided platform, and an island platform. A subway connected the platforms. The main platform was covered for part of its length, while the island platform was covered near the subway exit. Broad gauge trains began to use the station on its opening day and standard gauge trains on 26 May.


Historic 0-4-0 saddle tank engine Sandfly was placed on display at the new Adelaide Rail Passenger Terminal from its opening. Sandfly is an 0-4-0 saddle tank engine that was the first locomotive to be used within the Northern Territory. It was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in the in 1886 and assisted in construction of the section of the North Australia Railway from 1887. Following this Sandfly was used in shunting work until 1950. In 1959 it was moved to Port Augusta in South Australia, where it was displayed on the railway station, and then from 1984 it was displayed at the new railway terminal in Adelaide. Following the completion of the standard gauge line to Darwin, Sandfly returned to Darwin in 2005.


The first train to depart from the new terminal was a service to Mount Gambier, formed by railcars 253, 014, 260 and 254, which departed at 7.55 am on 18 May 1984. The first arrival was The Overland, hauled by Australian National’s newest locomotive at the time, BL26 Bob Hawke, which arrived at 8.24 am. BL26 carried a headboard measuring three metres by one metre, marking the opening of the new terminal. Australian National said that it was the largest headboard ever carried on an Australian locomotive. The first standard gauge train to depart Adelaide Rail Passenger Terminal left for Port Pirie at 12.40 pm on 27 May. It was formed by railcars 100 and 280. On the following day, The Ghan became the first interstate standard gauge train to leave from the new terminal. At 10.00 am on 28 May it commenced its northbound journey to Alice Springs with locomotives GM5 and GM26 leading.


On 22 December 1991 the terminal was renamed Keswick Rail Passenger Terminal, after the suburb in which it was located. A criticism of the new terminal was that it was not connected to any State Transit Authority train or bus stops. A suburban passenger station named Keswick was located nearby, but there was no direct pedestrian connection between the two stations. Therefore, public transport to and from the new terminal was limited. Keswick suburban station closed in 2013.


Australian National’s regional passenger services were in decline by the late 1980s but continued into the start of the 1990s. The last two services were the Iron Triangle Limited, which operated between Adelaide and Whyalla, and the Silver City Limited, which operated between Adelaide and Broken Hill. Services officially ceased from 2 January 1991. The last service of the Iron Triangle Limited was formed by Budd railcar CB1, which ran from Adelaide to Whyalla and return on 31 December 1990. The final run to Broken Hill was a combined Silver City Limited and ‘pokie’ special that departed from Adelaide on 30 December 1990 and was formed by Bluebird railcars 261, 253, 101, 251 and 254. The last Broken Hill to Adelaide Silver City Limited then ran on 31 December, while the remaining cars returned to Adelaide on New Year’s Day. The pokie specials were trains that conveyed passengers from Adelaide to Broken Hill, with the attraction being that they could play poker machines, which were legal in New South Wales at the time, but not in South Australia. Bluebird railcar 103 was fitted with poker machines so that passengers could play them on the journey, with the reasoning that beyond a certain distance from Adelaide, Commonwealth law rather than state law applied on the train. The pokie specials continued to operate for around two years after the cessation of regular regional passenger services in South Australia.


Interstate trains

On 17 August 1986 the Indian Pacific and the Trans-Australian began operating to Adelaide. The Indian Pacific runs between Sydney and Perth, while the Trans-Australian ran from South Australia to Perth, but ceased running in 1991. Prior to 1986 the trains stopped at Port Pirie, where passengers travelling to Adelaide would change to a connecting train, which operated over broad gauge tracks to Adelaide station. Extension of standard gauge tracks from Crystal Brook (near Port Pire) to Adelaide enabled the Indian Pacific and the Trans-Australian to service Adelaide directly. The Ghan, which at the time ran between Darwin and Alice Springs, but since 2004 has operated between Adelaide and Darwin, had already commenced using Keswick Terminal.


Adelaide and Melbourne were connected by railway with the connecting of the rails at Serviceton, near the Victoria–South Australia border, on 19 January 1887. A direct passenger train service commenced operating. Initially it was named the Adelaide Express, but from 1926 it became known as The Overland. Throughout most of its history it was a broad gauge train, but in 1995 the railway between Melbourne and Adelaide was converted to standard gauge and The Overland commenced running as a standard gauge train. The first eastbound service departed from Keswick Rail Passenger Terminal on 1 July and the first westbound service departed from Melbourne’s Spencer Street station on 2 July. A special service of The Indian Pacific operated from Perth to Brisbane via Adelaide and Melbourne, a journey that only became possible on standard gauge in 1995. It departed from Perth on 1 June and stopped in Adelaide on 3 June, before continuing its journey.


On 1 November 1997 Australian National was divided and its assets sold. Australian Southern Railroad took over the South Australia country railway network and Great Southern Rail commenced operating the Indian Pacific, The Ghan and The Overland interstate passenger trains. Keswick Terminal was transferred to Great Southern Rail as part of the sale. Interstate passenger services to and from Adelaide have remained in private ownership since that time. Great Southern Rail was rebranded Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions in 2019.


Adelaide Parklands Terminal

Keswick Terminal was given a $3 million refurbishment and a new name in 2008. The refurbishment included a new travellers’ lounge and check-in area. Its new name was Adelaide Parklands Terminal. Great Southern Railway’s Chief Executive Tony Branxton-Smith noted that the name ‘Keswick Terminal’ was confusing for many visitors, but the new name indicated to them that their train was actually in Adelaide.


Although train services to Adelaide Parklands Terminal are less frequent than in the past, it remains an important terminal for Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions’ services. The Overland operates twice weekly in each direction between Adelaide and Melbourne. The Ghan continues to operate between Adelaide and Darwin, while the Indian Pacific runs between Sydney and Perth via Adelaide. In 2019 Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions introduced a summer-only service, Great Southern, which runs between Adelaide and Brisbane.



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‘AN Adelaide Rail Passenger Terminal’, The Recorder, vol. 21, no. 10, July 1984, p. 155–7.

‘Country rail passenger services’, The Recorder, vol. 28, no. 3, January 1991, p. 59.

Finnan, W, ‘The Indian Pacific’s commemorative rail journey’, Railway Digest, vol. 33, no. 7, July 1995, p. 18–20.

‘Keswick Terminal’, The Recorder, vol. 29, no. 4, January 1992, p. 60.

‘South Australia’, Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, no. 653, March 1992, p. 73.

‘Overland returns - but skips Geelong’, Railway Digest, vol. 33, no. 7, July 1995, p. 15.

‘South Australia’, Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, no. 641, March 1991, p. 72.

‘South Australia’, Railway Digest, vol. 46, no. 9, September 2008, p. 22.

‘South Australia/Northern Territory’, Here and There, Supplement to Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, no. 559, May 1984, p. 44.

‘South Australia/Northern Territory’, Here and There, Supplement to Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, no. 588, October 1986, p. 83.

‘The New Adelaide Rail Passenger Terminal’, The Recorder, vol. 22, no. 10, July 1985, p. 150.

‘The new station’, The Recorder, vol. 21, no. 8, May 1984, p. 116.

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Main entrance to Adelaide Parklands Terminal, 16 January 2014. Photo: Randwick, Wikimedia Commons.


NR109 and AN2 arrive at Adelaide Parklands Terminal with The Ghan at the completion of its journey from Darwin, 29 September 2012.

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