IMG_6004.jpg
IMG_6724.jpg
 

NR28 leads 6AS8 eastbound Indian Pacific, Gladstone, South Australia, 17 July 2009.

Passengers join the Indian Pacific, East Perth Terminal, 11 October 2009.

The Indian Pacific Today

David Matheson

 21 March 2022

The Indian Pacific runs on the east-west transcontinental route between Sydney, Adelaide and Perth once a week in each direction. It commenced operating in 1970 following the completion of the standard gauge line across Australia. Prior to this time a journey between Sydney and Perth involved numerous changes of train. The Indian Pacific is named after the Indian and Pacific oceans, which bound the west and east coastlines of Australia.

 

The total distance of the journey between Sydney and Perth via Adelaide on the Indian Pacific is 4350 km, and its average running speed is 85 km/h. The trip includes the longest straight section of railway line in the world, a distance of 478 km, located on the Trans-Australian Railway between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie. The journey between Sydney and Perth takes around three days.

 

Following a lengthy break because of COVID-19, the Indian Pacific resumed running on 10 March 2022.

 

Services

The Indian Pacific is operated by Journey Beyond, which is part of the Experience Australia Group and is owned by Hornblower Group.

 

Journey Beyond does not own locomotives, but uses locomotives and locomotive crews provided by Pacific National to haul its trains. Typical motive power is NR Class locomotives. A number of NR Class locomotives are painted in special liveries for hauling the Indian Pacific: NR25, NR26, NR27 and NR28 are painted in blue and yellow Indian Pacific livery, and NR18 is painted in yellow and grey Indian Pacific livery. Passengers on the Indian Pacific and The Ghan can book three different service levels: Platinum Service, Gold Service and Red Service. A single NR Class unit hauls the train between Adelaide and Perth, with assistance from another NR Class or a different type of locomotive between Sydney and Adelaide.

 

The Indian Pacific provides opportunities for off-train excursions at Broken Hill and Adelaide in both directions. Additionally, the westbound train stops at Rawlinna and Cook as outback stops to provide passengers with the opportunity to experience a remote outback location, while the eastbound train stops at Kalgoorlie for off-train excursions and at Cook as an outback stop. Passengers on the eastbound Indian Pacific also have the opportunity to disembark at Mount Victoria and be transferred by coach to Scenic World at Katoomba, then later catch an interurban service from Katoomba to Sydney.

 

The number of carriages in the Indian Pacific’s consist varies, but typically averages 30 carriages, which includes passenger carriages, crew quarters, restaurant and lounge cars, and power vans. Its average length is 774 metres and the average weight is 1400 tonnes. Journey Beyond uses a wedge-tailed eagle as its symbol for the Indian Pacific, its large wingspan representing the journey across the continent.

 

The Route of the Indian Pacific

For most of its existence the Indian Pacific departed Sydney from No. 1 platform. With a length of 370 metres, it was the only platform that could accommodate the entire train. Today the Indian Pacific typically operates with 30 carriages and its length is far in excess of the platforms at Sydney. The train is divided with half placed in platform 2 and half in platform 3. After passengers have joined the train, half is drawn forward and then reversed to join the other half. The combined train then begins its journey.

 

After departure from Sydney the train makes its way through the suburbs of Sydney. It traverses the inner west and then the western suburbs. The line long this section is generally flat until the train passes Penrith (55 km from Sydney). After Penrith the train crosses the Nepean River and begins its ascent of the winding and steep Blue Mountains line. It climbs 1 in 60 gradients to Valley Heights (77 km from Sydney), where a locomotive depot operated from 1914 to 1989, and now houses a museum. From Valley Heights to Katoomba (110 km from Sydney) the line rises a total of 695 metres in elevation within a distance of 33 km. There is a ruling grade of 1 in 33, with lengthy sections of this gradient throughout the climb. After leaving Katoomba the line undulates but climbs gradually to the highest point of elevation on the journey a short distance beyond Bell (137 km from Sydney), from where it descends. Ten tunnels are passed through in quick succession before the line follows the formation of the bottom road of the former Great Zig Zag, shortly before arriving at Lithgow (156 km from Sydney). The electrified line ends at Lithgow, which is serviced by interurban trains from Sydney.

 

From Lithgow the line traverses the western slopes of New South Wales. It follows a winding route through mixed farming country, with steep gradients in some locations. The train passes through Bathurst (239 km from Sydney) and Orange East Fork (321 km from Sydney), with the main Orange station located on the line that extends north to Dubbo. After passing Parkes (446 km from Sydney) the terrain is generally flat and settlements are spaced further apart. Most of the land in this region is used for sheep and cattle grazing. Near Menindee (1007 km from Sydney) the Indian Pacific crosses the Darling River and glimpses can be seen of the Menindee Lakes, which are used for water storage, but vary considerable in their size and volume, depending on water flows. Before arriving at Broken Hill (1125 km from Sydney) the line crosses the Barrier Range.

 

Broken Hill provides passengers with the opportunity to participate in an off-train excursion. The city has a lengthy history as a mining town and is now home to an active arts community. It is often referred to as the ‘Silver City’ and white settlement began soon after Charles Rasp found silver ore in the region in 1883. On the left side of the train can be seen the Line of Lode Miner’s Memorial, located on top of a hill, most of which is spoil from underground mines. The memorial remembers the more than 800 miners who have died in Broken Hill’s mining industry. On the right side of the train is the main part of the city.

 

Following departure from Broken Hill the train soon crosses the New South Wales/South Australian border at Cockburn (1174 km from Sydney). The line travels in a south-westerly direction, passing various small settlements. It continues through Peterborough (1408 km from Sydney) before reaching Crystal Brook (1495 km from Sydney), which is the junction for the main line that extends to the north. The Indian Pacific then continues its journey in a southerly direction. It passes through the northern suburbs of Adelaide before arriving at Adelaide Parklands Terminal (1691 km from Sydney), which was opened in 1984. Prior to this time long-distance passenger trains began and ended their journeys at Adelaide station, located in the central business district, which now only services suburban passenger trains. Passengers can undertake off-train excursions in Adelaide.

 

After departing from Adelaide Parklands Terminal the Indian Pacific retraces its journey, heading north to Crystal Brook (196 km from Adelaide), junction for the line previously traversed from Broken Hill. The train continues north, bypassing Port Pirie and heading to the small city of Port Augusta (314 km from Adelaide). Port Augusta is located at the head of Spencer Gulf and became a major railway town with the opening of the Trans-Australian Railway line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie in 1917.

 

Leaving Port Augusta behind, the train now heads in a north-westerly direction, passing numerous sandhills and seasonal lakes. This region of Australia is remote and sparsely populated. Tarcoola (726 km from Adelaide) was once a gold mining town, but today has only a small number of residents. It is the junction for the transcontinental line to Darwin. The line then continues in a westerly direction, crossing the arid Nullarbor Plain, which is dominated by low scrub with very few trees. It traverses the longest straight section of railway line in the world, often referred to as ‘the long straight’. This section of track it is 478 km in length without a single curve. One end of the long straight is near the 797 km post (between Ooldea and Watson in South Australia) and the other end is near the 1275 km post (between Loongana and Nurina in Western Australia). A stop is made at Cook (1145 km from Adelaide) in the eastbound direction and Rawlinna (1624 km from Adelaide) in the westbound direction for an outback experience, providing passengers the opportunity to experience a remote outback location.

 

Eventually the Indian Pacific arrives at Kalgoorlie (2002 km from Adelaide) in Western Australia, a mining town that is similar to Broken Hill, but with a much larger population. The town developed following the discovery of gold by Paddy Hannan in 1893. A gold rush ensued and the population of the region quickly boomed with prospectors seeking fortune. Kalgoorlie was connected by a narrow gauge railway from Perth in 1897.

 

From Kalgoorlie the line heads in a south-easterly direction, beginning to traverse wheat country around Southern Cross (2254 km from Adelaide), which was also originally established as a mining town. After Northam (2537 km from Adelaide) the line is dual gauge (standard and narrow) double track. Between Northam and Midland (2643 km from Adelaide) the line traverses the scenic Avon Valley. Midland is a north-eastern suburb of Perth and serviced by suburban electric trains from city. After making its way through the suburbs the Indian Pacific terminates at East Perth Terminal (2658 km from Adelaide) station. The standard gauge line between Kalgoorlie and East Perth Terminal opened for passenger trains in June 1969. East Perth Terminal has the longest railway station platform in Australia. Its length is 762 metres.

 

The Indian Pacific has completed its transcontinental journey across Australia.

 

References

Attenborough, P, Indian Pacific, Eveleigh Press, Sydney, 2009.

Australian Rail Track Corporation <www.artc.com.au>.

Journey Beyond < www.journeybeyondrail.com.au >.

SA Track and Signal <www.sa-trackandsignal.net>.

Train Times: Australian and New Zealand Train Timetables <www.traintimes.net.au>.

IMG_8246.jpg

NR28 with 4SA8 westbound Indian Pacific crossing the Knapsack Bridge over the M4 Motorway and beginning its climb up the Blue Mountains, 2 November 2011.

012851.jpg

NR18 and G530 with 4SA8 westbound Indian Pacific cross Farmers Creek viaduct, near Lithgow, New South Wales, 27 December 2017.