April 26, 2024

A Journey on The Overland

A lot can happen in 60 years. 

As I sit comfortably in my Red Premium seat on the Adelaide-bound Overland intercity train, I fondly recall the several previous journeys I took when it was an overnight express.

Melbourne Express crossing the Sleeps Hill Viaduct in South Australia, hauled by two Rx Class locomotives c.1918. Photo: State Library of South Australia, B 58892/510.

It was in 1966 when I made my debut as part of an odyssean rail journey with my mother and grandparents all the way to Cairns and back. Then again to join a Sydney cruise in 1970 and later on a school football trip in 1978.

Even then, rail services between Adelaide and Melbourne had been running for more than 80 years since the first service in July 1886, the first direct intercity service in Australia. 

Red Standard seating is 2+2 (supplied)

Of course, the train has undergone a multitude of changes in that time. Changes in rolling stock, locomotives, track gauge, route, schedule and ownership have all imposed alterations on The Overland which, by the way, has only born this name since 1936.

Red Premium seating is 1+2 and features all-inclusive in-seat dining. Only alcohol is extra. (supplied)

The Overland left government control in 1997 and is now operated by Journey Beyond, a dynamic private equity firm based in Adelaide with numerous other tourism products in its growing portfolio which includes The Ghan and Indian Pacific as well as Outback Spirit's enormous catalogue of land-based luxury adventures.

The Overland currently runs twice weekly daylight services in two classes. The Red Premium feeds and waters me the entire time [see menu], while the very affordable Standard service has a PAYG buffet car in the traditional format.

For the latest offers, schedules and pricing, visit www.journeybeyondrail.com.au

The Overland by the numbers:
  • First Service: 1887

    The Overland began life as the Intercolonial Express in October 1887 when the Victorian and South Australian rail lines were joined at the state border. The train travelled between the Victorian capital city of Melbourne and the South Australian capital city of Adelaide, stopping at several regional townships along the route.

    Originally, the Intercolonial Express operated a luxury overnight service complete with dining cars. The train became known as The Overland in 1926. Following World War II, The Overland moved Into the modern era, introducing air-conditioned carriages and earning the unusual honour of being the first train in the world to generally offer showers in its sleeper cabins.

  • Average Length: 189m
  • Average Weight: 322 tonnes
  • Track Length: 828 kilometres
  • Average Journey Time: 10.5 hours
STOP PRESS: The Overland will be the subject of an ABC Radio spot in the next few weeks. This note will be replaced by a link to the podcast when it's live. 

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