Indian Pacific celebrates 40 years

By AAP with John Pickrell 22 September 2010
Reading Time: 2 Minutes Print this page
One of the world’s greatest train journeys, across Australia’s arid interior, is marking its 40th birthday.

THE FAMOUS INDIAN PACIFIC – one of the world’s greatest train journeys – celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. With spring bursting into bloom in WA’s wildflower heartlands, the next few months are a spectacular time to experience it.

History was made when the Indian Pacific left Sydney Central Station on the first direct rail journey across the continent, 40 years ago on 23 February 1970. Tens of thousands of people lined the track to witness what was said to be a symbol of nationhood: the first solid connection between the cities of the east and the isolated west coast.

The journey marked the first time that it was possible to make the entire 4352-km crossing in a single rail trip. Prior to 1970 each Australian state operated with a different rail track gauges, meaning that passengers had to change trains many times during the journey.  


“Australia is the only continent in the world that can be crossed coast-to-coast by [a single] train,” says Russell Westmoreland of train operator Great Southern Rail. “The wedge-tailed eagle is the symbol of the Indian Pacific – its massive 2-m wingspan symbolises the epic journey of an adventure that spans a continent.”

The Indian Pacific departs from Sydney and Perth twice a week during the high season. During low season the journey is limited to one return service each week. From the Blue Mountains the train winds through the Great Dividing Range, the salt lakes and sand dunes of South Australia and over the longest straight stretch of rail track in the world as it crosses the Nullarbor Plain. More than 55,000 people a year now experience the journey, which provides a rare window into the endless outback of Australia.

Though the official anniversary date was earlier this year, the biggest celebration is due for December when the train will carry country music artists and other performers to give free concerts in the major cities as well as a remote Indigenous community and a cattle station.

Great Southern Rail has a range of special travel offers available to mark the 40th year, visit for more details.

Have you travelled on the Indian Pacific, or would you like to? Why not share your experiences by leaving a comment below? — Ed.

The journey: Sydney to Perth via Adelaide, which takes three nights and three days one-way.
Length of journey: 65 hours/4,352 km one-way.
Average speed of train: average 85 km/h, max 115km/h.
Total number of carriages: minimum 15, typically 25 – plus locomotive and motorail.
Average length of train:
minimum 427m, typically 711 m.
Average weight of train: minimum 796 tonnes, typically 1375 tonnes – excluding Locomotive.


Six great Australian train trips