Four days, 2,700 miles… and one unlucky camel: The astonishing and luxurious rail journey that takes tourists right across Australia

Source: Daily Mail

By Tom Chesshyre For The Mail On Sunday

It’s a sun-drenched morning at the East Perth Terminal and the Indian Pacific train gleams brightly beyond the cool, long shadows of the station.

Two dozen stainless-steel carriages stretch along the boomerang-shaped platform, while light plays on ridges of steel and the indented panels of the transcontinental train.

Our coaches, dating from the late 1960s and early 1970s, were built in New South Wales by Commonwealth Engineering, which received a licence for the sleek, bullet-like design from Budd, a metal fabricating company based in Philadelphia.

I know this because John Brinkley, one of three train managers on the 1,860ft-long Indian Pacific (so named as it travels from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean), is on hand to answer any questions.

He also points guests towards their carriage for our 2,700-mile journey. We are departing Perth on a Sunday at 11.55am, and are due to arrive in Sydney on Wednesday at 11.07am.

Red planet: The breathtaking 1,860ft-long Indian Pacific crosses the Nullarbor Plain

Pictured: The Indian Pacific's Gold class dining carriage. Guests in Gold class receive free drinks and meals

I am travelling in gold class for two nights (sleeper cabins and a lounge with free drinks, plus free meals in a smart dining carriage) followed by a night in red (reclining seats and a cafe where you have to pay).

There is also platinum class – comfortable cabins with double beds, a swanky dining carriage, and a free cocktail bar.

It’s not often that you find train managers who are quite so well informed. Brinkley also tells me that the train hit a camel on the way from Sydney to Perth a couple of days ago.

‘There was damage to the loco – we had to repair an air pipe. We blow animal whistles and the horn, but it still happens. Kangaroos keep out of the way generally. Kangaroos are pretty smart.’

Trains are a great way of getting from A to B and seeing shifting landscapes through the window, but classic trains on classic journeys seem to take on a life of their own – almost as though they’re miniature moving worlds.

The Indian Pacific is no exception. As we roll out of the Perth suburbs and into the parched countryside with gum trees, shrubs and orange-tinged soil, the world within the Indian Pacific begins to reveal itself.

After dumping my bag in my cabin, which also contains a pull-down sink and a radio, I go to the gold-class lounge to meet my fellow travellers.

Many of them are sitting in burgundy leather armchairs and banquettes drinking Crown lager and glasses of Australian wine, while the topics of conversation range from Chinese investment in Hunter Valley coal mines, the size of sheep stations, the quality of the train’s gin (deemed top-notch), and the merits of the gold-mining city of Kalgoorlie, our first stop.

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