Although the origins of the Indian Pacific can be traced back to the early 1900’s, it was not until 1970 that the train completed its first unbroken journey from Sydney to Perth.
The history of the Indian Pacific can be traced back to the early 1900’s. The colonies of Australia were headed towards Federation at the end of the 19th Century. The colony of Western Australia was lured to join this new nation by promise of a transcontinental railway, linking this isolated western region with the rest of the eastern colonies.
A skeleton rail link extended from the east to the west coasts of Australia, except for a 1,996 kilometre gap in the system between Kalgoorlie in Western Australia and Port Augusta in South Australia
On 17 October, 1917, in a remarkable surveying and engineering feat, two construction teams, one starting from Port Augusta and the other from Kalgoorlie, made an historic achievement, meeting to join the lines at what is now the tiny South Australian siding of Ooldea on the Nullarbor Plain. This was the longest railway ever built as a single project in Australia, taking five years to complete. It was constructed using the most basic tools – pick and shovel, carthorse and camel.
At 10:15am on 25 October, 1917, the first eastbound passenger train, the Transcontinental Express, departed Kalgoorlie for Port Augusta. The different rail gauges required guests to change trains several times along the journey.
A standard trip from Sydney to Perth comprised of: Sydney to Albury on a standard gauge track; change trains at Albury to travel to Melbourne on broad gauge; continue on to Adelaide on broad gauge through to Port Pirie; change trains in Port Pirie for the short journey into Port Augusta and then on to Kalgoorlie on standard gauge; change trains in Kalgoorlie for the narrow gauge journey into Perth.
It was not until 1969 that an uninterrupted rail line from the Pacific Ocean in the east to the Indian Ocean in the west existed when the standard gauge railway line across Australia was completed. The first unbroken journey of the new Indian Pacific commenced at Sydney Central Station on Monday 23 February, 1970, arriving in Perth to a crowd of over 10,000 on 27 February.
It is this rich history that has made the Indian Pacific one of Australia’s most treasured icons.
The diversity of the Australian landscape that can be viewed on this remarkable 4,352 kilometre transcontinental journey and the wonderful hospitality afforded to guests aboard the train makes the Indian Pacific one of the world’s greatest train journeys.