Travelling between Melbourne and Adelaide, The Overland began as the Intercolonial Express over 100 years ago.
The intercapital rail link came to prominence on 28 September, 1875, when the then South Australian Premier, Sir James Penn Boucaut, rose in Parliament to expound his policy of economic expansion through public works. His plan was to build 550 miles of railway to carry the wealth of the land from South Australia to the port of Melbourne, Victoria.
The first meeting to discuss such a plan was held at Melbourne’s Spencer Street Station. It was decided the service would be operated with rolling stock jointly owned by South Australia and Victoria.
The service was to be called the Intercolonial Express and passenger traffic was primarily first class. The journey time was expected to be 18 hours.
About 300 people witnessed the train’s first departure from Adelaide at 3.30pm on 19 January, 1887, among them the Postmaster General. The railway pioneered inter-capital rail travel in Australia. However it suffered from long journey times and operational difficulties.
In 1922, a rehabilitation plan was produced to make the railway more efficient and reduce the drain on state finances. Trackwork and bridgework were required to enable bigger freight loads to be carried. Signalling work and train control were also improved and more powerful locomotives purchased.
South Australia was rewarded with an operationally and mechanically sound railway that came to be known as the Melbourne Express.
The first diesel powered journey to Melbourne pulled out of Adelaide on November 29, 1951.
The century old name The Overland came from the affectionate term ‘Overlander’, an adventurer who had travelled across the country. More than a century later and following the train’s complete refurbishment in May 2007, The Overland still provides an enjoyable and convenient rail service along with new levels of comfort and service.
The original service ran overnight during the week, taking 14 hours to complete the journey. Today The Overland operates a 10 and a half hour service between Adelaide and Melbourne six times a week.