What is it about the Old Ghan railway that captivates so many people? It’s a railway that was almost 50 years in the making, and one that came to an end just 50 years after that. But even today, the name “the Old Ghan” conjures visions of adventure and of a pioneering sprit. And it’s not just train buffs that consider the Old Ghan to be a true Australian legend.
Construction began in 1878, in the South Australian town of Port Augusta, and from there the railway headed north, section by section, to eventually reach Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. The Old Ghan pushed a brave way through the wilds of the outback, through territory that was little known and sparsely populated. As the iron rail network lengthened, towns and settlements grew too, though the isolation and climatic extremes made simple existence a test of courage.
The rail service was plagued by adversity – rails buckled in the heat or disappeared under sand blows, and rare floods obliterated sections of the track altogether. It wasn’t unusual for the Ghan to be delayed, and on occasion passengers would be rattled to their destination days after the scheduled arrival.
Eventually a decision was made to relocate the train service west. By 1980, the Old Ghan railway was abandoned.
But it wasn’t forgotten, not by a long stretch. The Old Ghan has left a legacy that modern day travellers dream of, a touring route that’s an amazing adventure through history and magnificent terrain. Along the Old Ghan Heritage Trail, self-drive travellers can discover for themselves what the outback’s all about, the iconic locations and the pioneering spirit that still exists even today.
Follow the legend along the Old Ghan Heritage Trail here