Indian Pacific NR Locomotive

Indian Pacific image library


We had briefly been to Adelaide in recent years, so the central market tour seems the more interesting for us, as this market has the reputation of being the largest fresh food market in the southern hemisphere. The Adelaide Parklands train station is a little more palatial than that at Broken Hill with a delightful old world style which is very 'Adelaide'. On the coach and away to market with a bit of a look at the CBD on the way. At the market there are 3 tour guides who split the group into more manageable numbers. Our group heads away down one of the alleys between the market stands. The Adelaide market may be the biggest - I'm actually not sure about this - but it's late in the day and seems for us to lack atmosphere compared with say, The South Melbourne. So we seize the chance for some exercise and we exit the market and head off to walk around the city square which is under serious reconstruction, bearing in mind the time we have been advised to be back for reboarding. On the way we come by a great looking bar/cafe, The Marquis, where we enjoy a coffee and a biscuit. We return on time to board our coach, to the relief of  our tour guide who was head counting. Back on board again and ready to depart at 6:40pm, the Indian's horn sounds and immediately the now single NR locomotive steadily pulls us out of Adelaide gradually increasing speed to the north towards Port Pirie and Tarcoola.


However, the Indian has become a little longer, taking on more passengers for the Adelaide to Perth section. Some have their cars loaded on the motorail car-carriers so they can spend individual time in WA and drive back to their home state. With more passengers on board, tonight we are sharing our Queen Adelaide table. The couple come from Albury, away behind us in north eastern Victoria and are intending to take the the southern coastal route back home. Being Kiwis we say this would be about 3 times the length of New Zealand. No problem our new friends say, they have plenty of time. For me the really exciting part of the journey is about to begin - crossing the Nullarbor, which includes the longest (478km) stretch of dead straight rail track in the world.


As we settle into our double bed tonight, enjoying our double cointreaus, we pass back through Crystal Brook, then Port Augusta - this part of the track shared with The Ghan. Spencer Junction, Bookaloo at 00:31am; on to Tarcoola at 04:21 where The Ghan branches north and we continue west across the Nullarbor. Before Tarcoola we pass close by Woomera - the sprawling Australian Defence Force rocket range - where in the late 50s to early 60s British nuclear tests took place at Maralinga.


We are awake so watch the vast plain unfold before us under the moonlight. This is the essence of the Indian, through the night, rolling across the Nullarbor. Dozing again we are gently awakened by early morning coffee, giving us plenty of time to enjoy it, shower, then have a leisurely Queen Adelaide breakfast. We are not due into Cook until 9.44am and a brief history is playing over the address system as we breakfast. We learn how it has declined to a population of 5, solely becoming a diesel locomotive refuelling stop and train driver short term accommodation. Some of the ghost town's more unusual features are a golf course without a blade of grass! There is no platform at Cook and temporary steps are provided for us to alight. Arid, flat and desolate are the main words to describe Cook.  A chilling wind is blowing, stirring up tumbleweeds and dust.


We have about 1/2 an hour in Cook, just enough for a quick wander amongst the saltbush which stretches as far as we can see. About ten very small modern temporary looking dwellings, which we presume are for train staff staying over, a couple of more or less derelict structures and a rusty basketball/tennis court is basically Cook. Some scrubby eucalypts complete the picture. Several blasts of the Indian's loud horn alert us to imminent departure and I doubt very much whether anybody is ever left behind, with the thought of a few Cook days until the next Indian comes through.


Cook is where the Indian's time machine kicks in. We are about to cross into Western Australia losing 1 1/2 hours in the process, but we go on to 'train time' which effectively delays our time change until later tonight. The powerful locomotive soon has the Indian up to cruising speed and we spend the morning between our cabin and the Outback Lounge watching the Nullarbor roll by. Friends have asked - "was it boring - it must all be the same" - and my answer is "no, far from it, as there are subtle changes from time to time, interesting landmarks, feral camels, red kangaroos and just a great sense of adventure." Robyn comes by mid morning and asks if we would like some freshly baked muffins. Combined with espresso long blacks they make a delicious morning tea. We are sitting, quietly reading and watching the saltbush, the odd dry roads stretching away to the horizon, an isolated airfield, when suddenly there they are - camels. "You see them, don't you? Yes, I think so - over there. Quick, the camera". We are lucky as they are moving fast but in the same direction west as us, so I do manage to capture the moment. I know there are supposed to be millions but these are the only 2 we ever saw. Chat later in the Outback Lounge, is about who saw the camels, or maybe they were just rocks in the distance.  We have the photo to prove it.

Some of the places we pass on the Nullarbor have place names and one or two buildings, but mostly they are just a name forgotten in the vast stretches of saltbush. This year we are seeing the plains in an unusually green state and away to the south, towards the coast we watch huge dark rain clouds gather followed by a dazzling rainbow. The Indian gets a few splashes as it journeys on but mostly the rain keeps south.


Lunch today is given a slight Nullarbor flavour, setting the scene with damper rolls and saltbush dukkah, then there is beef, salmon, chicken or a goat's cheese tart. Our chef has specially prepared plain chicken fillet served on a bed of rice for my wife and she is very happy with this. I have the very tasty goat's  cheese tart. We lunch today with a Sydney lawyer and his wife who had recently travelled to Antartica via Invercargill and easy conversation flows. We are still riding on the straightest stretch of rail in the world which ends near Rawlinna, the western most point of the 676km wide Nullarbor. We are about 4 1/2 hours out of Kalgoorlie, due in at 19:10 WST. We had been worried about the 18:30 dinner sitting but the clever Indian time machine has it all in hand. 'Train time' is still Central Standard but 1 1/2 hours ahead of WST, so plenty of time for dinner.

For now, we are certainly not tired of watching the landscape unfurl and an hour or so in our cabin with a long black, a book and the view, is not too bad. 18:00 train time and we move back to the Outback for a predinner drink and enjoy the continuing desert views as it is still quite light being only 16:30 WST.


Tonight's dinner menu has some interesting choices, my wife well taken care of with grilled barramundi. I decide on the Dorper lamb which is excellent and we share a delicious tarte tatin dessert. The staff working up and down the Queen Adelaide are very skilled at balancing loaded plates and deliver every meal with a flourish. Not easy with the potential of sudden train movement at any time. We are enjoying our dinner so much we don't notice night has fallen and it is now after 20:00 'train' time' (18:40 WST) half an hour before arriving in Kalgoorlie. We have time for a coffee before The Indian slows, approaching outer Kalgoorlie.


Kalgoorlie (known as Kalgoorlie-Boulder) came into being in 1893 by reason of Patrick Hannan, Tom Flanagan and Dan O'Shea discovering gold and filing a claim. Town population went from 2000 in 1898 to 30,000 in 1903. Apart from many fine examples of early C20 architecture the main attraction is the Kalgoorlie super pit which is 3.6km long and 512 metres deep. It can be seen from space and operates 24 hours 7 days a week. Our tour will take us through the main streets of Kalgoorlie and Boulder then up to the super pit lookout, finishing with a stop at The Mining Hall of Fame which has opened especially for us at this late hour. We depart Kalgoorlie for Perth at 22:40. The super pit is quite eerie in the dark as we look over 1/2 a kilometre down into the pit where huge dump trucks are working under floodlights. The trucks look like Dinky toys from this distance yet they weigh over 200 tonnes each.


The Hall of Fame is really interesting telling the history of many mining lumineries through the years. Prospectors, investors, engineers, scientists are some whose interesting histories are revealed. Some light kalgoorlie snacks, along with tea or coffee are available for our group. Back on the coach getting us to the Indian in good time for reboarding. Pulling out on the dot of 22:40 we are a bit sad to think it is Perth in the morning and so the end of this incredible Indian Pacific experience. Making the most of now, we find , as usual, Robyn, Penny and the train crew have worked their majic while we were away, getting our cabin shipshape and ready for the night. And, there on the side table are our 2 double cointreaus! We will miss these tomorrow. The train movement no longer keeps us awake, more like rain on the roof and we are soon sleeping soundly - maybe the cointreau has something to do with this! After the arrow straight Nullarbor track, on the Perth side of Kalgoorlie the line is similar to the Blue Mountain section without the altitude. We wake as we pass through Merredin, still 4 hours out of Perth, the Indian slowing as we pass through some more built up areas. Stopping briefly at Northam to pick up the WA quarantine inspectors we are showered, dressed and ready for our last Queen Adelaide breakfast around 8am. There are restrictions for bringing fruit, vegetables, plants and some foodstuffs into West Australia and the quarantine people work their way unobtrusively through the train calling on every seat and cabin to ask if you have any restricted items. They take your word for it - there is no search. We are well aware of these restrictions and very familiar with our New Zealand laws so never carry fresh fruit with us when travelling across borders. Breakfast over and we relax in the Outback lounge for the final half hour or so of our Indian experience. Slow now through Perth suburbs and we roll into the East Perth terminal on the dot of 9:10am. Gathering up our gear and saying goodbye and thank you to the train crew - hugs and kisses all round, a bit like family. Our Hughes limosine is waiting to deliver us about 2 kms down the street to the nearby Avis office. The Indian Pacific, Sydney to Perth or west to east is a wonderful, unique experience, well managed and delivered. If the opportunity came tomorrow to do it all over again my answer would definitely be yes.