My first trip on The Ghan was in 1966, from Port Pirie to Alice Springs. My friend Desma and I were 15, and on a school trip from Tasmania. What do I remember? Well our teachers caught the flu and some of us took full advantage of the situation. There was illicit smoking, romances with boys from a Frankston lacrosse team, etc etc. Oh dear me!

The photo below is from a 1966 newspaper advertisement. We thought the buffet dining was sophisticated and ‘posh’, but I’m sure it wasn’t; Australian cuisine was yet to benefit from migration!

Dining car (L) and lounge car( R) 1966

50 years on and my partner Rob and I are travelling from Darwin to Adelaide. Day one begins with a five-star brunch, as we travel south through the tropical north to Katherine. Has to be barramundi with one’s eggs.

Barra for brnch on The Ghan.

There are various stories about how The Ghan got its name. My favourite is that the carriages resembled the Afghan camel trains, used to transport goods in the early days.

Camel train

The Ghan

And so to Bed. Bunks, but very comfortable. Certainly an improvement on the 1950s, before diesel took over from steam.

From The Adelaide Advertiser 1954

1.30am near Tennant Creek. Have stopped here for an hour or so and have internet access.

Great cruise around spectacular Katherine Gorge yesterday. Plus a walk during which a guide fell helping someone and had to be taken to hospital with a suspected broken ankle. (dangerous country this!)

Such ancient country.

Crocodiles. We see ’em, we eat ’em, well their tails, poor chaps.

Fresh water crocodile., Katherine Gorge.
Fresh water croc, not as dangerous as the huge salt water fellow as their jaws are narrower!

To The Alice tomorrow. Goodnight….

Katherine Gorge.
Pauline Conolly
Contemplating our ancient land.

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