The route's role in Australian life predates The Ghan... and the train's name recalls the matted trekway, over which Afghan camel trains hauled goods prior to modern railways. The the Ghan's historic rail path is riddled with broken promises. For nearly a century, the harsh Outback stood between Aussie engineers and the nation's dream of a transcontinental rail line stretching north from Adelaide to Darwin.
The goal was partially realized in the 1920s, when the original line was built through South Australia and onto Alice Springs. A corresponding northern leg was partially-built and eventually abandoned. The railway underwent significant rerouting in mid-century but construction of the Darwin connection was deferred until the 1990s. Then, the AustralAsia Railway Corporation (AARC) was created to oversee development of the Central Australian Railway (CAR).
Today The Ghan tracks the CAR's full 1850-mi/2980-km length in 48 hours. Operated by Great Southern Railway, its two day journey exposes travelers to the dewy hillsides of the south, the dusty burnt rouges of the Red Centre, and the breezy northern tropics. Desert Park nature discovery and Katherine Gorge experience tours are among the tours and indigeneous cultural experiences offered en route.
The Ghan's variety of accommodations can serve the most discerning travel party or the most casual backpacking troop. From the welcoming champagne toast, "Gold Kangaroo" guests are pampered with deluxe array of services and amenities. Elegant cabins convert from cozy sleepers to comfortable day lounges. Australian cuisine and wines highlight the entrain menu and the clubby bar/lounge sets the social pace. "Red Kangaroo" guests choose between sleeper cabin or Daynighter recliner and have access to both Diner/Buffet car and lounge.
Beyond the Ghan's signature itinerary and services exist a number of attractive add-ons. Opportunities for off-track exploration include car rental which may be arranged for all destinations and MotoRail services enabling guests travel with car in tow. Great Southern Railway facilitates timely rail connections by Indian Pacific from Melbourne or Overlander from Sydney. Hotel coach transfer is available in Darwin.