Rail Travel in Australia
19 November 2013
When it comes to trains, Australia is pretty unusual. Each state has it's own separate rail service that operates independently of the other state rail services. There are also numerous private companies that operate scheduled rail services, including an American company (Great Southern Rail) that runs the two most splendid trips you can do (the "Indian-Pacific" from Perth to Sydney via Adelaide and "The Ghan" from Adelaide to Darwin via Alice Springs).
Not only that, each state has a different gauge as well! Western Australia, Tasmania and Queensland mainly use "Cape" gauge tracks (1067 mm), Victoria is wide gauge (1600 mm) and the Northern Territory, New South Wales, ACT and the trans-continental lines (North-South and East-West) use standard gauge (1435 mm). South Australia has a combination of all of these. Often two different state rail operators run trains between the same cities, with different gauge tracks right next to each other, starting and ending at different platforms at the same stations! Tickets for one are not valid on the other. For example, this happens between Melbourne and Sydney and between Sydney and Brisbane.
Having said that, travelling by train through Australia is a fabulous experience, and beats taking the bus hands down. I spent six weeks in Australia in 2001, riding the rails from Perth all the way across to Sydney via Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra, then up to Brisbane and Cairns. The ride from Cairns to Kuranda in Queensland on the Kuranda Scenic Railway is simply breathtaking.
For comprehensive details of travelling by train in Australia, I recommend the book "Australia by Rail" (ISBN 9781873756812), written by Colin Taylor and published by Trailblazer Publications in May 2005.
New South Wales (and ACT)
Australian Rail DVDs