Great Southern train from Adelaide to Brisbane: New luxury train launches

It's not often a serious contender for membership of the exclusive "great rail journey of the world" club comes down the track and, in fact, the last genuine ones, for Australia at least, was the Indian Pacific almost 50 years ago and, rather long before that, the Ghan, which is now 90 years old.

On Friday the first service of the Great Southern, launched by the Australian-owned Journey Beyond, the same operators as those two other venerable Australian rail cruises (as such journeys now tend to be known) departed Adelaide en route to Brisbane, a distance of nearly 3000 kilometres, roughly the same as those between the Ghan between Adelaide and Darwin.

The three day, two night, 57-hour trip of the Great Southern includes stops at the Grampians in Victoria, featuring a special off-train outdoor dining experience in a scenic setting; the national capital, Canberra and its environs; and the popular NSW coastal resort town of Coffs Harbour before arriving in Brisbane.

If truth be known, the Great Southern follows much the same route as the defunct Southern Spirit train service which last ran in 2012 and was operated by Great Southern Rail, the predecessors to Journey Beyond.

This new service takes advantage of the seasonal hiatus of the Ghan, which ceases operation for most of summer, in part due to the Top End wet season and the extreme heat of the interior.

The Great Southern's launch also coincides with a revival in interest in rail travel, as travellers look to reduce their carbon footprint, compared to plane trips, in the era of climate change.

These days the Great Southern, which also does the reverse trip from Brisbane to Adelaide, and its two other legendary stable (or should it be shed?) mates represent a relative leap in luxury, particularly if you're fortunate enough to be travelling in the coveted, premium platinum class.

Some of the surprisingly spacious compartments feature double beds and relatively luxurious and sizeable bathrooms with hotel-style toiletries and proper shower cubicles.

Indeed, a number of the platinum carriages on this first service - with the length of the train, powered by two locomotives, well over 700 metres and travelling at an average, leisurely speed of 85 kilometres and an hour - have recently had their interiors refurbished as a cost of $2 million each.

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However, as the Great Southern traversed the Adelaide Hills and out across the parched farmlands beyond it was hard to decide who was enjoying the journey more: the passengers comfortable and chattering ensconsced in the air-cooled, stainless steel carriages or the legion of tripod-toting, camera-snapping train-spotters ubiquitous along the track and at rail crossings.

Anthony Dennis is travelling aboard the Great Southern between Adelaide and Brisbane as a guest of Journey Beyond. See journeybeyond.com.au

See also: Why the Ghan is one of the world's greatest trains

See also: Fast or slow, train travel will always beat flying (except in Australia)

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