Every grand train journey — and the four-day, three night coast-to-coast Indian Pacific more than qualifies for that status — deserves a grand departure point. Sydney's Central Station is as grand as any station in Australia. Be sure, therefore, to allow some time prior to your departure on the IP (which recently resumed full services following disruptions from the pandemic), to view some of its lesser-known features. These include the wonderful retro rail map of Australia inlaid into terrazzo cafeteria flooring and plaque on platform one, the Indian Pacific's traditional departure point, commemorating the February 23, 1970 completion of the nation's east-west standard gauge railway line (there's a downloaded self-guided tour on the Transport NSW website). See transportnswinfo; journeybeyondrail.com.au
The hills you'll most remember from a visit, albeit a brief one, on the Indian Pacific to Broken Hill are the massive slag heaps that dominate the outback mining town. The imposing Line of Lode Memorial sits atop one of these mounds, which have been fashioned from decades worth of mining tailings, in a sombre tribute to the 800 lives lost by miners, as they helped build the foundation of the nation's wealth, since 1883 (That's more than Australia's losses from the Vietnam War). Your fare on the Indian Pacific includes an optional tour to the memorial, which was opened in 2001. Not only is the rusted steel and concrete memorial a heartfelt tribute, it's also a striking piece of civic design, the product of final year architecture students. See visitnsw.com
Once the culinary highlight of the Indian Pacific was a well-done steak in the dining car. But food, and we mean fine food, now forms an integral part of the journey. The judiciously-portioned and well balanced meals in the dining car nowadays are of superior restaurant quality but the one feed you'll likely remember the most is the simpler, communal dinner of lamb, snags and coleslaw in the desert. Timed for the cool of the night, it takes place under the stars and right beside the train at Rawlinna Station on the edge of the Nullarbor, 900 kilometres east of Perth. (The surrounding sheep station is Australia's biggest). Foodies will also relish the extended off-train excursion to South Australia's Barossa Valley, earlier in the Sydney to Perth crossing.
The seemingly endless journey across the Nullarbor Plain, no less than the entire train journey itself, is rich in bragging rights. Among the best boasts is the fact that the train route journeys across the world's longest straight stretch of railway track at a total of 478 kilometres with, the average length of the Indian Pacific near as impressive. Even if a top athlete ran the length of it, which can approach 800 metres or more, at a world record time it'd still take you around the 1:40.91 mark from end to end.
The symbol of the Indian Pacific is the magnificent wedge-tailed eagle with its mighty wingspan. It's a more than appropriate choice considering this is the single train that spans a nation with even equally vast countries like the US and Canada unable to make such claim. The Nullarbor's name may be derived from the Latin "nullus arbor" meaning "no trees" and despite its Mars-like appearance, there is life out there and there's a more than reasonable chance that the observant passenger will sight a soaring wedge-tail in search of a meal. Elsewhere, being alert for kangaroos beside the track staring straight back at you or on the hop in the golden light of dusk.
Congratulations, after a 4,352 kilometres trip between the continent's far-flung seaboards, you've just completed the fourth longest train on the planet, after Moscow to Vladivostok (boo, hiss), Toronto to Vancouver and Shanghai to Lhasa (which is only 21 kilometres longer than the IP). The chances are that it's been a long while since you've visited Perth, let alone Western Australia following the erection of the state's Iron (ore) Curtain. Unfortunately, the modern, utilitarian Perth railway station bears no resemblance to Sydney's Central terminal so make a hasty exit for the WA's capital many attractions such as King's Park, Fremantle, the new Elizabeth Quay riverside precinct and a burgeoning restaurant scene. See westernaustralia.com