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This Day in History

Australian History

Monday, February 23, 1970. :   The Indian Pacific train, the only service to cross an entire continent without the need to change trains, embarks on its inaugural transcontinental journey.

     As Federation of the Australian colonies loomed in the late nineteenth century, Western Australia was lured to join the Commonwealth of Australia by the promise of a transcontinental railway line linking east and west. The eastern states already had an extensive network of railway lines, while the western railway line extended east from Perth to the goldfields. There remained a 1996 km span across the continent to connect the west to the east.

Construction of the Trans-Australian Railway began in September 1912 with two teams working from both western and eastern sides of the continent. On 17 October 1917, the teams met to complete the track near Ooldea about 1170km west of Adelaide and 1520km east of Perth. The following week, on 22 October 1917, the first westbound passenger service known as the Great Western Express departed from Port Augusta. Despite the eastern and western ends being of different gauges, the line was constructed at the standard gauge of 1435 mm. Consequently, early travellers were required to change trains five times during the journey.

Conversion to standard gauge of the entire intercity route began in 1969 and the service was renamed the Indian Pacific in 1970. On 23 February 1970, the inaugural transcontinental journey of the Indian Pacific commenced from the eastern side of the continent. Approximately 10000 people greeted the trainís arrival in Perth four days later. Powered by two locomotives and travelling an average of 85 kph, the Indian Pacific now consists of 30 carriages for guests, staff and crew quarters, restaurants, lounges and power vans. Australia remains the only continent that can be crossed from east to west in a single train.

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