The Overland

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This article is about the Australian passenger train. For the US Army vehicle, see Overland train. For other uses, see Overland (disambiguation).
The Overland
The Overland.jpg
The Overland at Southern Cross station in February 2009
Service type Passenger train
Status Operational
First service 19 January 1887
Current operator(s) Great Southern Rail
Start Melbourne
End Adelaide
Distance travelled 828 kilometres
Average journey time 10 hours 30 minutes
Service frequency 2 × per week in each direction
Line used Melbourne–Adelaide
The Overland
Adelaide Parklands Terminal
Murray Bridge
South Australia / Victoria border
Nhill (since 2007)
Stawell (since 2011)
Geelong North Shore
Melbourne Southern Cross Station

The Overland is an Australian passenger train operating between Melbourne and Adelaide. It first ran in 1887 as the Adelaide Express, but South Australians have always referred to the train as the Melbourne Express. It was given its current name in 1926. Now operated by private company Great Southern Rail, the train completes two return trips a week covering 828 kilometres between the state capitals.[1] Originally an overnight train, it now operates during the day.

Early history[edit]

Overland sleeping car Baderloo circa 1910

The Overland originated as the Intercolonial Express when the Victorian Railways' Western Line was extended to join the South Australian Railways line at Serviceton on the state border. As both railways were 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) broad gauge, a through service commenced on 19 January 1887[2] using jointly owned rolling stock. The train was later called the Adelaide Express.[3]

The train ran overnight with opulent Mann Boudoir sleeping cars.[4] From 1907 new 'E' type side corridor sitting and sleeping cars of Victorian Railways design were introduced.[5][6] More cars of these designs were added until 1923, and in 1928 two all-steel sleeping cars and a dining car were imported from Pullman in the USA, these being the heaviest carriages ever used in Australia.[7]

A dining car was included between Melbourne and Ararat from 1927,[8] and between Adelaide and Serviceton from 1928,[9] but with the onset of the Depression in 1930 these services were withdrawn until the mid-1930s, and finally ceased after the outbreak of World War II. The South Australian Railways purchased "Mountain" and "Pacific" type locomotives to haul the heavier train in South Australia. These were the largest locomotives in Australia at that time.[10] In 1926 the train was renamed The Overland, and the original deep red livery was replaced by green and yellow with black horizontal lining.[11] The SAR streamlined some of its 500 class locomotives for the makeover.

In 1941 Victorian steam locomotive H 220 was introduced to service, intended to haul the train but never entered regular service due to weight restrictions.[12] For over 40 years Victorian Railways used A2 class locomotives, usually in pairs.

Post-war history[edit]

1967 Steel Sleeping Car Yankai (JTB 2) in the 1999–2007 livery

From 1949 the train moved into the modern era, with new air-conditioned Corten steel carriages gradually entering service, in maroon with a fluted stainless steel panel on each side and a black roof. This livery remained until the 1990s.

The sleeping cars were of two types. Twinette cars had two-berth compartments (as had the "E" and Mann cars before them), but each compartment had an adjoining toilet and shower room; roomette cars had single-berth compartments either side of a central aisle, and a shower room at the end of the car.

The new sleepers were probably the first general application of showers on trains in the world.[13] Diesel locomotives took over in the 1950s, initially with the South Australian 900 class[14] and Victorian B class[15] but later with 930, S, N and X classes.[16]

The maroon sleeping cars from 1949 onwards were 16 in number, later 18, and were given Aboriginal names that were painted on the sides of the cars. The eight roomette cars were Allambi, Chalaki, Juki, Mururi, Nankuri, Purpawi, Tantini, and Tarkinji; the ten twinette cars Dorai, Kuldalai, Malkari, Mokai, Nomuldi, Paiti, Tawarri, Weroni, Yankai, and Yanni.

In 1971 roomette cars Allambi and Tantini and twinette cars Dorai and Weroni[17][18][19][20]) were sold to the Victorian Railways for use on the Vinelander to Mildura, and replaced with new carriages.[21] They were repainted dark blue and their names removed; these names were then applied to the same type of new cars built to replace them.

The interiors of these new cars were of a more modern design than the older cars. The roomette cars had a zigzag corridor instead of a straight one, and the compartments had the shape of a trapezium. This enabled the use of the toilet and washbasin units while the bed was still down, not possible in the older roomettes.

Twinette cars Tawarri and Yankai were added in 1967,[22][23] and these also followed the newer style of interior. Thus from the early 1970s onwards in the newer style there were two roomette cars, Allambi and Tantini, four twinette cars, Dorai, Tawarri, Weroni, and Yankai.

In 1975 Australian National took over the South Australian Railways, and became joint operator of the train with the Victorian Railways.[24] A Motorail service was added to the train from November 1979.[25]

After privatisation[edit]

The 1999 – 2007 version of the train

From 1994 the train was operated solely by Australian National.[26] At this time the Melbourne to Adelaide line was converted to standard gauge, and a new route via Maroona and Geelong introduced.[26] The final broad gauge services ran on 1 March 1995.[27] Australian National began operating their CLP class locomotives.[28]

In October 1997 Australian National was sold, and the rolling stock (but not the locomotives) passed to Great Southern Rail, which contracted National Rail to haul the services with NR class locomotives.[26] In 1999 the maroon and silver livery was removed and the train was repainted in a new grey and silver scheme, with a new kookaburra logo graphic. On occasion, a Pacific National 93 class shares the NRs' haulage of the Overland.[24]

A second change was made in 2007, when a number of the carriages received an internal refurbishment, and a new blue, purple and green livery was applied.[29] A new emu logo was also unveiled.[1] The motorail service was withdrawn in the early 2000s when the dock at the Melbourne end was removed as part of the Southern Cross Station redevelopment.[30]


Interior of a 'Red Service' carriage
Tea is served in a Red Premium carriage, May 2011

The train continues to operate with a $1.5 million annual subsidy from the Victorian State Government.[31]

Following an extensive refurbishment, the train was re-launched on 7 May 2007, with new accommodation: "Red Premium Service" (1 and 2 seating in airline-style seats) and "Red Service" (2 and 2 seating). A licensed cafe car caters for all passengers.

From 26 August 2008 12 seats per train have been made available to passengers within Victoria at V/Line fares. Negotiated between the Victorian Government and Great Southern Railway, the system is being trialled for 6 months.[32] This change has been welcomed, but residents of the Wimmera-Mallee[33] region have called for the Overland to stop at additional stations en route as well, including Murtoa and Stawell.[31]

The motorail service was restored in February 2009.[34]

In October 2010 it was announced that the train would stop at Stawell, beginning on an unknown date. To enable this a $710,000 upgrade will be carried out to the station. At the same time the number of seats available on V/Line fares will be increased to 64 per train, under a new arrangement between the Department of Transport, V/Line and Great Southern Rail.[35] In August 2013 the three-times weekly service was reduced to twice-weekly.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The Overland Great Southern Rail
  2. ^ An Introduction to the Overland Story Rowland, E.C. Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin January 1977 pp1-16
  3. ^ ARHS Railway Museum: Railway History in Victoria 1839 – 1900
  4. ^ David Burke (1978). Great Steam Trains of Australia. Rigby. p. 78. 
  5. ^ "AE Sitting Carriages – V&SAR Joint Stock". Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  6. ^ ""Loddon" – Sleeping Car No. 10 – V&SAR Joint Stock". Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  7. ^ ""Mount Lofty" – Pullman Sleeping Car". Retrieved 9 July 2008. 
  8. ^ "Hopkins". Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  9. ^ ""Adelaide" – Pullman Dining Car". Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  10. ^ Burke. Ibid. p82.
  11. ^ Comrails: V&SAR Joint Stock – Wooden Vestibule
  12. ^ ARHS Railway Museum: Railway History in Victoria 1900–1950
  13. ^ Comrails: Steel V&SAR Joint Stock Carriages
  14. ^ SteamRanger: SteamRanger's Diesel Locos and Railcars
  15. ^ Victorian Railways: B class diesel electric locomotives
  16. ^ National Railway Museum – Port Adelaide: 930-class
  17. ^ Allambi Chris' Commonwealth Railways Pages
  18. ^ Tantini Chris' Commonwealth Railways Pages
  19. ^ Dorai Chris' Commonwealth Railways Pages
  20. ^ Weroni Chris' Commonwealth Railways Pages
  21. ^ Comrails: Steel V&SAR Joint Stock Carriages
  22. ^ Tawarri – V&SAR Joint Stock Steel Sleeping Car Chris' Commonwealth Railways Pages
  23. ^ Yankai – V&SAR Joint Stock Steel Sleeping Car Chris' Commonwealth Railways Pages
  24. ^ a b Comrails: The Overland
  25. ^ Vincent Adams Winter (1990). VR and VicRail: 1962 – 1983. p. 206. ISBN 0-9592069-3-0. 
  26. ^ a b c "ARHS Railway Museum: History 1950 – now". Retrieved 27 March 2008. 
  27. ^ "Newsline Interstate" Railway Digest April 1995 page 16
  28. ^ "Morrison Knudsen Australia and the CLPs" Railway Digest June 1994 Page 16
  29. ^ Minister For Public Transport: Refurbished Overland Train Ready to Roll' 8 May 2007
  30. ^ "The Overland Motorail". Archived from the original on 20 July 2008. Retrieved 16 August 2008. 
  31. ^ a b "Overland bypasses Stawell station". Stawell Times News. 23 January 2007. Retrieved 29 June 2008. 
  32. ^ "New Train Services for Western Victoria". Media Release: Premier of Victoria. 25 August 2008. Retrieved 27 August 2008. 
  33. ^ "Wimmera-Mallee group wants rail service expanded". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 27 August 2008. Retrieved 31 August 2008. 
  34. ^ "Passengers Can Now take Their Car by Train to Adelaide". Media Release: Minister for Public Transport. 18 February 2009. Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  35. ^ "All Aboard: Train Services Return to Stawell – Premier of Victoria". Media Release from the Minister for Public Transport. 14 October 2010. Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  36. ^ Change of Schedule – The Overland Great Southern Rail