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The Overland

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The Overland
The Overland at Geelong Junction
Service typePassenger train
First service19 January 1887
Current operator(s)Journey Beyond
Distance travelled828 kilometres
Average journey time10 hours 30 minutes
Service frequency2 × per week in each direction
Line(s) usedWestern standard gauge
Operating speed115 km/h
Route map
Murray Bridge
North Shore
Southern Cross

The Overland is an interstate passenger train service in Australia, travelling between the state capitals of Melbourne and Adelaide, a distance of 828 km (515 mi). It first ran in 1887 as the Adelaide Express, known by South Australians as the Melbourne Express.[1] It was given its current name in 1936. Now operated by private company Journey Beyond, the train undertakes two return trips a week.[2] Originally an overnight train that stopped at large intermediate stations, it now operates during the day, stopping less frequently.

The Overland was converted to standard gauge in the 1990s and now operates from Melbourne over the longer standard gauge line initially heading south to the port city of Geelong, before returning to its original route in Ararat. After departing Ararat the train stops in the Victorian towns of Stawell, Horsham, Dimboola and Nhill before crossing the South Australian border. The final stretch into Adelaide, after crossing the Murray River is over the scenic Adelaide Hills. The train contains Red Premium and Red seated accommodation and a bar/lounge car, Café 828.[3] [dead link]


Early history[edit]

Heavy passenger cars, steep grades and sharp curves in the Adelaide Hills necessitated two locomotives in the early days of the Adelaide/Melbourne Express, before "Big Power" arrived

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 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) broad gauge, a direct through-service was possible - the first such service to connect two Australian state capitals. The first services were run from 1 July 1886,[4] though the new railway was not officially inaugurated until 19 January of the following year.[5][6] using jointly owned rolling stock. Speed restrictions were severe on the Victorian side, where ballasting had yet to be completed in many places. These early services were slow; a westbound departure from Spencer Street at 6:30 a.m. would not arrive in Adelaide until 9:30 p.m. the following day, having taken an overnight stop at Dimboola.[4]

The train was later called the Adelaide Express (westbound), or the Melbourne Express (eastbound)[7][failed verification] and ran a daily overnight service in each direction, with opulent Mann Boudoir sleeping cars.[8]: 78  From 1907, new E type side corridor sitting and sleeping cars of Victorian Railways design were introduced.[9][10] 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 Company in the United States, these being the heaviest carriages ever used in Australia.[11] A dining car was included between Melbourne and Ararat from 1927,[12] and between Adelaide and Serviceton from 1928,[13] 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.

In 1926, the South Australian Railways had introduced 500 and 600 class locomotives for duties that included hauling the heavier train over 200-metre (660-foot) curves and 1 in 45 grades: the smaller-wheeled 500 class through the difficult Adelaide Hills[14] and the large-wheeled 600 class across the plains to the Victorian border south of Tailem Bend. These were the largest locomotives in Australia at that time.[8]: 82  In 1936 the train was renamed The Overland, and the original deep red livery was replaced by green and yellow with black horizontal lining.[15] For the makeover the SAR semi-streamlined most of its 500 class locomotives by applying a smooth casing over the multiplicity of piping and plumbing and a valance on the side.[14] In 1941 Victorian steam locomotive H220 was introduced to service; it was intended to haul the train but never entered regular Overland service because its weight exceeded the rating of the track.[16] For more than 40 years Victorian Railways used A2 class locomotives, usually in pairs.

Post-war history[edit]

In 1951, "Big Power" steam locomotives would soon be superseded by diesel-electrics and wooden passenger cars of The Overland would be replaced by all-steel air-conditioned cars, one of which is in this train
The lettering style introduced with The Overland's rebranding in 1949

In 1946, a new style of sleeping compartment was being tested, and a mock-up of part of a carriage was built for display in Melbourne and Adelaide. The carriage portion was externally painted in green and black with yellow.[17] 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.[18] 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. 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.

On 7 September 1951, the westbound service collided with the eastbound service at Serviceton station with four A2 class locomotives destroyed and one fatality.[19][20] Diesel locomotives took over in 1953, with the introduction of the South Australian 900 class and Victorian B class.[21][22][23] The superior acceleration of the latter allowed 70 minutes to be shaved off the journey time without exceeding the 60 mph (97 km/h) limit.[24][25] These were superseded by the 930, S, X and N class locomotives.[26]

Victorian and South Australian Railways "joint stock" sleeping car Baderloo circa 1910
1967 steel sleeping Car Yankai (JTB 2) in the 1999–2007 livery

Twinette cars Tawarri and Yankai were added in 1967,[27][28] 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 1971, roomette cars Allambi and Tantini and twinette cars Dorai and Weroni[29][30][31][32] were sold to the Victorian Railways for use on The Vinelander to Mildura, and replaced with new carriages.[33] 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.

In 1975, Australian National took over the South Australian Railways and became joint operator of the train with the Victorian Railways.[34] From 18 May 1984, the Adelaide terminus was changed from Adelaide station to Keswick Terminal in Adelaide's Park Lands.[6] A snapshot of the service in November 1990 included a car carrier (AMBP), two sleepers, a club car, another two sleepers, a first, second/buffet and second sitting cars and a luggage van, hauled by two N class locomotives. In holiday seasons the train was regularly built up to 16 carriages.[35] From 1994, the train was operated solely by Australian National.[36] At this time the Melbourne to Adelaide line was converted to standard gauge, and a new route via Maroona and Geelong introduced.[36] The final broad-gauge services ran on 1 March 1995.[37] Australian National began operating their CLP class locomotives on the service when the service was reintroduced on standard gauge.[38]

Motorail service[edit]

A motorail service was added to the train from November 1979.[39] The service was withdrawn in the early 2000s when the vehicle loading ramp at the Melbourne end was removed as part of the Southern Cross station redevelopment,[40] It was restored in February 2009,[41] but was withdrawn again in November 2015.[42]

Great Southern Rail[edit]

The Overland's overnight service bound for Adelaide, about 1997
The 1999–2007 version of the train
Interior of a Red Service carriage, 2007
Morning tea is served in a Red Premium (first class) car, 2011

In November 1997, Australian National was sold and the passenger cars passed to Great Southern Rail Limited, which contracted National Rail to haul the services with NR class locomotives.[36][43] On occasions, BL and 93 class locomotives hauled the service.[44][45] In July 1998, the Wednesday and Saturday night journeys in each direction were cancelled, leaving the service operating five times per week in each direction.[46] In May 1999, a new timetable was introduced but with previous intermediate stops omitted at Stawell, Murtoa, Nhill, Kaniva, Wolseley, Tintinara, Coonalpyn and Tailem Bend.[47] 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.[34] In May 2000, the service was reduced to four times weekly. However, with an accelerated journey time of 10 hours 30 minutes, the service was able to be operated by one set of passenger cars, operating to Melbourne in the day and to Adelaide overnight.[48][49] Some of the largest Overland consists were run during this era; during the 2002 AFL finals, in which both the Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide Power were competing, The Overland was built up to a record 32 carriages for the Preliminary Final round on 21 September.[50]

In May 2007, Great Southern Rail re-timetabled the service to operate three times weekly in daylight after the passenger cars had been overhauled with a new blue, purple and green livery applied and interiors renewed.[51][52] A new running emu logo was also introduced.[2] From August 2008, 12 seats per train were made available to passengers within Victoria at V/Line fares.[53] In October 2010, it was announced that the train would stop at Stawell. At the same time, the number of seats available on V/Line fares was increased to 64 per train.[54] In August 2013, the three-times weekly service was reduced to twice-weekly.[55][56]

Carriage-side logo in the Journey Beyond era

From 2007, The Overland continued to operate with a $1.5 million annual subsidy from the Victorian State Government.[57] In August 2015, concerns were raised about the future of the service when GSR announced that, because the Federal Government's subsidy of the fares of pensioners, veterans and seniors taking train journeys would end in July 2016, services on GSR's other trains, The Ghan and the Indian Pacific, were to be halved.[58] Later in the month, the South Australian Government announced that it would support the service as part of a $1 million deal with the company.[59]

Private equity era[edit]

The Overland in blue and purple livery at Southern Cross Station, Melbourne, in 2009

From 2015, ownership of Great Southern Rail passed through a series of private equity funds, first to Allegro Funds in May 2015,[60] then Quadrant Private Equity in October 2016 (at which time it was rebranded to "Journey Beyond"),[61][note 1] Hornblower Group in January 2022,[63] and subsequently Crestview Partners in February 2024.[64] The move to private equity ownership began a market pivot from being primarily a transport operator, to a luxury "experiential travel" operator. From July 2016, following the withdrawal of a federal subsidy, all coach-class seating was removed from The Ghan and the Indian Pacific, with these services now focusing on the premium market.[65] The shorter travel time of The Overland was not conducive to such a conversion, so it was retained, but now conspicuously at variance with Journey Beyond's new tourism focus.[66]

In 2018, The Overland's future was in doubt as 20 years of subsidies from the two state governments appeared likely to cease: although the Victorian Government renewed its subsidy for 15 months in August, the South Australian Government announced in November that it had decided not to renew its subsidy beyond the end of the year.[67] In December, however, the Victorian Government announced it would fund the shortfall to allow the service to continue in 2019.[68][69] The service was again threatened with withdrawal in December 2019 before a last-minute agreement for the Victorian government subsidy to continue until March 2020 was reached.[70] In that month, the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated all Journey Beyond train services to be suspended, restarting in September 2020. In June 2020, the Victorian Government committed to a three-year funding agreement to support The Overland, providing $3.8 million per year until June 2023.[71][72] After the 2022 South Australian state election, the newly elected Malinauskas Government reinstated the South Australian government's subsidy, coming to $1.4 million over four years.[73]

Overland exhibits in museums[edit]

The National Railway Museum at Port Adelaide, South Australia, has several exhibits related to the train:

The Overland Museum, in Kaniva, on the Western Highway, Victoria, is dedicated exclusively to The Overland; its centrepieces are preserved sleeping cars Nomuldi[80] and Pekina.


  1. ^ As of 2020, "Journey Beyond" was a business name of Experience Australia Group Pty Ltd ABN 56 614 713 003[62]


  1. ^ Turner, Jim (2014). Australian Steam Locomotives 1855–1895. BookBaby. ISBN 9780992432683. Retrieved 7 December 2017.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ a b The Overland Archived 23 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine Great Southern Rail
  3. ^ "TrainReview's guide to The Overland".[dead link]
  4. ^ a b "OVERLAND TO ADELAIDE BY RAILWAY". The Argus (Melbourne). No. 12, 497. Victoria, Australia. 15 July 1886. p. 10. Retrieved 8 August 2023 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ An Introduction to the Overland Story Rowland, E.C. Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin January 1977 pp1-16
  6. ^ a b Callaghan, WH (1992). The Overland Railway. Sydney: Australian Railway Historical Society. pp. 48, 213. ISBN 0-909650-29-2.
  7. ^ ARHS Railway Museum: Railway History in Victoria 1839 – 1900 Archived 29 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ a b Burke, David (1978). Great steam trains of Australia. Rigby.
  9. ^ "AE Sitting Carriages – V&SAR Joint Stock". Chris' Commonwealth Railways Pages. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
  10. ^ ""Loddon" – Sleeping Car No. 10 – V&SAR Joint Stock". Chris's Commonwealth Railways Pages. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
  11. ^ ""Mount Lofty" – Pullman Sleeping Car". Chris's Commonwealth Railways Pages. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
  12. ^ "Hopkins". Chris' Commonwealth Railways Pages. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
  13. ^ ""Adelaide" – Pullman Dining Car". Chris's Commonwealth Railways Pages. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
  14. ^ a b Oberg, Leon (1975). Locomotives of Australia. Terrey Hills, New South Wales: A.H. & A.W. Reed Pty Ltd. p. 146. ISBN 9780589071738. Archived from the original on 23 November 2022. Retrieved 3 April 2023.
  15. ^ "Comrails: V&SAR Joint Stock – Wooden Vestibule". Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
  16. ^ ARHS Railway Museum: Railway History in Victoria 1900–1950 Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "Letter by David Parsons". Newsrail. Vol. 25, no. 2. Vic: ARHS Victoria Division. February 1997. pp. 57–58. ISSN 0310-7477. OCLC 19676396.
  18. ^ Commonwealth Railways had showers in some sleeping cars from 1919
  19. ^ Rail Disaster at Serviceton Archived 29 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine Barrier Miner 7 September 1951
  20. ^ Expresses Collide at Serviceton: One Dead, Passengers Shaken Archived 29 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine Canberra Times 8 September 1951
  21. ^ "Diesel-Electric Operation in South Australia" Railway Gazette 25 September 1953 page 338
  22. ^ "SteamRanger: SteamRanger's Diesel Locos and Railcars". Archived from the original on 7 February 2008. Retrieved 27 November 2007.
  23. ^ Victorian Railways: B class diesel electric locomotives Archived 4 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ "Record Breaking by Victorian Railways Diesels" Railway Gazette 4 September 1953 pages 253/254
  25. ^ "The Overland Limited" Locomotive, Railway Carriage & Wagon Review issue 736 December 1953 page 198
  26. ^ "National Railway Museum – Port Adelaide: 930-class". Archived from the original on 3 September 2007. Retrieved 27 November 2007.
  27. ^ Tawarri – V&SAR Joint Stock Steel Sleeping Car Archived 26 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine Chris' Commonwealth Railways Pages
  28. ^ Yankai – V&SAR Joint Stock Steel Sleeping Car Archived 26 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine Chris' Commonwealth Railways Pages
  29. ^ Allambi Archived 26 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine Chris' Commonwealth Railways Pages
  30. ^ Tantini Archived 26 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine Chris' Commonwealth Railways Pages
  31. ^ Dorai Archived 26 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine Chris' Commonwealth Railways Pages
  32. ^ Weroni Archived 26 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine Chris' Commonwealth Railways Pages
  33. ^ Comrails: Steel V&SAR Joint Stock Carriages Archived 26 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine Chris' Commonwealth Railways Pages
  34. ^ a b The Overland Archived 20 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine Chris' Commonwealth Railways Pages
  35. ^ Julian Insall (November 1990). "Interstate Express Trains". Newsrail. Vol. 18, no. 11. Vic: ARHS Victoria Division. p. 332. ISSN 0310-7477. OCLC 19676396.
  36. ^ a b c Railway History 1950 – 1975 ARHS Railway Museum
  37. ^ "Newsline Interstate" Railway Digest April 1995 page 16
  38. ^ "Morrison Knudsen Australia and the CLPs" Railway Digest June 1994 page 16
  39. ^ Vincent Adams Winter (1990). VR and VicRail: 1962 – 1983. p. 206. ISBN 0-9592069-3-0.
  40. ^ The Overland Motorail Great Southern Rail
  41. ^ "Passengers Can Now take Their Car by Train to Adelaide". Media Release: Minister for Public Transport. 18 February 2009.[permanent dead link]
  42. ^ "Motorail". Archived from the original on 9 October 2015. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  43. ^ "Goodbye AN Passenger, Hello Great Southern Railway", Railway Digest (December 1997 ed.), p. 7
  44. ^ "SA Standard Gauge", Railway Digest (May 1999 ed.), p. 37
  45. ^ "The Overland". Newsrail. Vol. 42, no. 6. Vic: ARHS Victoria Division. June 2014. p. 181. ISSN 0310-7477. OCLC 19676396.
  46. ^ "GSR Announce Changes to Ghan & Overland", Railway Digest (August 1998 ed.), p. 10
  47. ^ "Geelong Standard Gauge Platform Opens, Overland Accelerated but Stations Bypassed", Railway Digest (July 1999 ed.), p. 17
  48. ^ "Passenger in Brief" Railway Gazette International May 2000 page 288
  49. ^ "SA Short Lines", Railway Digest (October 2000 ed.), p. 10
  50. ^ "AFL Grand Final Trains", Railway Digest (November 2002 ed.), p. 40
  51. ^ "Overland upgrade announced" Railway Gazette International April 2006 page 192
  52. ^ Refurbished Overland Train Ready to Roll Minister For Public Transport 8 May 2007
  53. ^ New Train Services for Western Victoria Premier of Victoria 25 August 2008
  54. ^ "All Aboard: Train Services Return to Stawell – Premier of Victoria". Minister for Public Transport. www.premier.vic.gov.au. 14 October 2010.[permanent dead link]
  55. ^ Change of Schedule – The Overland Archived 13 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine Great Southern Rail
  56. ^ "Overland's last Thursday departure", Railway Digest (October 2013 ed.), p. 22
  57. ^ Overland bypasses Stawell station Stawell Times 23 January 2007
  58. ^ "Great Southern Rail to halve services on Indian Pacific, The Ghan after Federal Government cuts". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 6 August 2015. Archived from the original on 18 November 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  59. ^ MacLennan, Leah (27 August 2015). "Overland train deal with South Australian Government secures more jobs for Adelaide". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 27 August 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  60. ^ Great Southern Rail to be bought by Allegro in high-end tourism push, ABC News (Australia), 30 March 2015, archived from the original on 29 September 2022, retrieved 25 September 2022
  61. ^ "Control of the Indian Pacific, Ghan changes one more time in private equity reshuffle". The Sydney Morning Herald. 15 September 2016. Archived from the original on 20 May 2018. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  62. ^ "Current details for ABN 56 614 713 003". ABN Lookup. Australian Business Register. 2020. Archived from the original on 3 October 2022. Retrieved 14 August 2020.
  63. ^ Allen, Lisa (13 January 2022). "US travel firm makes $600m punt on Journey Beyond". The Australian. Canberra. p. 14. Retrieved 14 January 2022.Paid subscription required subscription: the source is only accessible via a paid subscription ("paywall").
  64. ^ Bridget Carter (22 February 2024). "PE firms cut asset prices and restructure amid tough market". The Australian. Retrieved 22 February 2024.
  65. ^ High-rollers only for rail as Indian Pacific cuts economy class, ABC News (Australia), 8 March 2016, archived from the original on 29 February 2020, retrieved 26 September 2022
  66. ^ John Wilson (May 2020), The Overland: A Social History, Sarlines Railway Books
  67. ^ Boisvert, Eugene (29 November 2018). "Overland Adelaide-Melbourne train service set to be cancelled after SA funding axed". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 29 November 2018. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  68. ^ "Stepping In To Save The Overland For Western Victoria". Premier of Victoria. 11 December 2018. Archived from the original on 15 December 2018. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  69. ^ Victoria to fund the Overland in 2019 Railway Gazette International 11 December 2018
  70. ^ Overland train service to continue until March 31 Murray Valley Standard 6 January 2020
  71. ^ Wales, Sean (30 June 2020). "The Overland train between Melbourne and Adelaide is given a three-year lifeline by Victorian Government". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 18 July 2020. Retrieved 1 July 2020.
  72. ^ "The Overland train set to resume when borders open". InDaily. Solstice Media. 30 June 2020. Archived from the original on 1 July 2020. Retrieved 1 July 2020.
  73. ^ Peri Strathearn (3 June 2022). "State budget saves the Overland, promises public housing and Ngarrindjeri treaty". Murray Bridge News. Archived from the original on 11 August 2022. Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  74. ^ "V & SAR Second Class Sitting Car BE42". National Railway Museum. National Railway Museum, Port Adelaide. 2023. Archived from the original on 20 March 2023. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  75. ^ "V & SAR joint stock sleeping car Allambi". National Railway Museum. National Railway Museum, Port Adelaide. 2023. Archived from the original on 20 March 2023. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  76. ^ "12 Wheel Brake Van No. 276". National Railway Museum. National Railway Museum, Port Adelaide. 2023. Archived from the original on 20 March 2023. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  77. ^ "Locomotive 504 - Tom Barr Smith". National Railway Museum. National Railway Museum, Port Adelaide. 2023. Archived from the original on 20 March 2023. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  78. ^ "Locomotive 900 - Lady Norrie". National Railway Museum. National Railway Museum, Port Adelaide. 2023. Archived from the original on 20 March 2023. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  79. ^ "Locomotive 930". National Railway Museum. National Railway Museum, Port Adelaide. 2023. Archived from the original on 24 March 2023. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  80. ^ "The Overland Museum". Kaniva, Victoria, Australia. Kaniva & District Progress Association. March 2023. Archived from the original on 20 March 2023. Retrieved 20 March 2023.


  • John Wilson (2020), The Overland, A Social History, SARLINES Railway Books, ISBN 978-0-646-81490-2

External links[edit]

Media related to The Overland at Wikimedia Commons