The Overland Train – Adelaide to Melbourne

When we first planned this trip, train travel sounded exciting and adventurous. We both enjoy train travel and considered the landscape we would see during the hours on a train going from one city to another. It was with this in mind that we booked seats on the Overland train from Adelaide to Melbourne. Due to the extensive number of hours, the trip is over ten hours long, we opted for the Red Premium Seating, which was the most comfortable choice available on this train. The train only runs three days a week in this direction, all during the daytime. The return trip is three times a week, during the night, so sleeper coaches are available. Our train was scheduled for 8:30, so we were up by 6:00 and took a taxi to the train station, which is outside of town. The train station is modern, sleek, and check-in is similar to an airport. You put your luggage on the conveyor belt, they weigh it, only 20 kilos allowed, they tag it, and they give boarding passes. All very professional. The well lit, clean cafeteria was a perfect caffeine stop with a bit of brekkie as some call it here. We both made intermittent cigarette stops since we would be on a smokeless train for 10 hours. Everything and everywhere that is covered is smoke free in the state of South Australia. When we booked this trip, this is what the brochure stated that aroused our excitement about the journey. “This historic train pioneered inter-capital rail travel way back in 1887, its name inspired by the historic ‘Overlanders’ who travelled the route on horseback. A century on and a $4 million refurbishment later, today’s train-travelling ‘Overlanders’ will enjoy the journey in relaxing comfort arriving at their destination in the early evening. Throughout this interstate journey, guests can soak up a diverse range of landscapes from rugged mallee scrubland, to fields of golden crops, over vast open plains and through gently rolling hills. Distance: 828 kilometres.” And this about the Red Premium service “The “New” Overland Red Premium ServiceComfortable reclining seats offering greater personal space. 2 and 1 across aisle, 36 per carriage 67cm pitch between seats Access to licenced Café Carriage Meals for purchase from licenced Café Carriage alternatively limited a-la-carte in-seat dining served via trolley service Snacks for purchase from trolley service or the Licenced Café Carriage. Free orange juice/water offered on boarding Free Platform magazine. Priority luggage handling service. Luggage allowing 50kg per person. 3 items 20/20/10kg.” We were excited, we were charged, we were juiced up about this trip, even if it meant going without nicotine for ten hours, we could do it since the scenery would overwhelm us. This service was just reactivated in 2007 after a major refurbishing. After the first hour of “rugged mallee scrubland”, we had enough scrubland for a lifetime. The “fields of golden crops” translated into fields of dried out drought ridden areas in dire need of moisture.
This chance to see the Australian landscape was not what we had imagined. With both cities on the coast, we missed the part in the description where they say we will see magnificent ocean vistas, but we thought it was an oversight on their part in the brochure. None of this landscape has seen water for years. Like a premium service on an airline, or what used to be premium service on an airline, each coach had two attendants to wait on us. We were given an orientation to the train, introduced to our attendants, and then served orange juice. The seats were magnanimous in size and comfort. With at 2-1 configuration, we each had the one on the right side of the train. If we were seven feet tall, we would have had enough leg room, so when we reclined our seats, we did not decrease the real estate of the person behind us in the least. I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to catch up on writing, each seat had a hidden tray under the right hand arm rest. With the computer set up and ready to write, what I did not anticipate was the bumpy ride. The entire length of the journey was similar to being on a small aircraft that flew at low altitudes and encountered turbulence. After pounding out one paragraph, I had thirty-seven spelling mistakes due to my fingers slipping by being bounced around as I typed. Even the cursor could not maintain its position on a word, the bump and grind of the rails thrust it upward, downward, or sideways. I gave up. Normally, I can read in many unnatural conditions: in a car, on a plane, in low light, and so on. After reading thirty pages at a time, my eyes were exhausted. I took a nap. The order of the day was read, nap, read, and nap some more. An hour into the travels, the attendants came around to take breakfast orders from the menu in our seat pockets. We refrained since we had eaten already. It didn’t take much observation to notice that the passengers who were already maximizing their seat space were the ones to order breakfast served to them where they sat. Breakfast trays were no sooner cleared away when I noticed they were already spying the lunch menu in anticipation. We held back from lunch also; we packed some snacks to eat along the way. We were due to arrive at 6:30 pm, but due to hold-ups, we did not arrive until 7:45. The Red Premium luggage service ended once our luggage was checked in. Once in Melbourne, we had to walk from the very front of the train car A to car Z to collect our luggage, fighting through the crowds of travelers and those who were there to greet them. Even then, we were held at bay until all of the luggage was displayed like tin soldiers, ours calling to us to collect them from the lot. It was a zoo. Once in the station, we found a train employee who directed us to the Connex ticket office, the company that provides transportation in the city. We at first opted for a seven day metro ticket, which would have worked on all trams, buses, and suburban trains. The agent talked us out of it, saying that Christmas Eve and Christmas day were free travel days. Therefore, we should only buy daily tickets, but for tonight, just a single ride ticket. For $3.50 each, we had our single ride ticket and were on our way to Collingswood station where our hotel was located. As we left the station at Collingswood, our hotel, The Laird, was within a thirty second walk. It is a gay male only hotel located above The Laird gay bar. Check-in was quick and easy and we were in our spacious room within minutes. The spacious room is all split pine walls giving it a very western feel to it. The walls throughout are decorated with framed posters of similar hotels in San Francisco, San Diego, and Berlin as well as Herb Ritt photos and Tom of Finland. There is a well appointed self-service kitchen with a espresso coffee machine, cereals, toaster, and OJ in the fridge. Next to this is a large lounge with a dining table and chairs in addition to a sofa, and arm chairs for reading or relaxing. Each room has its own television, air conditioning unit, and ceiling fan. Being Sunday evening and late by this point, we went looking for some place for dinner. The only option was a Chinese restaurant, which as it happened was not a bad choice after such a laborious day of bump, bump, bump. It was low key and relaxed.