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Beyond the expected

Rail auction carriages to roll again in new Canberra-based tourism venture

Ian Bushnell 28 February 2018 48
The Southern Aurora. Eight of its former carriages are being refurbished for G'Day Rail. Photos: Flickr.

The Southern Aurora. Eight of its former carriages are being refurbished for G’Day Rail. Photos: Flickr.

Carriages sold at the Australian Railway Historical Society liquidation auction in Canberra last year are being reborn so they can give tourists a luxury armchair ride into eastern Australia’s regions.

Canberra duo and rail buffs Rodney Clancy and Simon Mitchell have big plans for the eight 1962 Southern Aurora carriages, which are being refurbished to as-new condition at the Lithgow Railway Workshops, with the full complement due to be finished by June.

They are preparing to roll out their venture, G’day Rail, a nod to the great rail journeys, that will take travellers on ‘slow’, immersive tours through country towns, farmland, the bush and the outback.

The focus would be on an Australian cultural experience, said Mr Clancy, who has a background in business, music and culture.

“So we not only go and visit country towns, regional cities outside of Sydney and Melbourne and Adelaide, but we also try to engross ourselves in what they have, what they offer, what they do.’’

For example, a trip to Bathurst might include a mini-bus tour of landmark buildings, local specialist industries, the Mt Panorama circuit, or the markets, as well as a performance.

“That might be a comedian, dancer, singer, actor, orchestra, concert or jazz band, choir, it doesn’t matter, it’s all about Australian culture and what Australians have to offer,’’ said Mr Clancy, who has contacts around the world.

“They’re all dead keen about coming to Australia and participating or observing some of Australia’s finest,’’ he said.

The Southern Aurora. Eight of its former carriages are being refurbished for G'Day Rail. Photos: Flickr.

While the business is based in Canberra, the operations will be somewhere closer to Sydney, although the train will be stabled here for most of its non-use days each month. Most departures will be from Sydney but there will be one a month out of the national capital.

The air-conditioned Southern Aurora sleepers will be available in twin ensuite or single cabins with some having original vintage features. Passengers will also be able to relax in restaurant and lounge cars.

G’day Rail will use heritage locomotives of the same class that hauled the Southern Aurora between Sydney and Melbourne  – 44 class diesel electrics.

Mr Clancy and his partner plan to latch on to the success of the Ghan and Indian Pacific and offer the same sort of services and facilities but in a more relaxed atmosphere.

“We’re not just going to travel Sydney-Adelaide in one day and one night, we’re going to drop off at a number of towns along that route and offer a concert and a cultural experience,’’ he said.

“Instead of a three and a half hour stop in Broken Hill, we would probably do 13-hour stop-offs in places like Parkes, Dubbo, Bathurst, Broken Hill, and then Adelaide three days later.’’

G’day Rail is offering five rail experiences a month – Sydney-Adelaide; Sydney-Wollongong-Wagga Wagga-Bathurst; Sydney-Wellington-Yass-Sydney; Sydney-Port Macquarie-Port Stephens-Sydney; and Sydney-Canberra or Canberra-Sydney.

Along the way, travellers would enjoy the best Australian fine food and wine, with a master chef on each train preparing everything from Aboriginal bush tucker such as witchety grub to the finest salmons.

The train will also be available for private charter.

For more information go here.

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48 Responses to
Rail auction carriages to roll again in new Canberra-based tourism venture
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Maya123 5:30 pm 11 Apr 18

Shame; they are too expensive for me, but I do understand that you must recover costs and make a profit.
Many people I understand will want entertainment, etc, but all I would want is a rail journey, with stops along the way. These expensive extras I don’t need. Good luck with your venture; it does sound good.

1:26 pm 11 Apr 18

Thanks to all for your support and enthusiasm - and The RiotACT for the great feature. Tickets are now on sale for vintage railway getaways departing from Sydney in July! Head to to learn more. We hope to see you onboard soon!

5:01 am 07 Mar 18

Great idea! A perfect way to enjoy travelling through our amazing country.

1:34 pm 06 Mar 18

Wait what? That's an upgrade from hand built models... Can't wait!

Capital Retro 8:20 am 04 Mar 18

I note that “free wi-fi” isn’t a service provided. That suits me and if the promoters are going to ban all social media devices that would even be better.

4:56 pm 03 Mar 18

It's a big dream with potential but a lot has to go right 😊

4:15 pm 03 Mar 18

Of COURSE you bought a train!

12:58 pm 03 Mar 18

Wow I hope it works out.

11:23 pm 02 Mar 18

Wat loco will you use?

11:04 pm 02 Mar 18

I wish them all the best but please don't go so upmarket that ordinary folk can't afford to travel with you.

9:17 pm 02 Mar 18

This sounds amazing SIMON ! When do you hope too get up & running ! We will have go on this train ! Good luck with all the preparations SIMON ! 😘 xx

8:39 pm 01 Mar 18

Fantastic idea 😊

7:15 pm 01 Mar 18

Hope they do the new years trip to sydney

7:03 pm 01 Mar 18

Never rode the aurora, plenty of trips on the spirit of progress... Looks good

6:52 pm 01 Mar 18

I hope this new venture will be in for the long haul. I was saddened when the South Pacific Express and Ritz Rail folded. Lack of tourism and the falling dollar killed them. 😢

12:02 pm 01 Mar 18

Oh so cool!!! Can't wait to have a go!!

mcs 9:12 am 01 Mar 18

Hope this goes well – a good venture, and nice to see these famous carriages that form part of our railway history being put to good use, after all the awfulness related to the falling apart of the local society down here.

9:12 am 01 Mar 18

Awesome Simon Mitchell cant wait for a train ride :)

8:54 am 01 Mar 18

Wow, you actually bought a train!! That’s so cool! 😎 Good luck on your new venture, sounds wonderful 😊

8:07 am 01 Mar 18

ah, wonder if this is the Rodney Clancy of Cooma Historic Railway fame?

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