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.
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.