Travels With JB

Travels With JB

Travel news and reviews

My trip on The Overland train between Melbourne and Adelaide didn’t start well but improved once onboard.

The Overland travelling between Melbourne and Adelaide. Photo credit: Journey Beyond.

A phone message followed by an email advised the premium train carriage I was booked in was out of action. Instead, I was to travel in a ‘standard’ carriage.

However, I would receive the same service as offered in premium class (known as Red Premium) including breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, coffee, soft drinks and juice.

My economy carriage on The Overland.

Check-in at Southern Cross railway station at 7 on a chilly Melbourne December morning further clouded the experience. Waiting for a train on the station’s platform with limited seating and seemingly always a cold wind is never a joyous experience.  Technical problems meant the train was late in arriving and boarding and we ended up leaving around 20 minutes after the advertised departure time of 8.05am.

Once seated, however, things looked up. The staff was apologetic about the delay and the change in carriage and seemed keen to help as much as possible.  Given some of my fellow passengers were unaware of the carriage downgrade all their customer service skills were required especially as one of the premium carriages was still in operation.  Why they, asked, were they not in that carriage especially as they were paying the same price as those seated in premium class!

The premier carriage.

As it turned out, for me, at least, there were advantages. The seat next to me and the two facing seats were empty meaning I could stretch out.  Not being able to ‘test’ a premium seat I can’t compare its comfort to my economy seat, however I couldn’t really complain about my seat’s cushioning.   And I have a feeling after 10 and a half hours any seat is going to start to feel uncomfortable towards the end of the journey.

Surprisingly, neither premium nor economy seats have device charging points or inbuilt footrests.  Portable footrests were distributed in my carriage and seemingly also in the premium cabin given the number I saw as I walked through that cabin to the Overland’s licensed Café 828 carriage.

Given meals were included in my fare, I only needed to visit the café for a morning cappuccino but it seemed very popular with those travelling in Red Service (economy) whose fare doesn’t include meals.

My breakfast.

My meal service started around 40 minutes after we left Melbourne with the offer of tea, coffee or fruit juice.  At the same time our meal orders for breakfast and lunch were taken.

Breakfast options were a spinach and feta omelette with house made baked beans, bacon and sour dough toast, vanilla yoghurt parfait and a danish or baked banana bread with a fresh banana and lemon yoghurt. I was happy with my choice of the parfait and was quite hungry by the time it arrived around 9.30am.

My lunch selection of a toasted leg ham, skordalia and tomato focaccia with a side of seasonal salad (served just after 1pm) wasn’t quite as successful, being on the dry side. The vanilla slice dessert was more appealing.

My lunch.

Those who ordered the Japanese beef curry seemed to the most satisfied, although the Murray Bridge Mushroom Rolled Pastry also had its fans.  Soft drinks were served with the meal with beer (from $6.50), cider ($7.50) and small bottles of wine (from $9) available for purchase.

An afternoon tea offering of cheese and biscuits or carrot cake served around 4.30 ensured no one left the train hungry.

One of the joys of the trip on The Overland, and my reason for choosing it, is the chance to experience the scenery along the train’s 828-kilometre route. It’s scenery Overland passengers have been enjoying since 1887 when the first train serviced the route.

Wind turbines in country Victoria.

Needless to say there have been changes over the years with the service threatened on more than one occasion. That latest threat occurred in early 2023 when the South Australian Government withdrew funding for the service. The Victorian State Government stepped in providing $11.5 million funding for the next three years. As a result, private travel company Journey Beyond (which also operates The Ghan and Indian Pacific trains), which took over operating the service in 1997, continues to run a twice weekly service.

Supporting communities that live along the route was given as one of the reasons for continuing the service. And while some passengers did depart and join the train at the stops along the way – being Geelong’s North Shore, Ararat, Stawell, Horsham, Dimboola, Nhill, Bordertown and Murray Bridge – the majority of the passengers seemed to be travelling through to Adelaide.

The Murray River.

Those passengers were rewarded with a landscape that ranged from industrial Melbourne, to hundreds of kilometres of agricultural pastures, to arid land, to distant views of the Grampians mountain range, to the Murray River and the picturesque Adelaide Hills.

Along the way the conductor provided a brief introduction to each of the towns/regions the train travelled through.

By the time the train arrived at Journey Beyond’s Adelaide Parklands terminal (which is located three kilometres from the city centre) around 20 minutes later than the scheduled 6pm, I was ready to disembark.

The Adelaide Hills.

At the same time the day went surprisingly quickly and a number of the sights seen along the ways did surprise – including the number of wind turbines and wildlife.

Chatting to fellow passengers, reading books and magazines, watching the passing scenery and/or playing cards seemed the way most around me passed the time.  There didn’t seem to be a lot of devise usage probably due to there being no wi fi access on the train and limited power plugs, most of which are located at the end of carriages, and in the dining car.

Costing $230, The Overland’s Red Premium service isn’t the quickest or cheapest way to travel between Melbourne and Adelaide but for me at least, it is one of the most relaxing.

The Overland operates from Melbourne to Adelaide on a Monday and Friday and from Adelaide to Melbourne on a Sunday and Thursday. For more information visit the Journey Beyond website.


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Michael Edwards
Michael Edwards
5 months ago

Do mobile phones work on the train, using their own data?

Jenny Burns
Jenny Burns
Reply to  Michael Edwards
5 months ago

Hi Michael I am on the Telstra network and mine did. Not sure how other providers would go as it would depend on their coverage in rural areas.

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