Today, Mecc Alte continues to be the supplier of alternators to the Ghan and Indian Pacific, ensuring a comfortable experience to crew and passengers, whilst operating in the harshest and most diverse operating conditions imaginable, from sub zero temperatures during the early mornings to extreme desert heat exceeding 55C, and withstanding flooding rains and iron ore rich “red bull dust” whilst ensuring an uninterruptable power supply during the journey. Each alternator endures 30,000 operating hours, without servicing.
The history of building “The Ghan” & “Indian Pacific” train lines:
The Ghan is a passenger train, that runs through central Australia, between the capital cities of Adelaide, in South Australia, and Darwin in the Northern Territory, stretching 2979 kms through the centre of Australia’s harshest dessert land.
The service’s name is an abbreviated version of its previous nickname The Afghan Express. This nickname is reputed to have been bestowed in 1923 by one of its crew. The train’s name honours Afghan camel drivers who arrived in Australia in the late 19th century to help find a way to reach the country’s unexplored interior.
Construction of the original Ghan line began in 1878, and followed the route of explorer John MacDouall Stuart from Adelaide (the capital city of South Australia), to the remote location of Alice Springs (in the central of Australia). By 1929, the track had reached it’s destination, and on 4th of August 1929 the first Ghan train departed Adelaide station carrying supplies and over 100 passengers bound for Alice Springs.
The track was often savaged by termites, bushfires and floods. During the “wet season” the normally parched river beds overflowed into the low-lying desert plains, often washing away the tracks. Legend has it The Old Ghan was once stranded for two weeks in one spot and the engine driver shot wild goats to feed his passengers. In 1980, the old Ghan rail track was abandoned, in favour of a new standard-gauge rail line built with termite-proof concrete sleepers. The track was laid further to the west to mitigate the flooding problems encountered by the old route. It was always intended for “The Ghan” to one-day travel from Adelaide through central Australia, to the Northern Territory’s capital city of Darwin. This long-awaited dream became a reality on 1st February 2004, when the Ghan embarked on its inaugural transcontinental journey, on the extended track, which spans 2,979kms.
Construction of the Alice Springs–Darwin line was believed to be the second-largest civil engineering project in Australia. Line construction began in July 2001, with the first passenger train reaching Darwin on 3 February 2004, after 126 years of planning and waiting, and at a cost of A$1.3 billion.
There is a sister train, The Indian Pacific, which tranverses from the East to West coast of Australia, connecting it’s capital cities Sydney (New South Wales), and Perth (Western Australia) covering 4,352km one way.
With the Sydney to Adelaide line already existing, On 17th October 1917, the South Australia - Western Australian, train line began. In what was a remarkable surveying and engineering feat, two construction teams - one starting from South Australia and the other starting from Western Australia - met to complete this part of track in the tiny South Australian settlement of Ooldea on the Nullarbor Plain (see pic). This was the longest stretch of railway ever built as a single project in Australia, taking five years to complete. It was constructed using the most basic tools - pick and shovel, cart and camel.
On 25 October, 1917, the first SA-WA passenger train departed. Unfortunately, the different rail gauges required guests to change trains several times along the journey. Travellers going from Sydney to Perth were required to change trains at least five times to complete their journey. It was not until 1969 that an uninterrupted rail link from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean existed. On 23rd February 1970, the “Indian Pacific” train embarked on its inaugural transcontinental journey.