The History of the legendary SOUTHERN AURORA

It’s hard to think of any other country in the world where the two main cities of the nation operated two separate rail gauges, which required a change of trains when travelling between the two. Australia had this diabolical situation for close to a century, which resulted in inestimable costs, delays and inconvenience. Mark Twain summed it up when he famously quipped after experiencing the change of train debacle in the middle of a cold dark night in 1895, “…what paralysis of intellect gave that idea birth!”. They did not resolve all this until the line was standardised in 1962 and the legendary Southern Aurora became the first train to run all the way between the state capitals, non-stop. 

This great train was Australia’s showpiece of rail passenger comfort and style in the 1960’s and 70’s and it became a home away from home for thousands of travellers over its quarter of a century of regular service.

Southern Aurora with class 44 from Goodwin-Alco (NSWR)

I recall the joy of riding the train many times in the early 1980’s as my frequent television roles at Crawford Productions allowed me paid travel in whatever form I liked to and from Sydney and Melbourne. There was a genuine sense of occasion as you a sidled up to the shimmering stainless steel train, reflecting the lights of Platform One at Central Station down the side of its leviathan length. The dining car was already half full of diners well before the train departed, as patrons could even have a full silver service meal on board even if they weren’t travelling. The outrageous waiters fresh from an episode of ‘are you being served’ made sure the car was full of hilarity and life even before it started moving on its 14 hour overnight adventure to Melbourne. 

The Southern Aurora arrives at Spencer Street Station on its inaugural trip.
CREDIT – THE AGE ARCHIVES

What has been wonderful for the Southern Aurora has been how it has not only survived its retirement but it has thrived. In short, the old Southern Aurora consisted of approximately 3 trains. One was given to the state supported Rail Transport Museum and the rest of the carriages were sold at auction, mostly purchased by other rail societies and a number of private individuals. In recent times we’ve seen the launch of Aurora Australis, brainchild of Simon Mitchell & Danielle Smith who did an extensive refurbishment and have been running their Vintage Rail journeys tours with great success . 

Railway Adventures ran a number of tours using a collection of the coaches to events like the Melbourne Cup, The Temora Air Show and of course the Elvis Festival and is now excited to be partnering with Vintage Rail Journeys to bring the old Southern Aurora back to life.  For lovers of nostalgic travel like me, it’s nothing short of exhilarating that we now have that dear old train back in full swing on regular itineraries and special one off rail tours like our very own ‘Elvis Special’ to the Elvis Festival at Parkes

Scott McGregor’s Railway Adventures tour is more than just a holiday, it is a unique way to experience the world. By train you are completely immersed in culture and adventure, exploring the most scenic corners of the world in the comfort of a luxury train. Whether you are an experienced traveller or just beginning to explore this wonderful world, Railway Adventures have something for everyone. Transform your holiday into the most unforgettable adventure of a lifetime with Railway Adventures.

Call 1300 800 977 to request a brochure on our tours in 2023 and 2024.

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