Australia > Long Distance Australian Train Journeys > On Board The Train - Facilities
Long Distance Australian Train Journeys - Facilities of the Red Class Carriages
A guide for backpacker and budget travellers
If you are a backpacker or budget traveller thinking of purchasing a ticket to ride in the Red Class carriages on one of Australia's long-distance train journeys: the 'Indian Pacific', the 'Ghan', or the 'Overlander', it is always useful to know beforehand just what to expect on the journey. This page, in addition to separate pages on Seating and Food, attempts to answer your questions.
Washrooms and Showers
There are just 2 toilets and 2 showers for a carriage of 48 people. Although this doesn't sound very much, in practice it was normally sufficient and it was rare to see queues forming outside of the washrooms. The shower compartments on some of the trains also have wash basins in them. Towels are supplied, so you don't need to use your own, but you will need your own shampoo and shower gels. There is plenty of hot water. Surprisingly, the standard toilets and shower compartments do not have the usual 'Vacant' or 'Occupied' lights adjacent, so you need to keep an eye on the doors to save a long walk down the carriage to an already-occupied compartment, and the resultant wait, standing up, as you try not to make eye-contact with your fellow travellers. The disabled shower/toilet does have a light outside, though this is usually hidden behind a modesty curtain, so cannot be seen from afar.
The reason for this curtain is generally explained by train staff in their initial safety briefing to seated guests. The disabled shower/toilet has an electric door, operated by a button outside. Once inside, the guest must press a green button to close the door, and then a red button to lock it. Failure to press the red button means the door can be opened from the outside, and whatever the occupant is doing at that moment will then be observed by the remaining 47 guests in the carriage. I only saw this mistake being made once whilst I was travelling, and modesty curtain lived up to its name, shutting off the sights if not the squeals of embarrasment made by the occupant when she realised what was happening.
Incidentally, when booking your seat, I would advise you to steer clear of the first row of seats close to either end of the carriage, to avoid the inevitable smells.
Dress Code and Cleanliness
A basic dress code is adhered to on board, which insists that clean clothes and footwear are to be worn at all times. Guests not adhering to this may be 'refused entry to the restaurant car by any member of staff', as the ticket terms and conditions tell us. It then goes on to say that 'Minimum dress standard will be clean and tidy casual clothing with suitable footwear. Thongs are not permissable for safety reasons.' For the benefit of the British readers of this page who have just choked on their cup of coffee, I should mention that 'thongs' are here used to in the Australian context, and therefore refer to what you know as 'flip-flops': a minimalist type of sandal worn on the feet. They do NOT refer to what the British know as thongs: a very skimpy and minimalist form of female underwear !
The ticket goes on to talk about person hygiene as well, when it says 'Because of the close proximity of guests during rail travel, you are requested to board your train suitably attired with an aceptable standard of cleanliness and personal hygiene. Persons under the influence of drugs or alcohol will not be permitted to board.' Well, that just about covers everything, I guess. Surprisingly there is no reference to a requirement for a good moral character and a belief in one of the major world religions as well - no doubt GSR would have added this if they thought that they could get away with it. You are also advised that, amongst other things, you are not permitted to sell or solicit goods or services to fellow guests, so any late night liasons in the large disabled shower/toilet will have to be on a purely consensual basis. You could, though, do what one young couple that I travelled with did: on mentioing to the train staff that they were on their honeymoon, the train staff generously upgraded them to a complimentary cabin for their three day journey.
The 'Red Gum' Lounge Car
A lounge car is also available to Red-class passengers on payment of an extra fee, depending on the length of your journey. For passengers travelling from Perth to Adelaide or Adelaide to Sydney, this was an extra $15, whilst for those travelling all the way from Perth to Sydney the cost was an extra $25. Shorter legs, such as Alice Springs to Adelaide will cost $10. Whether this is a worthwhile expenditure can only be determined by the individual. Extra powerpoints for charging, extra chairs, useful tables, some large windows, or just a change from the seat that you spent the previous night in are all good reasons to do this.
Many people check their larger backpacks and suitcases into the baggage car before the journey starts, and claim them again at the end of their journey. This leaves them free from having to lift a large bag on to the overhead racks. There is no space to store a large bag at ground level in the 'Red Service' carriages, so checking in your larger luggage items also frees up overhead space for the other guests in the carriage. The official Luggage Terms and Conditions state: "40 kilograms of luggage per person may be conveyed free of charge in the luggage car. This allows 2 items not exceeding 20kg each and not exceeding 180 linear centimetres. Excess luggage prices on application. Luggage check in opens 2 hours prior to departure and will close 60 minute prior to departure. Unchecked luggage is carried at owner’s risk. Cardboard, plastic or wooden boxes, garbage bags or tea chests will not be accepted as baggage. Bags should be secured and carry the owner’s name, destination and contact phone number both inside and outside the bag. Explosive, combustible and inflammable materials are prohibited. Items such as foodstuffs, plants, animals and furniture cannot be accepted as personal luggage". For my notes and comments about carry-on luggage, please see the Seating page.
A/C Sockets and Charging Points
There are a small number of A/C sockets available to passengers requiring to recharge laptop computers, phones, music players, and other electrical items. Some sockets can be found in the cafe, but passengers are requested not to use them during meal times. Other sockets are in the lounge car. There are no sockets in the day-nighter seat car. The sockets are the standard 3-pin angled-flat Australian type, so passengers with other plugs will need their own adaptor. If you have your own multi-socket adaptor, you will be very popular with your fellow passengers, as there are never enough charge points to keep everyone happy. If you leave it plugged in for others to use, I'd suggest that you label it with your seat number. An onboard announcement suggests that any one using the train's A/C power sockets also uses a surge protector, so you may wish to bring one of those as well. When it comes to charging, my advice is: 'The early bird catches the worm'. If you wake early and sit in the 'Matilda Cafe before breakfast time, there is generally a free socket available.
Taking Your Own Car on the Train
The distances from Adelaide to Darwin, or Perth to Sydney, are immense, and even if you have your own transport, you may not wish to drive all that way. An alternative is to book a Day-Nighter seat in Red Class, and drive your car on to the car transporter carriage of the 'Indian Pacific' or 'Ghan' long distance trains. Make the journey in comfort, arrive refreshed at the far end, and your vehicle will be waiting for you shortly after the train arrives at its destination. For further details, see the GSR page for the Indian Pacific , the GSR page for the Ghan , or the GSR page for the Overland .
Buy your rail pass here:
Still keen and want to find out more? Please visit the other pages in this article:
- Tickets And Passes - Where To Buy Them
- On Board The Train - Seating
- On Board The Train - Food
- On Board The Train - Facilities - THIS PAGE
- On Board The Train - Photography
- On Board The Train - Ghan And Overland Differences
- Packing List - Essential Items For The Journey
- Upgrading To Better Accomodation
- Whistlestop Tours
- Station Notes
- Great Southern Rail Train Photo Gallery
The photographs on these pages were all taken on my recent 32,000km journey around Australia. Click any image to see a larger version. The photographs are all available for licensing in a range of sizes - please Contact Me for details.
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