Aurora Australis brings back romance of train travel
THERE is something romantic and nostalgic about overnight train journeys - the chance to unpack once and just sit back and enjoy the sound of the train and the sights out the window.
For many of us over 50 it takes us back to the days of summer holidays and school trips when getting anywhere without being crammed into the back of the Holden station wagon meant getting on the train.
And for those growing up in the southern states that meant taking the glorious old Southern Aurora - something you can do again thanks to the Vintage Rail Journeys company.
According to company CEO and self-confessed train lover Simon Mitchell, the Southern Aurora sleeping carriages have been restored to their sparkling 1960s condition and reinstated back into service under the new name of Aurora Australis.
"We have kept the carriages in as close to original condition as we could," Simon said.
"Mid-century vintage is very 'on trend' right now and as custodians we are proud to be able to maintain the heritage of these carriages".
He said while the company had kept the vinyl wallpaper where possible along with features such as the original light fittings, there had been some modernisation.
"However, we have updated the share bathrooms in the single compartment carriages, removed ashtrays and added modern conveniences such as USB sockets" Simon said.
The Southern Aurora provided an overnight shuttle service from Sydney to Melbourne (and return) until the mid-1980s. Considered first class in its day, the Southern Aurora provided air-conditioned luxury to its passengers.
Simon himself had been a passenger in the carriages in the past, joining train trips run by the Canberra Railway Museum so when the Australian Railway Historical Society (ACT) went into receivership he knew he had to do something to return them to service.
"I have always been interested in trains and rail heritage" he said, "and I felt strongly that we needed to put the 'Southern Aurora' train back together and allow people to enjoy travelling on her again ".
The trains are now back on the tracks with the company developing a Golden West Trail Tour, which does a loop that takes passengers from Sydney and takes in the Hunter, Dubbo, Orange, Werris Creek and the Blue Mountains, mainly aimed at those of us who still remember what it was like to ride this iconic train or wished we had.
"We have found that the 'over 55s' have a real nostalgia for train travel," he explained. "In the 1960s, the Southern Aurora was a first-class train used by travelers to go from Sydney to Melbourne and back.
"At the time, travelling on the train was aspirational and in talking with passengers for our rail tours, the train is still held in high regard."
The first Golden West Trail Tour set for April 1-5 next year sold out within three months and tickets for 9-13 September 2020 are now selling well according Simon.
"We have developed the Golden West Rail Tour mainly for the over 55s, it is an iconic five day and four-night itinerary over 1500km that we think everyone will enjoy" he explained.
"Starting in the heart of Sydney, we have off train experiences that includes the always popular Riverboat Postman and also some out of the way places in NSW that you may not have experienced before" he said.
Interested? Head to www.vintagerailjourneys.com.au to book or call 1300 421 422. For further information and a full copy of the itinerary go to: www.vintagerailjourneys.com.au