The rail lines of Australia were initially built by private companies during the 1850's. The private companies initially made railways in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. The first line started in South Australia in the year 1854 while the first steam engines operated in Victoria a little later that year. However, it was soon discovered that private railways were not cost-effective and as a result the colonial government started manufacturing railway coaches. Gradually, in the 20th century, the rail systems of different Australian territories became more organised.
The leading interstate rail services of Australia include the Indian Pacific, Ghan and the Overland rail services. The Ghan rail services operates between Alice Springs and Melbourne, Overland operates between Adelaide and Melbourne and Indian Pacific serves areas between Perth and Sydney. The Ghan railways, which has completed 70 years of its existence, have reached new heights with the extension of the route to Darwin. The Ghan rail services offers one of the most remarkable rail journeys in Australia. All these three rail services are maintained by the Great Southern Railway. The Great South Pacific Express, which offers luxury train services between Cairns and Sydney, is the Orient Express of Australian country.
Apart from these three main rail services, there are various other railways, which operate in various parts in and around Australia. For instance, VLine operates all around the territory of Victoria, TransPerth operates around the Perth area, Countrylink operates in areas around New South Wales, West Coast Railway operates around the Melbourne area and Queensland Rail operates between Brisbane and Cairns. The Cityrail operates in areas around the city of Sydney. Along with this, four heavy-duty mining railways also operate in the northwest part of Western Australia which mainly transports iron-ore from the mines to ports. In the Queensland district of Australia there are about 15 narrow gauge cane tramways which transport sugarcane to the sugar mills of the region.
The train tickets for Australian trains can be obtained from the regional offices or online services. There are certain interstate train tickets that cover different areas and are known as flexipasses for Australian trains. Some of the most popular flexipasses are:
- Backtracker rail pass—this special pass allows one to travel unlimited number of times, in economy class for up to six months between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
- Austrail Flexipass—this special pass allows international travellers to 15 or 22 days travel option within 6 months. It allows the tourists to stop over at any of their favourite destinations.
- East Coast Discovery Pass—this pass allows passengers to travel between Cairns and Melbourne.