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Intermodal train leaving Perth for Melbourne
An intermodal train leaves Perth heading for Melbourne across the Great Victoria Desert and the Nullarbor Plain.
The passenger car provides crew support on the long isolated journey.

Tourist and minor railways in Australia are covered in detail on a separate page

The first railway in Australia opened in 1854 between Melbourne City Terminus (later Flinders Street station) and Sandridge (present day Port Melbourne), a distance of about 2½ miles (4 km). It was built to 5ft 3in (1600mm) gauge, following Irish precedents. The following year a standard (1435mm) gauge line opened between Sydney and Parramatta in New South Wales. Subsequent railway development took place with little consideration of eventual interconnection. Broadly speaking, Victoria used 5ft 3in gauge, New South Wales standard gauge, while the remaining states opted for the lighter and more economical 3ft 6in (1067mm) gauge, but there were exceptions. When the famous Transcontinental Railway first opened in 1917, no fewer than 8 changes of gauge were required for a journey from Brisbane to Perth.

Most modern development has been to standard gauge, and many of the older lines have been regauged to this. The original line to Port Melbourne ceased to be part of the rail network in the 1980s and was regauged to form part of the Melbourne tram network.

A noteworthy opening of the 21st century is the Ghan line connecting Adelaide and Darwin. This is an entirely new standard gauge railway; however, its southern section replaced an existing 3ft 6in (1067mm) gauge line which ran as far as Alice Springs in the very heart of the country, while its northern section followed in part the route of another narrow gauge railway from Darwin to Birdum, closed since the 1970s. Plans to connect the two narrow gauge railways dating from the early 20th century never materialized. Passenger trains first reached Darwin on the new Ghan line in 2004.

Main line and suburban railways

Industrial and dedicated freight railways

Urban trains and trams

Tourist services and minor railways

See separate page

See also:

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Photo image by Nachoman-au from Wikimedia Commons