I’ve ridden a few trains on this trip but I think New South Wales Trains win.
Regular readers (with the all important memory) will know that I travelled from Manchester (UK) to Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) overland.
I’ve drank copious amounts of tea on the Trans Siberian and Trans Mongolian Railway trains, I’ve sped through China on their high speed rails, Vietnam’s trains were a movable feast and the ride across North Island on New Zealand’s Northern Explorer took in some of the most stunning scenery.
But in terms of facilities… last night’s ride won.
I caught the train from the main station in Melbourne, Southern Cross. It’s a vast terminus – suburban services, regional rail services and bus services – local and national.
The rain was torrential as I ran into the station so there are no pictures. (Yes, Melbourne, many parts of Victoria, Canberra and Sydney have been hit by storms and hail stones big enough to smash windows. I’ve seen none of this).
Boarding the train was straightforward.
I’d booked the ticket online, saved the confirmation on my phone, and strolled to the platform where the train was waiting. Nobody checked my ticket.
Now to find my bunk.
I walked to the end of the train before realising that I was sleeping in the first coach but, to be fair, I hadn’t realised that First Class (because it was the sleeper service) applied to me.
What was this actually going to be like?
It looked rather nice.
Margaret, originally from China but living in Sydney for the last twenty years was already there and she told me that I had the lower bunk but she wasn’t sure how to open the top bunk.
A conductor arrived to check our names against the manifest and told us that when we wanted the bunks lowered we need to press the call button and a crew member would do this for us.
This was not like Russia. Or China.
Margaret and I chatted – each cabin is for only two people rather than four… but what was in the plastic wrapped goodie bags?
A towel, a snack box and a toiletries bag. Fantastic and convenient but all of that plastic. Maybe we need to rethink our expectations.
As well as the cabin being for only two people, we weren’t going to have to use a toilet and bathroom facility at the end of the carriage.
There are toilet and shower cubicles along the carriage for no more than four people. We were sharing with our nwighboursnwho didn’t board until midnight with what sounded like an army of small children.
Where the hell they got their energy from I don’t know but they were firing on all cylinders from 5am.
So the toilet and shower… a marvel in compact engineering.
The toilet folds out from the wall and once finished, the sink above is pulled out. When showering, they are pushed back.
I was astounded. It all felt a little space age.
I the other aspect I liked was this…
I had the inside seat of the bunk, rather than the window seat but I also had a window on to the corridor and out of the other side of the train. Absolutely fantastic.
The sun set within an hour of boarding the train so views were limited.
The bunks were made up for us and I found my bed extremely comfortable.
What the trains don’t appear to have is a balancing mechanism… so as the vehicle rounded the bends, I found myself sliding down the bunk towards the window, as if I was sleeping on a hillside.
After a fairly questionable night’s sleep, complimentary breakfast was served… raisin toast and a cup of tea…
…just before the train pulled into Sydney Central.
My ticket cost 285AUD and I booked with NSW Trains, via email after requesting a sleeping bunk. The online form requires a phone call but you can do this by email if the time differences don’t work for you. A brief email exchange with Loretta finalised my arrangements. A simple and straightforward process.