Across Down Under
A trip on Australia's Indian Pacific is on every train buff's life list. Rey Kirkman of Salem, Ore., took copious notes, so you'll know exactly what to expect.
DINING The Gold and Red classes each have dedicated dining cars, and passengers are required to use the lounge and dining cars of their class. The Red-class dining is basic microwaved fast food, served buffet style. You can bring your own food aboard in Red class, but the only take-out food available along the way is in Adelaide and Kalgoorlie-Boulder. The Red dining car is an austere monument to Formica and linoleum. Gold dining is a cut above Red, but by no means achieves the level of the best of Amtrak. Qantas Airways caters the train, and Gold food quality is about what one might expect in Qantas's business class. Portions are small: Dinner is an appetizer course of soup or a tiny continental-style garnish "salad," followed by one of four entrées—fowl, fish, meat, or vegetarian—that rarely come with side dishes. Breakfasts in Gold class are disappointing: an uninspired fruit plate or a "cooked breakfast" akin to something you'd get at a McDonald's. The train has no room service; between mealtimes, a limited assortment of junk-food snacks is available in the lounge cars.
BEVERAGES Tea and instant coffee are complimentary in Gold class. Wine and spirits are obtainable in the Gold lounge car, but they're not included in your fare. The wine selection is solely Australian and is reasonably priced.
LOUNGE CARS The Gold-class lounge car is typical of American first-class club cars of the '50s—plush and a bit dated, but nonetheless a pleasant place to gather for conversation and views from both sides of the train. The Red-class lounge car isn't as nice as the Gold-class lounge, but I suppose it's adequate enough.