Five minutes with Train Manager Bruce Smith

Last year, Bruce Smith became the first Train Manager to lead the new Ghan Expedition – a four-day adventure from Darwin to Adelaide, taking in the unique wonders of Katherine, the Red Centre and the underground opal town of Coober Pedy. We asked Bruce about the inaugural Ghan Expedition season and what to expect for the upcoming Expedition season, running from August to October 2016.

Why is The Ghan Expedition different?
To me, it’s the ultimate train journey where you can feel the Outback. You can see it, you can smell it. The Ghan journey itself is iconic but the Ghan Expedition goes to the next level. Not only do you get the fabulous train journey,  but you spend a lot more time at the Off Train Excursions where you get to experience the feel, the touch, the smell of the country you’re travelling through. It’s not just a holiday, it’s not just a train journey, it truly is an expedition-style experience.

What’s been the response from the guests?
If I had to rate it out of 100, I’d say the response has been 99.9 out of this world. There have been several phrases used by our guests that have stuck in my mind: “mindblowing”, “gobsmacking”, “take my breath away”.
The thing is, you don’t realise what’s out there until you actually get out there. Everyone knows Alice Springs but it’s not until you go out the MacDonnell Ranges and see the stars that you really get to know the place.
Coober Pedy is another classic example. Everyone knows where it is, everyone knows about the opals – but it’s when you get out there, that’s the key. When guests go out to the outskirts of the Breakaways, they just go, “Wow.” And when they come back from Coober Pedy at the end of the day and it’s getting on dark, there’s that moment around the bonfire. We always put out tables and chairs but nobody ever sits in them. Everyone stands around the fire, chatting, drinking, sharing the moment with the crew. It’s absolutely amazing.
In my experience, when the train gets into Adelaide, nobody wants to get off the train. They just want the trip to go on and on.


As one of the first Train Managers to lead a Ghan Expedition, how have you found it?

I’ve been here 20 years and (leading the Ghan Expedition journeys) has been the best three months of my working life. The time flew because everybody – the guests and the crew – were having such a great time.


Do you have a special “guest moment”?

I do remember one couple. He was a plane captain and his wife had also worked in the airlines for most of her career. She had travelled the world and said she’d never seen anything even remotely like the Ghan Expedition before. One night, they stepped out with a glass of champers, called the attention of the other guests and proposed a toast to the crew. Although we don’t seek that type of accolade, it really was a magic moment.

The Ghan Expedition runs from 3 August to 26 October in 2016 with limited spaces left for this year's journeys.