The Ghan is the train service traversing the 2,979 km between Adelaide and Darwin. Begun in 1878, construction of just part of the route took 51 years. The Port Augusta to Alice Springs line picked up the nickname ‘Afghan Express’ in 1923 – a nod to the Afghani camel drivers whose camel trains completed the journey north to The Alice right up to 1929 – and this got shortened to ‘The Ghan’.
Construction of the Alice-Darwin leg was not started until 2001. On 4 February 2004, the $1.3bn project was ready and it was finally possible to take a train from Adelaide to Darwin. Locals celebrated the arrival of that first train in a typically Territorian way – with a twenty-one bum salute! And how to mark 10 years of The Ghan in Darwin? Um, yes, that is indeed the flag of The Northern Territory!