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Ghan marks 90 years of service

The mighty Ghan, circa 2006. Source: Getty Images

The Ghan train service is marking 90 years of operations with a special service from Adelaide for Darwin.

Australia's transcontinental railway, the Ghan, has departed Adelaide on a 90-year commemorative service to Darwin.

With 235 passengers on board, the special service left on Sunday just after noon to make the 3000-kilometre, three-day journey.

First-time passengers Judy and Fred Micallef, parents of TV personality Shaun Micallef, said they didn't know what the Ghan had planned for the trip, which added to the excitement.

"I'm looking forward to it, because I haven't been on a trip in quite a while," 82-year-old Mr Micallef said.

This trip includes a special stop at Pimba where guests will enjoy an open-air concert to mark the rail line's anniversary.

Artists performing will include Shane Howard from Australian rock band Goanna, Christine Anu, Joe Camilleri from the Black Sorrows and Adam Thompson from Chocolate Starfish.

One carriage on the train has also been converted into an art-deco inspired hat shop where guests can be personally fitted for an Akubra while enjoying a glass of champagne.

Mr and Ms Micaleff's travelling partners, Chris and John Gibki, said they were looking forward to being part of history.

"We did some research before we booked it and I thought, this is the day we have to go," Chris, 68, said.

"We've been to Darwin ... a number of times, but this is just something special, something exciting," she said.

The Ghan's first service left Adelaide on August 4, 1929, when the rail line from Adelaide only extended as far as Alice Springs.

The managing director of the company which operates the Ghan, Steve Kernaghan, said the service had evolved considerably over nine decades.

"It was certainly much more about transportation and delivering goods and services out to rural communities, but that's part of what has made this journey really special," he said.

"These places are connected to this train, because they fit each other, really."

Mr Kernaghan said, now, it's more about the high-end tourism experience than transportation.

In 2004, the long-held ambition of successive federal governments was finally realised and the line through to Darwin was completed at a cost of $1.3 billion.

At the time it was considered the second biggest civil engineering project in the nation's history, behind only the Snowy Mountains hydro electric scheme.

Restaurant manager Jos Engelaar, who first started on the Ghan in 1999, said the 2004 trip was his most memorable.

"That was sensational," he said.

Mr Engelaar hopes passengers on the 90th commemorative trip will receive a "mind-boggling experience."

"Something which they have only read about, and maybe only vaguely heard about, now they're going to experience it themselves," he said.

Source AAP