Hi-tech tourist on the Sydney-Canberra X2000 high speed Tilt Train

Report on a trip from Sydney to Canberra 7 May 1995

by Tom Worthington

Just a quick note from a premium class seat of the Tilt Train from Sydney to Canberra on Sunday 7 May 1995.

We left Sydney's Central Railway Station on time at 2:45pm.

Tilt Train at Central Station

Its 3pm and we are travelling through Sydney's inner west. The ride is a bit bumpy, making it difficult to type. Unfortunately I forgot to bring the acoustic coupler, so I won't be able to post this from the train's phone (there is a fax as well, which can send and receive).

Since this is a trial service, as you would expect everything looks new. The headphone for the on-board three channel sound system look like they have never been out of the original packets. There is a choice of three newspapers and Champagne or orange juice.

Travelling through East Hills we hit a bump and my knee hit the ash tray (why ash trays given the entire train is non-smoking?).

The train is actually a Swedish unit trial until June. As with European trains many of the signs are in four languages. This give an exotic touch for rural New South Wales.

Its 3:15 and we are at Ingleburn, on the western fringe of Sydney. Its getting difficult to say where we are as the train has picked up speed and you can't read the signs as we express through the stations.

The train takes quite a different route from the highway to Canberra, you see a lot more greenery in Sydney.

The seats are much wider than aircraft seats, they recline.

Tom seated

Also for the elderly lady next to me she can push the seat forward to reach the foot rest. I was about to say that it was too far from the seat to the tray table to type comfortably, but I just found the tray slides forward. Unfortunately I am at a seat without a power point, so we will have to see how long my lap-top batteries last.

3:25pm Now, lets see if my GSM digital phone works... Well it worked until just outside Campbletown and then cut out.

3:33pm: We have stopped; where are we? Earlier on the train appeared to be going quite slowly, but I looked out and found we were parallel to the highway and travelling at the same speed as the trucks (100 kph). The train does tilt around the corners, but this isn't noticeable unless you look out and compare the train with the horizon. The coffee in my cup remains level, which indicates the tilt mechanism must be working right.

3:44pm According to an announcement we are at Picton and have stopped because one of the old "Endeavour" trains has broken down on the line ahead.

3:55pm Still stopped at Picton. There is a post-modern buffet car half way down the train.

Tilt Train buffet car

The staff are looking a little overworked at the moment and there is a railway enthusiast buying dozens of tilt train ties and other merchandising at the counter.

There is a phone on-board, which takes special cards (another Tilt Train souvenir) or normal credit cards. I will try it later (might be the first time I have got one to work on a train anywhere in the world).

4:14pm A train just went past, which I assume was the broken down one.

4:16pm We are moving again.

4:25pm Afternoon tea just arrived. Its a mini-quiche, fruit flan and some salad (tomato slice, lettuce leaf and cucumber slice). Not bad.

The toilet has a few problems: There are two locks on the door, one labelled in Swedish and one in English (the English one works). The tap is electronic and touch sensitive (as are the inter-carriage doors), a feature which followers of Donald A. Norman would not appreciate.

4:35pm We just went through Taihmoor, one of the pretty little towns along the line. You don't see these from a bus or car, as the highway has bypassed the towns.

4:27pm We just sailed through Pitcon station. One problem is that the seats are a bit too wide. They are roomy but not curved enough to hold me in place as we hit the occasional bump.

4:53pm Its twilight. We have left the forest for a while and there are green fields with a few cattle grazing. Pachabell's canon is playing on the headphones (the Tasmanian Symphony Chamber Players version). The attendant just handed out the hot towels. What more could you want?

Tilt Train attendant

5:00pm Just sped through Bowral.

5:06pm Stopped at Moss Vale. The phone works. However it appears to be using the analogue cellular network (bit noisy) and costs about $1.15 per minute. The fax works and is a reasonably priced at $2 a page to send and $1 a page to receive. The fax receipt comes out in Swedish ;-)

5:47pm Golburn. Its dark thankfully, so I cant see the infamous Globurn giant concrete Sheep.

6ish: fell asleep.

6:53pm: Arrived in Canberra.

Canberra Station sign

7:00pm: Shared a cab with the self confessed "Train Nut" who purchased all the Tilt Train souvenirs. He just came down for the ride.


So how was it? I have been by train from Washington to New York, Singapore to KL, London to Rome, Toronto to Vancouver and on the French TGV (See URL http://www.tomw.net.au/hitech.html). In terms of the ride the Tilt Train is only bettered by the TGV. There are a few bumps, but with the track repaired (and the older trains out of the way) the Tilt Train will be as good or better than anything I have travelled on (the train nut agreed).

With the track upgraded, it is estimated the Tilt Train would take 2 hours Canberra to Sydney. By air it is about 45 minutes, but with travel time from Sydney airport to the city and more time in boarding and disembarking the train would be competitive. Also it is much more comfortable and you can work in transit.

For details on the Tilt Train contact:

Tilt Train X2000
PO Box 349
Haymarket NSW 2000

Phone: +61 2 3793077

See also:

Document designed by Tom Worthington.