It's dark when we arrive at Adelaide Parklands Terminal in the inner suburb of Keswick - but the train we find there is everything we could desire for a long-distance rail adventure.
The Overland, which runs between Adelaide and Melbourne, is a pleasing sight with its streamlined steel carriages done out in cobalt blue with badges bearing an emu logo.
My wife Narrelle and I are travelling in Red Premium class on our journey to Melbourne, and when we step aboard we can see the benefits of that choice. Comfortable seats are arranged in a 2-1 pattern across the carriage, with loads of leg room between each row. There's a soothing green tone to the décor, and carpet with a subtle floral pattern underfoot.
The other benefit of Red Premium makes itself evident as dawn breaks and our train slowly progresses into the Adelaide Hills: a hot breakfast featuring a spinach and feta omelette, served to our seats. As we enjoy our food the train creaks and sways, suburbia melts away and we're immersed in a hilly forested landscape.
Occasionally a gap opens amid the trees and we have glimpses of the city below and the ocean beyond. Meanwhile a light mist rises from the paddocks of farms we pass, creating a ghostly aura as dew sparkles in the morning light.
Further on we pass vineyards and the occasional former railway station. The old Nairne Station is a particular delight with its stone-clad walls and steeply-pitched roof, and I fantasise living there. At one point we're passing high above a paddock when I glance down to see a kangaroo bounding across it, a silhouette against the brown grass.
It's a lovely day for this trip, the bright sunlight making the greens and browns of the landscape pop beneath the vast blue sky. After crossing the Murray River via an impressively long rail bridge at the town of Murray Bridge, we enter country dominated by yellow-brown wheat fields and mallee trees, with a water pipeline running alongside the rails.
There'll be a lot more of this scenery on our way through western Victoria's farming country, until we reach the outskirts of Geelong and swing northeast to Melbourne; though I know from previous trips there's a blaze of yellow in springtime, courtesy of canola crops.
The distance and pace make for a lazy, relaxing day, as we alternate between admiring the scenery and reading books. Partway through the journey I relocate to the café car ahead of us for a snack, seated on a padded bar stool that's bathed in sunshine. This ability to move around is a reminder of why it's better to travel by train rather than plane, even though it takes longer.
In late morning we pass the grand former station at Serviceton, just over the state border in Victoria, then I return to my assigned seat for lunch - a tasty mushroom, ricotta and spinach rotolo with Napoletana sauce.
There's a later glimpse of the Grampians' mountain range, and stops at towns such as Stawell with its historic station building of decorative patterned brick. Time and the kilometres pass as I read and chill, and at the end of eleven hours we're sliding through the Melbourne suburbs to a platform at the city's strikingly modern Southern Cross station.
IF YOU GO...
The Overland train runs twice-weekly between Adelaide and Melbourne, departing Sundays and Thursdays from Adelaide and Mondays and Fridays from Melbourne.
The 828-kilometre journey is covered in around 10 hours. There are two classes of service - the all-inclusive Red Premium with in-seat dining and trolley service with breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, tea, coffee and soft drinks included and Red Standard where you can purchase your own food and drinks from the onboard café. Both categories allow you to take up to 40 kilograms of luggage each, with an additional 10kg of carry-on for Red Premium passengers. Prices start from $165 one-way for Red Standard, $275 for Red Premium.
You are spoilt for choice with accommodation in both cities. Oaks Adelaide Horizons Suites is a comfortable place to stay in the Adelaide CBD, www.oakshotels.com while Rendezvous Hotel Melbourne is a beautifully restored hotel, with classic architecture and a sense of history, www.rendezvousmelbourne.com.au
Tim Richards was a guest of Journey Beyond
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