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On track to the city of gold
The Prospector train. Supplied picture

At 7.10am, the East Perth train terminal slides behind. Ahead lies Midland and then out into the country, following the Avon Valley through the Avon Valley National Park.

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Toodyay and Northam pass and the Prospector heads towards the Wheatbelt. Meckering, famously shaken in 1968 by an earthquake that measured 6.9 on the Richter scale, passes without a bump.

Cunderdin, Tammin, Kellerberrin - busy agricultural towns at harvest time. Doodlakine, Merredin, Burracoppin, Carrabin, Bodallin, Moorine Rock. Strange names, and a broad landscape so different to that of urban lives.

And then, at Southern Cross, we'll straddle another line, between agriculture and mining. For though gold was discovered here by Tom Risely and Mick Toomey in 1888, and the town was named for the star formation that had guided them (the town's streets are named for star and constellations), Southern Cross is as much agricultural as mining.

After that, though, we are most definitely in the Goldfields. And, indeed, by 2pm we are at the heart of it, in Kalgoorlie - for when Paddy Hannan rode into nearby Coolgardie with 3.1kg of gold in 1893, the richest goldfield in Australia was found.

So, the train has taken us to the Goldfields, but where exactly is this story leading us? Well, to the suggestion of a car-less, airport-less, engaging and interesting, entertaining and educational trip in what, for many, will be an unusual direction - east.

For if travellers catch this early-morning Prospector train, pass the 635km in less than seven hours and arrive in Kalgoorlie in the early afternoon, they might have the rest of that day, dinner in one of the many old hotels and restaurants, the full day the next day, with plenty to fill it, and come home on the third.

Two nights away that can well feel longer and the excellent folk at the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Visitor Centre there to suggest where to stay and what to do.

The WA Museum near the centre of Kalgoorlie-Boulder. Picture: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian

There's a train back from Kalgoorlie at 7.05am, arriving at East Perth Terminal at 1.45pm. There are other timing options - there are one or two departures daily from East Perth Terminal and Kalgoorlie.

The train's amenities include a buffet car, current movies, personal music channels and access to power points for laptop computers. There are special facilities for people with mobility difficulties. The fare is $81.95 each way for adults and $40.95 for concession holders and children.

transwa.wa.gov.au or 1300 662 205

About the train


When the Prospector started its run on November 29, 1971, it was hailed as WA's "great rail journey".

It marked the switch from narrow to standard-gauge rail on this line, increasing ride comfort and cutting travelling time. At that time, it was Australia's fastest train.

Over 33 years, it carried 2.6 million passengers more than 20 million km between Perth and Kalgoorlie. ·A high-speed Prospector was introduced on June 28, 2004. It travels up to 160km/h, enabling it to complete the 653km trip from Perth to Kalgoorlie in under seven hours.

The new train recently reached the milestone of having covered 1.5 million km.

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Museum


The Western Australian Museum - Kalgoorlie-Boulder gives clear and interesting insight into the Eastern Goldfields' history and its mining heritage. I particularly like it for its insight into everyday lives of people out here in the 1900s.

It is open daily from 10am to 4.30pm and entry is free. The museum is at 17 Hannan Street, Kalgoorlie, near the centre of town. ·museum.wa.gov.au/museums/ kalgoorlie-boulder or 9021 8533

Being shown around


Goldrush Tours has a half-day history and heritage tour which offers a good introduction to Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

It takes in the Super Pit, the Hay Street brothels, and there's plenty of "boom and bust" history.

The tour is on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday only (10am to 1pm), excluding public holidays.

It is $50 for adults, $45 for pensioners, $25 for children aged 4-16, free for 0-3 and $125 for families. Goldrush Tours has been showing people around since 1973, and also has full-day tours. ·goldrushtours.com.au and 1800 620 440

Places to stay, things to do


For accommodation and things to do in Kalgoorlie, contact the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Visitor Centre - kalgoorlietourism.com or phone 9021 1966.

The centre is in Kalgoorlie Town Hall, Hannan Street, Kalgoorlie.