Many years ago, in one of my writings I made reference to The Ghan being named out of respect for the hardy Afghan cameleers who provided the transport to the remote outback areas. That was forgivable because that was what the Commonwealth Railways put in their publicity literature. In due course I received a letter from one A G (George Williams), retired loco inspector, and previously an engineman of Quorn, who advised that the Commonwealth Railways version was a made up story and that the name had its origin on 30 August 1923 when a sleeping care was added to the fortnightly “Oodnadatta express’. The railway men gathered around at Quorn that night to see who was travelling. There was a solitary Afghan and the comment was made “strewth – if that is what we are providing a train for, we should call it the Afghan express”. The name caught on and was subsequently contracted to The Ghan.
When this book was released I did a radio interview with Deb Tribe on ABC Radio Adelaide. The railwayman who named The Ghan was Ernie Smith. We have tracked down his family and you can listen to the interview…