The Indian Pacific is back

Adam Thompson finds a pot o’ gold in Broken Hill. PICTURE: BT ARCHIVES/SUPPLIED

It’s been two years but the borders are open, those charming, little cabins will be rolling into town Tuesday evening and the off-train excursions are better than ever.

The Indian Pacific pulled out from Adelaide on Thursday, is westbound to Perth and will be back in Broken Hill on Tuesday about 6pm, according to the Indian Pacific’s Entertainment Manager, Adam Thompson.

“And then it’s fingers crossed the tracks are still open to get to Sydney,” he said, referring to the east coast floods.

Passengers can stretch their legs whilst the Indian Pacific is at Broken Hill station.

“Logistically, we have to water up our train several times, for the cooking, for the toilets and everything else,” said Adam.

Passengers can leave the train for that hour and have a choice of off-train excursions to the Big Picture, Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery or the Old Brewery for a drag show.

During a break from rehearsals, Adam spoke from the Old Brewery about the stunning stone building, which is bedecked with fairy lights.

“This was the largest brewery outside of Adelaide, up until about 1928,” he said.

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The off-train excursion drag show at the Old Brewery, called the Main Drag, has been running for five to six years and came about because Priscilla was filmed here, according to Adam.

“As Entertainment Director for Journey Beyond, I put it on the ‘Jobs Vacant’ on the internet… ‘Wanted: Drag queens for Broken Hill,’” he said.

“The drag queens are the specialists in drag make-up but I try and help them make sure that the gags hit the right mark,” said Adam.

“They’re going to do a remake of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert,” said Adam.

“A drag queen’s name is Shelita Buffet, so we’re going to do a remake and call it Shelita: Queen of the Dessert.”

Shelita Buffet has been working hard.

“Honestly, Adam has been a great mentor,” she said.

“He’s been a really great person to keep driving you and, with his entertainment experience that he’s got, it’s really good.”

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The off-train drag show differs markedly from its counterpoint in a Kings Cross nightclub.

“Our guests traditionally are 50 plus and these guys – they’re doing this show at 6pm before dinner,” said Adam.

“Here, the show has to be appropriate for that demographic.

“It’s got to be appropriate for the time of day.”

This poses quite the challenge.

“Their natural instinct is to be probably a little more over the top as they would usually be in a nightclub but we’ve had to choreograph it in such a way that it’s still funny but it’s funny in a more refined way,” said Adam.

“I don’t want to say ‘refined’ because they still push the boundaries but it’s got to be refined in a way that your 75 -year-old Grandma’s not going to get offended by it and that’s quite a challenge.”

Something akin to the innuendos of Mr Humphries, a gay salesman in the menswear department in the British comedy series, Are You Being Served?

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“It’s that level, Mr Humphries’ level, that these guys can relate to,” said Adam.

“It’s a little bit naughty but it’s not crude.

“It’s implied.”

Adam is using his wealth of experience as vibrant front man for the award-winning band, Chocolate Starfish, to fine tune all of the Indian Pacific’s off-train performances.

“What I’ve learnt from experimenting, more than anything, is to take calculated risks that enhance your performance,” said Adam.

It takes courage to break the fourth wall, for example.”

“Drag queens jump off the stage and come out and sit in the audience.”

More sedate off-train experiences include Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery, with a pianist and catering by Chef Lee Cecchin.

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“We’ve been supplying off-train experiences since 2020.,” said Lee.

“From the art gallery to the Pro Hart gallery to the sculptures, Trades Hall and the Silver City Mint.

“We’ve had really good feedback because of our unique products showcasing the outback.”

Lee also brings her unique outback flavours to the third off-train option, the Big Picture.

With fingers crossed that the train will bypass the floods and reach Sydney, it will then turn around and come back.

On Thursday morning all passengers can watch a play called ‘United We Stand’ on the union movement at Trades Hall.

“They get up on soap boxes and say ‘Why should we strike? Should we strike?’”

“So that’s chalk and cheese to these ladies,” said Adam, comparing union strikers to drag queens.

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The Kalgoorlie play is about finding gold on the goldfields.

“That’s what I love about the Indian Pacific,” said Adam.

“The off-train experiences are very unique and we always try to make them of the place.”

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