Here’s Why Thousands Of Aussies Watched A Three Hour Video Of A Train Last Night

It's been described as "an unusually informative acid trip".

the ghan

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Last night, around 400,000 Australians tuned in to SBS to watch a three hour long, mostly silent video of a train.

This is not a joke. The train, known as The Ghan, operates luxury journeys from Adelaide to Darwin via Alice Springs, and bills itself as Australia’s Greatest Train Journey. The SBS broadcast consisted of footage of that journey — there are different angles and occasional subtitles with historical facts, but at the end of the day it was literally just three hours of quiet footage of a train moving through empty plains.

And people loved it. 

It wasn’t lazy filler content, either. As SBS details, planning of the documentary took months, with immense thought going into everything from the best time to film, to the best camera placement, to how to edit the resulting hundreds of hours of footage down to (just) three hours.

This task was so difficult that they apparently also made a 17-hour version, which people are clamouring to see.

At this point, you might be wondering…what the fuck is going on? The answer is a new genre called Slow TV, and if The Ghan‘s success is anything to go by, you’re probably going to be seeing a lot more of it in 2018.

In fact, you may already have seen a lot more of it, because while The Ghan is Australia’s first foray into the genre, it’s been booming in Norway for years. British Airways has had an in-flight Slow TV channel since 2014. Netflix actually has a Slow TV section, where you can watch such riveting titles as National Firewood Night (firewood burning at night), National Firewood Morning (firewood burning in the morning), National Knitting Evening (what it says on the tin), and several other train journeys.

Norway has also previously livestreamed its reindeer migration, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and yep — people tuned in.

There have been plenty of takes on why Slow TV is so popular — everything from grand theories about Scandinavian mindfulness to arguments that it provides a reprieve from more violent, everyday television.

To be honest, though, no one really knows why it’s so compelling. They just tune in and find themselves still sitting there three hours later, feeling inexplicably soothed, their skin clearer, their minds unburdened.

Unless, of course, you’re this guy.

Anyway, whatever the reason, The Ghan proved so popular last night that the website for the actual train crashed.

Sadly, it’s now back up, revealing that a ticket on this lovely train costs around $3000 for the four day trip. If that’s a little beyond your budget, you can catch The Ghan on SBS On Demand here.

And who knows, maybe SBS will released the 17-hour version one day. We live in hope.


Feature image via Roderick Eime on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)