LAST Sunday's launch of the new $56 million Prospector service signalled the arrival of a new era of rail travel for locals.
The state-of-the-art, high-speed Prospector will travel at speeds of up to 160kmh, enabling commuters to complete the 653km Kalgoorlie-Perth journey in less than six hours.
That is nearly two hours quicker than the old Prospector, making the rail trip competitive with the road for the first time.
In a two-railcar set, the new train has the capacity to seat 98 passengers, plus space to accommodate two wheelchairs.
The passenger-friendly train also features personal air-conditioning controls, personal music channels, new release movies and access to power points for laptop computers and phone services.
This is a far cry from the earliest days of Goldfields railway transport, which began when the narrow-gauge line first reached Kalgoorlie in 1896.
This was just three years after Paddy Hannan led a party of two other Irishmen, Tom Flanagan and Dan O'Shea, to an unprecedented gold discovery near Coolgardie.
The news of their momentous find spread like wildfire and within two days the men were joined by 400 others.
Within a week this had grown to 1000, with all new arrivals travelling by foot, horse or camel.
The development of the mining industry meant Kalgoorlie-Boulder was in dire need of a fast and reliable transport system for both passengers and freight.
Regular services between Perth and Kalgoorlie started in 1934, with the steam-driven Westland Express, which took 14 hours and was an overnight trip.
In 1971, the Prospector passenger service was introduced and in its 33 years, carried more than 2.6 million passengers.
At Sunday's launch, Premier Geoff Gallop said the government was pleased to be giving something back to the people of the Goldfields region, which had played such a significant role in the State's development.
The new service officially came into service on Monday, with ticketing information available through TransWA on 1300 662 205.
About 3500 people have booked tickets on the new train since bookings opened on May 17.