GREAT TRAIN JOUR­NEYS OF AUS­TRALIA

There are a sur­pris­ing num­ber of op­por­tu­ni­ties to hop on a train and take in the scenery of the out­back and the bush, trav­el­ling the old-fash­ioned way.

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SPIRIT OF QUEENS­LAND

For­merly the Sun­lan­der Bris­bane–Cairns

1681km This train trav­els the coast of Queens­land from

Bris­bane to Cairns, a dis­tance of 1681km, tak­ing 31 hours. It passes through cane fields and rain­for­est and stops at some of the Queens­land coast’s big­gest re­gional cities, in­clud­ing Mackay, Rock­hamp­ton, Proser­pine (the gate­way to the Whit­sun­day Is­lands) and Townsville. There are two lev­els of lux­ury, but if your bud­get can stretch to the premium Queens­lan­der class, it’s worth it just for the seafood plat­ter.

SPIRIT OF THE OUT­BACK

Bris­bane–Lon­greach 1325km Launched in 1993 by com­bin­ing the Capri­cor­nian and Mid­lan­der train jour­neys, the Spirit of the Out­back trav­els 1325km be­tween Bris­bane and Lon­greach in about 24 hours. As well as be­ing the per­fect in­tro­duc­tion to out­back Queens­land, the Spirit takes its pas­sen­gers deep into the en­gine rooms of the Queens­land econ­omy. It fol­lows the coast to Rock­hamp­ton, then turns in­land and passes through the her­itage min­ing towns of Black­wa­ter and Emer­ald, and birth­place of the Aus­tralian La­bor Party, Bar­cal­dine, be­fore ar­riv­ing in Lon­greach, a town that has been saved from the clutches of a never-end­ing drought by a bur­geon­ing tourist trade.

THE SAVANNAHLANDER

Cairns–For­sayth 425km The Savannahlander’s unique ex­pe­ri­ence de­parts Cairns weekly, wind­ing through the wet trop­ics area of the Ku­randa range and out through the sa­van­nah coun­try to For­sayth and back dur­ing four days. The highly per­son­alised tours, in a

1960s clas­sic Sil­ver Bul­let rail-mo­tor, of­fer pas­sen­gers the op­por­tu­nity to see re­mote Queens­land at a sleepy 50km/h. Driv­ers pro­vide run­ning com­men­taries and there are op­tions for short tours and vis­its to Cob­bold Gorge and Un­dara Vol­canic Na­tional Park, and overnight stops in coun­try ho­tels. This is train travel at a re­laxed pace.

THE INLANDER

Townsville–Mount Isa 97km This is a his­toric jour­ney from the ma­jor north­ern Queens­land port city of Townsville to the min­ing cen­tre of Mount Isa. Over a leisurely 21-hour jour­ney, cov­er­ing 977km, the Inlander of­fers the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence the her­itage and nat­u­ral trea­sures of north­ern Queens­land’s ruggedly beau­ti­ful in­land. From Townsville, the train trav­els through pic­turesque Char­ters Tow­ers, across the Great Di­vid­ing Range and through the min­ing towns of Hugh­en­den and Ju­lia Creek, be­fore de­liv­er­ing pas­sen­gers into Queens­land’s dry western reaches. In­tro­duced in 1953, the Inlander was Queens­land’s first air-con­di­tioned train.

THE GHAN

Ade­laide–Alice Springs– Dar­win There’s more than one way to cross the con­ti­nent by rail. Lit­tle more than half the length of the In­dian Pa­cific’s trip, its sis­ter ser­vice, the Ghan, is a north– south trip through the Red Cen­tre, from Ade­laide to Dar­win, cov­er­ing three days and 2979km. Orig­i­nally known as the Afghan Ex­press af­ter the cameleers of the out­back, the Ghan (see AG 98) trav­els through the rugged Flin­ders Ranges to the MacDon­nell Ranges and

Alice Springs, be­fore ar­riv­ing in the Top End town of Kather­ine, where trav­ellers can see the spec­tac­u­lar Kather­ine Gorge, and then Dar­win.

THE OVER­LAND

Mel­bourne–Ade­laide 828km Now part of the Great

South­ern Rail net­work, the

Over­land be­gan life as the

In­ter­colo­nial Ex­press in 1887, when op­u­lent Mann Boudoir sleep­ing cars of­fered com­fort to busi­ness­men as they sped be­tween the south­ern cities. Re­named the Over­land in 1926, it has evolved from an overnighter to the lux­ury day­light ser­vice of to­day, tak­ing in the green belts and mallee scrubs of Vic­to­ria and South Aus­tralia, and pass­ing through such towns and cities as Gee­long, Ararat, Hor­sham, Dim­boola, Nhill, Border­town and Mur­ray Bridge. But the shorter jour­ney – 828km in 10.5 hours – doesn’t have the same ap­peal as the Ghan and the In­dian Pa­cific, and in re­cent years the Over­land has run only on gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies.

THE OUT­BACK XPLORER

Syd­ney–Bro­ken Hill 1150km NSW Train­link op­er­ates this fast, com­fort­able day­time ser­vice, with air con­di­tion­ing and panoramic win­dows, cov­er­ing the 1150km in around 13 hours. Head­ing west, the buf­fet car serves break­fast as the train pushes into the lower Blue Moun­tains, and din­ner as it passes the Menindee Lakes in the far west.

The Xplorer has been ser­vic­ing far west NSW since 1993, fill­ing the void cre­ated when the state gov­ern­ment of the day cut back on coun­try rail ser­vices and with­drew the iconic Sil­ver City Comet.

THE PROSPEC­TOR

Perth–Kal­go­or­lie 653km The Prospec­tor, a high speed, state-ofthe-art train, part of the Tran­swa fleet, de­parts once a day from both des­ti­na­tions and can com­plete the 653km jour­ney in less than seven hours, de­spite mak­ing 17 stops. The stops give trav­ellers the op­por­tu­nity to get a good look at WA’s so-called Golden

Out­back, in­clud­ing the Eastern Gold­fields. Pas­sen­gers don’t seem to be able to fault the fully air­con­di­tioned car­riages with large, com­fort­able seats, but they are not so en­thu­si­as­tic about the ba­sic food and bev­er­age ser­vice.

THE NORTH­ERN TABLE­LANDS XPLORER

Syd­ney–Moree 666km An­other Xplorer ser­vice born of the NSW gov­ern­ment’s back­flip on with­draw­ing coun­try rail ser­vices in the early 1990s, this train ser­vices Tam­worth, Ar­mi­dale, Wer­ris Creek and Moree daily. Like the Out­back Xplorer, this ser­vice of­fers speed, com­fort and great views from panoramic win­dows.

The Savannahlander.

Spirit of the Out­back.

Map graphic The Over­land.

The North­ern Table­lands Xplorer.

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