Trainspotters can be a funny bunch (admittedly they may actually be a little bit weird). Lurking trackside, clutching cameras and timetables while anxiously glancing at their watches, trainspotters (also known as gunzels or trainiacs) are easily err, spotted.
Sure, these trainspotters are not quite as cool as say, bearded hipsters (surely all that hair has a use-by date?) or Bikram Yoga devotees, but you can’t ignore their devotion nor their passion. And they’re actually quite on trend as it turns out with train travel is seeing a resurgence amongst the slow travel movement.
Queensland Rail have come to the party in celebrating 150 years of riding the rails. They kicked off the year with a commemorative steam train journey that departed Brisbane in mid January, bound for Tropical North Queensland. A grand old girl of the tracks, travellers and trainspotters have been encouraged to dress in period costumes and pose for photos as the historic locomotive steams into towns, towing timber carriages that date back to 1902. Check out the Special Timetable on this steam train’s journey.
Another old girl of the tracks, the Sunlander, was gracefully retired late last year after 60 faithful years. Travel has evolved in the interim with Sunlanders’ replacement an uber cool hipster, the swanky Spirit of Queensland. Lie-flat rail beds, not unlike business class aircraft seats (the first of their kind in Australia), along with snappy personal entertainment systems which dish up on-demand movies and music, bring train travel crashing (metaphorically speaking not literally) into the 21st century. But we think that one of the nicest touches is the Chef’s charter to source all fresh produce from within 100km of the track – that’s pretty cool considering Queensland produce is world class.
Other train journeys worth checking out are Kuranda Scenic Rail, which departs downtown Cairns twice daily via bridges and tunnels carved through the Barron Gorge National Park in the 1890’s, before arriving in the rainforest village of Kuranda. The Barron and Stoney Creek Waterfalls make the journey spectacular, particularly after wet season rains.
Then there’s the Gulflander which connected the goldfields town of Croydon with the once bustling river port of Normanton (note: the ‘once bustling’ part is important! Normanton is rather sleepy these days). The route from Croydon to Normanton is known affectionately as the railway line that goes from nowhere to nowhere, which we think is a little bit harsh. The Gulf Country is at the heart of Outback Australia and is a working tribute to pioneers of the Gulf of Carpentaria: get onboard for a historic journey into the past.
The Savannahlander is known by trainspotters as the silver bullet. Not because it’s one of these sleek, modern bullet trains similar to those you might see in Japan that travel faster than a …. oh never mind… No, the carriages of the Savannahlander are 1960’s classics, clad in sliver. This is genuinely slow travel with the trip from Cairns to Forsyth (229 kms) taking approximately 35 hours, including an overnight stop. You can’t rush these things.