Tropical Tracks

An enormous country like Australia has a lot of land to cover, but fortunately, the beautiful eastern coast is easy to explore by rail. This exciting journey involves two legs: Sydney to Brisbane and then Brisbane to Cairns.  A standard long-distance train known as the XPT (“express passenger train”) takes you from Sydney to Brisbane (though it actually starts as far south as Melbourne).  Brisbane was connected to Cairns by an old route known as the Sunlander, which was replaced in 2013 by The Spirit of Queensland.

There’s plenty of beautiful places to stop off along the coast, and it’s perfect for lovers of food, wine, and beer. More than anything, this trip is perfect for animal lovers. Let’s have a look at the journey and the vehicles in detail.

Sydney to Brisbane

The initial leg of the journey is approximately 14 hours and can be done in a day, as trains start from 7:08 a.m. An overnight sleeper is also available for a higher price. Both the economy and first-class cars are air conditioned and access a buffet car selling Australia’s favorite train fare, the Aussie meat pie. Tickets in both classes usually are priced at 50-100 Australian dollars ($33-$67) for a one-way journey, making it a very affordable way to travel interstate. 

The trip takes us to country towns and coastal settlements of Northern New South Wales, throughout the flat floodplains to riversides and seaports along the Pacific Ocean. In the dusk hours, expect to see wallabies and kangaroos bounding around — or simply staring at the train from a distance in stunned silence. 

The XPT power car features a Paxman VP185 12-cylinder, turbo-charged diesel electric engine (1,492 kW or 2,000 horsepower). At each end of the train is a power car, one pulling and the other pushing.

Brisbane to Cairns 

This is the big trip, and is far more opulent than the first leg. From Brisbane’s Roma Street Station to Cairns is 25 hours. A diesel-powered, modern Tilt Train service runs several times a week so it can be split over in two or three days, or you can grab an overnight bed if you’re eager to get to the tropics as soon as possible. 

Economy seats start at around AU$150 and RailBed seats can cost as much as AU$350 per one-way fare. All cars are air conditioned and fully accessible. Economy seats are comfortable and feature entertainment screens, USB power-charging points, and a tray table. RailBeds are more spacious and luxurious seats similar to a business or first class flatbed on a plane. They convert to a bed for overnight travel, and also include bed linen. RailBeds are limited in number so be sure to book the trip well in advance for a high-end experience. 

The journey through Queensland boasts the most picturesque sights to see or stop off and visit. You’ll pass the sugarcane fields of .…

By Terry Elward


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