• Australian rail trip

  • Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.
Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.

Moderators: Komachi, David Benton

  by David Benton
 
Well at the moment im sitting in a internet cafe , in Brisbane Australia , while waiting for a train .

My trip sarted with a flight from New Zealand to Sydney NSW .
Sydeny international airport has its own underground rail station , which is privately owned and operated . this means theres quiet a hefty access charge ( $ 8 aud ), on top of any rail fare . i brought a day tripper ticket , for $ 15 unlimited travel on Sydneys train buses and ferries for a day .
My first ride was into Central Sydney .As well as my luggage i was carrying a large solar panel , which i was returning to the manufacterer for a warranty replacement .
This proved quite difficult to take down the esculators etc , but no officals questioned me taking it on the train . ( one joked that i could surf down the esculator on it ) . i made enquires at the rail info desk at the Airport on the nearest station to North Ryde , where the solar panel manufacterer hq was ) and was told Paramatta . this would prove to be expsensively wrong ) .
The train into Sydney is a standard sydney commuter train , Electric double deck , woth doors each end of the carriages , over the bogies . i sat near the doors , and still had a good view . Nice ride into Sydney , along a busy 6 track railway line . arriving at Sydney central station , i spotted the Indian pacific train sitting at the latform , waiting for its departure to Perth , Western Australia .
I also spotted some old carriages on the side of the platform , that looked as though they had been converted to Accomadation .
I found out it was a youth hostel , and after quite a trek under the station , i was at Railway square , and the front of the hostel . Unfortunatley the carriages were full , but i booked into the normal part of the hostel, which is the old parcels shed of the railway station .
By this time was sick of carting the big solar panel around , so after a quick clean up , i lugged it back to the station to find a train to Parramatta . unfortunately i couldnt find an info desk to confirm this was the nearest station . the Ride to Paramatta was interesting , in that this is the mainline to the west ( Through the blue mountains ) , and to teh north . So i spottedd a few frieght trains as well .
Arriving at parramatta station , there were no buses going anywhere near North ryde , so i flagged a taxi down . The driver said it was at least !/2 hour drive away , and i should have gone to Epping Station . By now , i was getting late for my appointment , so i took the taxi .
$ 45 later , i was at the HQ slighlty late for my Appointment .
After that i didnt want to shell out $ 45 for a taxi again , so i jumped on a local bus , that had Circular Quay as its destinaation . Unfortunatley it was a very local bus , winding its way through many suburbs on its way back to central Sydney . But it was an interesting look at surburban sydney life . It also passed through Darling Harbour , which has a monrail route , i saw a monorail train , and was going to return to have a ride , but never got around to it .
Circular Quay is a bus train , and ferry interchange point , next to the opera house . I grabbed a quick bite ot eat , and jumped on the first ferry leaving . ( the beauty of the daytripper ticket , you dont need to worry where your heading !). it turned out to be heading across the harbour to Mossman , a residental area up an inlet filled with pleasure boats .The trip provided good views of the harbour bridge , and harbour , i stayed on the boat , and returned to circular Quay . I decided to take a train that would cross the Harbour bridge , which turned out to have good views of the road traffic , but not much of a view of the harbour etc . I stayed on the train till i got to Hornsby , and interesting ride through the sydney suburbs . by the time the train got there it was dark , so i took an express train back to Sydney central . This was a service from Newcastle , Which only made 2 stops back to Central .
The next day i was booked on the 7.15 a.m Xpt train to Coffs harbour , Northen NSW , and as my flight had left New Zealand at 6 am , i decided to forego Sydneys nitelife in favour of a early nite .
The xpt is Australias version of the British Hst trainset , Nearly identical ,but downrated to 100 MPH , and with suspension more suitable for "colonial" track . however the track out of Sydney ids in good condition ,and the ride was very comfortable . As we were heading out against the tide of incoming commuter trains , we passed many commuters , makinfg me wish i had the video camera with me .
About 15 minutes after departure , the buffet car opened , and i got toast and teas for breakfast . they give you a cardboard tray to carry it on , you keep this for the journey , taking it back to the buffetcar each time you want more food . ( in my case cups of tea , i drink heaps ) .
theres a good selection of snack type foods .
The ride from Sydney , through the suburbs to Newcastle , proved to be the most interesting part of the trip . sydney has lots of National parks surrounding it , and we passed therough several of these . As we hit the coast , we wound around spectacular inlets and bays . If anyone is in Sydney with limited time , i would recomend a return trip to Newcastle .After Newcastle we passed through the hunter valley , and i was surprised that we were running on a 6 track mainline again . It soon became obvious why , as we passsed several coal trains . These bring coal from the valley to a port near Newcastle .
The buffet car announced they were serving Scones for morning tea , which was rather quaint , and came through handing out reservations for morning tea . apparently they make the scones onboard to suit the number of reservations , and 1/2 hour later they mae the announcemnet for passengers to come and pick up thier scones + tea ( $ 5 ) from the cafe car . the same procedure was followed for hot meals for lunch ( about $8 ) . The scenery above the Hunter valley became abit boring , and i dozed off to sleep several times . The line is very windy and the train speed was quite slow . Mostly running in forests , and often with a high wire fence between the tracks and the trees .As we got closer to coffs Harbour there was more farmland , a few tunnels , and we crossed several large rivers . We also crossed a couple of long frieght trains .
Finally we arrived at coffs harbour , more or less ontime at 4pm or so , and i was quite glad to be taking a break there.
We arrived around 4pm , i was taking the train onto Brisbane at 1am the next morning . so i checked my bags in the baggage room and walked into town . Australian towns are very spread out . the town wasnt much , i picked up a couple of books to read , then took a nature walk besides a creek down to the sea . which was quite nice , but getting dark . i headed back into town to look for entertainment and a meal , but both were hard to come by . So i ended up with a snack and heading back to the railway station to await my train . a couple of frieghts and the passenger train going the other way passed trhough , then my train arrived ontime at 1am . it immediately showeed the bad side of travelling coach at nite . a rather large man sprawled over my seat , and a rahter loud lady talking to her kids in the seat in front . looks like no sleep for me i thought , but i must have been tired , cos next thing i knew , we were on the outskirts of Brisbane . quick cup of tea form the cafe car , ad we were passing through the frieght yards ( multiqauge , standard form Nsw , narrow form Queensland . we pulled into brisbane station about 15 minutes late , which would make it a tight turnaround , as the train heads back to Sydney after a hour . wehter it left ontime i didnt hang around to find out . bit a tight schedule after a 15 hour journey .

Overall i was impressed with te nsw xpt operation . it was certainly good value , with advance purchase my ticket from Sydney to Brisbane , ( around 900 km ) was $ 58 , including my one stopover . crew was good and friendly , and the cafe food was good value and acceptable qaulity . the train was full , and there was a crowd waiting to board it for the trip[ back to sydney . this is in spite of discount airfares of around the same price for the same trip . hopefully the trains will be sped up , but the north coast route is very curvy , and it would take alot to speed it up . it is on the agenda though , but mainly for frieght trains benefit i believe .
  by David Benton
 
I spent 4 hours in brisbane , mainly buy going in search of food . after a good breakfast and quick walk around ( ive been to Brisbane 3 or 4 times ,so didnt particulairy want a rushed tour ) i headed back to the station to board the Tilt train to Bundaberg . I was booked in economy class as far as Bundaberg , from there i would continue to Cairns in business class ( the only option ) .
I got onto the platform 15 minutes or so early , it was crowded with people waiting to board .
The train was sitting on just outside the platform area , asnd didnt pull in until the 11.00 am departure time . i found this strange , but we all boarded , i carried my bag in , and stacked it in the luggage area at the end of the carriage . the seat was abit cramped , but adequate . at the end of the carriage there were 3 lcd screens , about 14 inch . this displayed safety essages to start with . As the train departed it showed the route map , distance to the next station , and the train speed .
At some stages it changed to showing the view from a camera in the drivers window . very interesting , but it was not to last , as they started playing a movie mid trip . the ride was surpisingly bouncy , i was disappointed . it was genrally smooth , but would regularly give a sideways lurch . scenery was abit more interesting in the outskirts of brisbane , but was otherwise more trees and bush .There was a buffet car , plus trolley service . i skipped the meal , and had a pie , plus cup of tea . Service wasnt as good as the xpt trains , price about the same . The train is restricted to 100 km/hr since the crash of another tilt train last year , and we could see our driver trying to hold it there on the lcd screen . he didnt seem to be able ot hold a constant 100 km , would get up to 104 km or so , then throttle back , the train would slow to 98 km or so , then speed up again . in my later trip the driver just sat on 104 k.m /hr .
Around 4pm , we pulled into the Bundaberg station , and i felt abit disappointed with te trip , and thinking the much longer trip to airns might be abit of an endurance contest . luckily this did not turn out ot be the case .
The train to Cairns did not leave till 1.am , so i had 8 hours or so tyo fill in . i ckecked my bag through to Cairns , and walked into town .
Didnt sdeem to be much on , so i headed out to the botanical gardens , over the river . nice walk , there was a railway museuem besides the gardens , closed and i couldnt see much through the gates . The gardens were nice , full of birds , and i came across a snake sunning itself on the footpath . luckily it slithered off , as we dont have snakes in NZ , i wasnt sure what to do .
it was dark by the time i got into town , so i decided to take in a movie . it was interesting to see the crowd of miovie goers in smalltown Queensland ,alot more mixed than we would have here .after the movie i went to a local pub , to sample the famous Bundaberg rum , and listen toi a band .
Nearly train time , so i walked towards the station , i came across a takeaway bar ( fast food joint ) that had unusaual offerings on the menu . the main one been hot chips ( frenchfries ) with gravy and cheese on . This was a popular choice , so i got a huge helping ( $ 3 ) , and a vegetable kebab and coffee . a huge meal for $ 9 . certainly took me back to friday nites in small town Nz when i was young . the men getting a feed on the way home form the pub , the teenagers hanging around , buying takeaway been their entertainment for the nite .
I got to the station , and again there was a decent crowd waiting for the train . I tpulled in on tiem , and i climbed aboard .the business class seating was lot better than the economy class seating . 2+ 1 across insteas of 2+2 , so i had a single seat to myself . the seat was wider and more comfortable . each seat had its own 7 inch lcd screen with a choice of around 10 channels of entertainment .un fortunatley the driver never actiuvated the front view camera on this trip . Once more i was surprised to fall asleep , and not wake till morning .( perhaps the rum helped ) .
Next morning i had a cup of tea for breakfast , still full form last mited takeaways . Which was probably jusr as well , as the catering staff seemed to find serving passengers something of an inconvienence . This may of been due to the large number of school children on board ,but they were noticably less friendly than thier xpt counterparts . the food selection was also not as good , and salighlty more expensive .
Thre trip was fairly interesting , we crossed anumber of narrow guage sugar cane lines , as well as a few frieght trains . We also crossed the conventional sunlander train , looking abit jaded these days compared to the new tilt train . still i would have liked to spend the nights in ones of its sleeping compartments , but its less than daily schedule didnt suit my limited time frame . towards evening as we got nearer Cairns , "are we there yet itis" set in abit ,as the buffet ran low on food , and people got tired . hopwever theyt let us out to stretch and legs and get some fresh air most stations , which was nice . Overall it wqas a good trip , and i felt good as we pulled into the modern cairns station . took awhile to claim the baggage , then i once again found accomadation across the road from the station .
  by David Benton
 
This train was the main reason i decided to come to cairns . ( 2nd biggest reason is the climate , its hot enough to swim here in winter ) .
The railway runs form Cairns , up the mountain gorge to Kuranda , the first town on the way to the inland .
Originally it was built to provide all weather access to miners( i think gold or tin ) inland .
i got Cairns station 1/4 hour early , got my ticket , and boarded the train . 2 diesel locos and about 12 carriages . the carriages were rebuilt older stock , with nice leather bench seats . These are 4 persons wide , on one side of the carriages , as all the views are out that side .
The carriages have lcd screens , displaying safety announcments , and then history as we left Cairns . The first 10 minutes is through Cairns city , then out into the canefields surrounding it . then we made our first stop , Freshwater station ,which also is a railway musuem and restaurant . The majority of passengers got on here , i think because the tour buses include the musem as part of thier package . We then started to climb , up the side of a deep valley , as we proceeded around a hairpin curve , and up the other side of the valley . views were nice , but not as impressive as what was to come . the train slowed , as we went through a tunnel , and then out onto Stoney creek viaduct .This is where all the promontial photos are taken , as the viaduct crosses a high waterfall . This is the dry season , so apparently it was not as impressive as it can be in the wet season , but still very nice . The valley got steeper and rockier , as we continued to climb . We then came to our 2nd stop , Barrons falls Waterfall station . Here the train stopped for 10 minutes , while we all got out and viewed the falls . This is alot bigger river , and the falls were truly spectacular . It is part of a hydro scheme , so again the flow wasnt as high as in the wet season .
The train then proceeded into Kuranda station , where we alighted at 10 .30 a.m
The station is probably the most pleasant i have seen , with tropical plants , and gardens everywhere . It also has a large signalbox , with old fashioned levers controlling the semaphore signals . i went for a stroll through town , a quiet market place , and relaxed tourist place . Then i went for a rainforest walk , that linked up to the road back to Barrons falls . i decided t o walk the 3km to have another look , forgetting the train would stop there on the way back .by the time i got back to town i was very hot and tired , so settled for an icecream and ice tea on the railway platform , waiting for out 3.30 pm departure . At 3.3 0 the train was about 1/2 full , and we pulled out for the trip back to cairns . Im glad i took the return trip , as i seemd to see alot more than when i came up . The other option was to return on the "skyrail ", an aerial cable way back to cairns . I prefer been close to the ground , but the most popular option is to take the train one way , skyrail the other . The return ticket was $ 50 , exspensive for the short trip( approx 30 km ) , but well worth it in my opinion . We arrived back into Cairns at 5.30 pm , and i made my way back to the hostel to rest my weary legs . Alas after a shower , i was talked into going for a beer or 3 in the local irish pub , complete with barmaids dressed in short skirts and skimpy tops . Only in Australia !