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Diandra travels on Queensland Rail

Staff member: Diandra // Trip date: Oct 2013




I flew into Brisbane the day before the Tilt train departed from Roma Street. The great thing about Brisbane is that they have a train to/from the airport. Once we got off the plane, we walked about 5 minutes to the train that took us directly into the city in about 20 minutes. We stayed at a hotel close to the train station.


On Monday we had a look around Brisbane before the train departed at 3.45pm. If you need to check in luggage for the train, you have to do that at least 30 minutes prior to departure otherwise you will have to take it on board. All trains for Queensland Rail services depart from Platform 10, you just need to show the train staff your ticket and they let you through.


Once on board, The Tilt train was very clean and the seats were quite roomy. All seats were reclinable and you are provided with a little pillow and blanket to use if required throughout the journey. All seats came with a power point for you to charge your mobiles, computers or cameras throughout your journey. There was a pull down table, footrest in front and in the arm rest there was a small TV screen. On one channel you could see a map of your journey showing your progress and at other times a view from a camera at the front of the train was showing which was interesting.

This was to be one of the last services of the old Tilt Train that services Brisbane - Cairns.

After settling into the service and underway, the on board staff come through to check all tickets. The seating configuration was either in 2 x 1 with 1x1 towards the back of the carriage. Soon enough an announcement was made for the hot food service for dinner if required. For this trip food & drink was available to purchase throughout the journey in carriage E. Pricing of the food was similar to that of a café, about $7-9 for dinner. You could choose from a range of salads, hot chips, pasta, pizza and much more. For breakfast the next morning you could choose from cereal, toast, fruit salad or a bacon and egg pie.


Unfortunately it was a bit hard to sleep in the carriage we were in as we had a young family in front of us with a baby. The service also made some scheduled stops during the night that were hard to sleep through.

Any excess baggage could be left at the end of each carriage, near where the spacious toilet /shower facilities were located.


We arrived in Cairns on Tuesday evening around 5pm. It started to rain as we left the station however we made our way by foot about three blocks to our accommodation on the Esplanade, about 10-15 minutes from the station.


The first day in Cairns we hired a car and drove up to Cape Tribulation, it was great to drive along the coastline. Stopping at the Daintree Rainforest Discovery centre, where an audio guide system is set up and you can learn about the different types of plant and animals living in the rainforest and the history and age of many of the species found there.

The next day we went to Kuranda, which we organized the evening before at a local travel agent close to our hotel. The tour picked us up and dropped us off at our accommodation. We left around 8.30am, took the 9am train up to Kuranda from Cairns station and spent a few hours taking in the picturesque Kuranda shopping scene before returning on the Sky Rail around 2.30pm.


On our final day in Cairns we took a day trip out to the reef. We simply walked across the road to the Reef Fleet Terminal, checking in from 7.15am onwards for an 8am departure. It was a great day out on the water. We made stops at both an inner and outer reef. Some trips allow for a visit to one reef only and we chose Ocean Freedom because of the two reef options and because they had a higher ratio of staff per passenger as well, we felt would make for a more enjoyable experience.


Having never snorkelled before, seeing the brightly coloured array of fish as well as one very friendly sea turtle that the crew had named Leroy, was amazing. We had a total of 6 hours altogether that was shared between Upolu Cay Reef and the Outer Edge Upolu Reef. Lunch was included and was served about 11.30am whilst moored at Upolo Cay with everything from seafood, meats & salads on offer together with tea/coffee and alcoholic drinks also available for separate purchase. We returned to the Reef Fleet Terminal around 4.30-5pm. This experience was the absolute highlight of our few days in Cairns.


Departure day loomed and it was an early rise to catch the The Sunlander that departed Cairns Central at 7.15am. We had a small bite to eat before we set off for the short walk to the station. As soon as we arrived, our Maître d' for the journey, Cheryl, was waiting to welcome us on-board. We were settled into our twin sleeper that is converted to seating during the day.
We also received a welcome letter from the Maître d' upon arrival together with a complimentary pack of toiletries and a dressing gown embroidered with "Queenslander Class on the Sunlander".

Once on our way, Cheryl advised the itinerary for the next day and a half over the PA system together with details of all meal times and any choices available. Breakfast was served at 8.30am, with a choice of either a continental or a hot breakfast with all beverages included. Your lunch preference was also made during breakfast on the first day.


Lunch was then served around 12.30pm and it was visually stunning and massive! No one really finished the main as there was such a lot of food on the plate. We chose the meat platter that also included a bowl of olives, cheese, macadamia nuts, enormous passionfruit, salad, sundried tomatoes, bread and breadsticks. Cheryl later advised us that the lunch menu was smaller now than what it used to be!


During the journey, we would also be regularly updated on the history and any interesting facts for each town or area we were passing through.

A three course dinner was served at 6.30pm that was again, very filling. During the dinner service, staff would make up your cabin changing from the day seating to the bunk style bedding.

We awoke next morning to kangaroos jumping alongside our moving train. Breakfast was served at 7.30am with the same choices as the previous morning. Throughout the trip we were welcome to visit the lounge car for complimentary tea/coffee and biscuits whenever needed. In the lounge car, you were also able to read magazines or watch a movie on one of their Ipads, you were welcomed to take these back to your cabins.


Inside your cabin you had space to hang any clothes/jackets, towels, extra pillows/blankets, rubbish bin and a sink. There are two separate toilets onboard each carriage at the front was men's and the back for ladies, shower are located at the front as well and are a good size.

At Gympie North, we were given the opportunity to stretch our legs a bit and hop off at the start of the platform and walk to the other end with the train moving along beside us. Once back onboard, we had a short lunch of sausage rolls, quiche, vol au vents, vanilla slices and banana bread.

We arrived back into Roma Street, Brisbane around 2pm and changed platforms to catch the train to the airport.

We really enjoyed Queenslander Class onboard The Sunlander, the gourmet food, privacy of your own cabin and sleeping arrangement made for a leisurely and enjoyable trip and I would definitely recommend it!


Overall both train trips were a great experience however I can't compare the two services as they were completely different. I preferred the Queenslander Class on the Sunlander for the reasons mentioned above. The Tilt train from Brisbane - Cairns v.v has now be replaced with Queensland Rails new service The Spirit of Queensland with the inclusion of Rail Beds. For those who dislike flying, who have more time to undertake this mode of travel and/or those who simply love train journeys, I would definitely recommend this form of travel.

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