I’ve taken a few good train rides over the years (bullet trains in Japan, a 12 hour trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in Thailand, a couple of hours in 3rd class on the Burma Rail in Thailand and a cog wheel train in Switzerland’s alps). This two hour ride on the Gulflander was right up there with all of those.
It’s probably one of the dearest rides per kilometre (actually they still mark the line and talk in miles), we’ve ever taken. We paid $24.50 each for a 16 mile, two hour, return trip and you can
double that if you aren’t concession card holders. We travelled from Normanton out to Critters Camp-named by the rail gang who camped there during construction for the number of creepy critters they had to put up with of a night.
The train is government owned (so is staffed by Gov. employees, not volunteers as you might expect), it’s only ever made a profit in the year 1905, but is heritage listed so they keep it going!
We could have done a longer trip-5 hours out to Croydon on a Wednesday, then either a bus trip back that day, or spend a night in the pub and train it back Thursday morning. If our roof rails hadn’t happened or been quite as expensive, that’s the option we’d have taken.
The train currently being used is around 67 years old-it’s a 100hp diesel engine with a 4 speed manual gear box, so really it’s just a noisy little old truck converted into a train. Or a rail motor Russ tells me! The track is laid over hollow steel sleepers (imagine an inverted “U”) that are filled with local dirt. Most of the line is original.
Our driver is the station master, he is responsible for ticket sales, he and the guard maintain the rolling stock, clean and garden, and do all general repairs. Last week they had to repair the chemical toilet on the train. As well as him and the guard, 5 line maintenance men are employed full time (any wonder it operates at a loss).
He gave us an interesting commentary about the current town, a bit of it’s history, history of the train and track, touched on flora and fauna as we passed it and then mostly kept quiet on the way home.
He did tell us on thing that has me worried. There is a crane that looks very similar to a brolga and in fact, they often hang out together. They have a very limited range and we are right in the middle of that so I hope the brolgas I’ve told you we’ve seen are actually brolgas and not sarus cranes. I’m going to have to start checking their legs (brolgas’ are grey, sarus are pink), bustles (sarus has white feathers in its) and wether or not they have a dewlap under their chin (brolgas do). Sarus cranes are slightly taller than brolgas.
We had lunch in Normanton at the Purple pub, then came home to Karumba. A fantastic morning out that I recommend to anyone to do.