Sun Setting on the Sunlander

11 Nov

Queensland Rail’s Brisbane-Cairns “Sunlander”

It is so, so discouraging one day to get a fantastic report on a train and just about two days later, to get a report that the powers that be are planning to shut it down.

The report we received was from world traveler Dr. Vincent DiNapoli. He loved all of the extras, the service, the warmth, the old-fashioned happy surprises that happen on a lovely top-class train. And he found all of this in Queenslander Class on the Sunlander, which runs 1,045 miles several times a week between Brisbane and Cairns. He just took this train this summer, along with all the other major routes in Australia. And Queenslander Class on the Sunlander was his favorite. (He took Gold Kangaroo Class — not the new luxury class Platinum, on the Ghan and Indian Pacific.)  We quoted him here.

Then we got the news that Queensland Rail will be running this train only through 2013, when it will be replaced with a faster tilt-train. We are sure the rail-travel lovers of the world won’t be as happy with this, and it’s such a shame. I hate to be a naysayer, but what good does it do to save a few hours on such a scenic route? Speed is not what people want on a vacation train. Beauty, scenery, camaraderie: there’s  the ticket.

So word to the wise: Ride the Sunlander in Queenslander Class while you can. You might have until the end of 2013.

5 Responses to “Sun Setting on the Sunlander”

  1. Trevor November 11, 2010 at 6:57 PM #

    It is distressing that this is happening but it is clear that the powers that be are so far out of touch with reality that what the people want is not what they should get.

    The Sunlander has been an institution in long distance rail travel for 60 years, not the 45 years that the government has been saying in the media, it has been diesel hauled for 45 years, prior to which it was the ‘Sunlander Express’ hauled by a steam locomotive and made up of wooden coaches.

    The whole point of the Sunlander is to allow people to travel in a relaxed atmosphere, socialize with the staff and other passengers who you would not otherwise get to meet and also $189 million \’Luxury\’ Tilt Train, loaded with all manner of stuff like flat screen TVs in the back of each seat.

    We all fear that this ‘upgrade’ is going to destroy the reputation that has taken the Sunlander all these years to built up. After all, this is just like when the XPT replaced the ‘Brisbane Limited’ back in the late 80s/early 90s. The excellent facilities such as the lounge car with bar, the dining car and the ability to ship your car with you will all be lost for speed (not that there is much of that) and modern electronic trappings which destroy what a long distance train trip is supposed to be, a social experience and a chance to see the countryside. While we are attempting to organize an effort to save this train service in its current guise, we are not sure we will succeed.

    The loss of such a prestigious train will certainly cause a negative reaction in the tourism industry that the inept Bligh Government is too blinded by their own agenda to see.

    • Owen C. Hardy November 29, 2010 at 1:25 PM #

      Hi Trevor: one of our travelers wrote to say perhaps it won’t be all bad if this service is converted to a tilt train. Perhaps you could enlighten us.

  2. Bruce Anderson December 15, 2010 at 3:04 PM #

    I rode the tilt train with Eleanor back in 1995 between Sidney and Melbourne. It still had a sleeper back then but you had to share. It was about the roughest train ride I’ve ever had and I’ve been on some pretty bad track. We were given a wake up call an hour before arrival and booted out of our rooms at something like 6:30A. I had ridden the old Southern Aurora a few years prior and there is no comparison. Now it sounds like the same thing is happening in Queensland. I also rode the Queenslander in 1995 and while the rooms were tiny, it still ranks as one of my favorite long distance train experiences.

    • Eleanor Flagler Hardy December 15, 2010 at 3:13 PM #

      Thanks for writing, Bruce. I remember that tilt train well. One of our members called it “The Train from Hell,” according to my story about it. And yes, everybody seems to love the Sunlander as it is now, in Queenslander class. So I can’t stress enough: if you want to take this train, do it now.

  3. Chris November 13, 2012 at 10:14 PM #

    lucky me, given the commentary above….looking forward to Dec 20th 2012 enormously…Queenslander Class all the way to Cairns.

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