Posted by: travelrat | November 23, 2011

Rails Beyond Kuranda

It wasn’t until I got home that I found out the Kuranda Scenic Railway isn’t the only one to use those tracks. Every Wednesday, a vintage diesel railcar … the Aussies call it a ‘railmotor’ … called the ‘Savannahlander’ leaves Cairns and heads up to Kuranda, and beyond. It doesn’t return until Saturday, for it’s a nearly 1000 km. round trip, and it seems that, in Australia, they have a different attitude to long-distance trains than we have in Europe.

Here, a train is a means of getting there. On the Continent, they’re usually quick and efficient, and sometimes provide an acceptable alternative to air travel. My impression of Australian trains is that they’re more in the nature of rail-borne tourist coaches. You don’t take a train if you’re in a hurry, or just want to save money. You take it when you really want to ‘see the country’.

To that end, many services offer frequent ‘whistle stops’, where the train waits a considerable time while its passengers take a tour of a nearby attraction. The Savannahlander provides opportunities to visit the Chillagoe Caves, the Cobbold Gorge and the Undara Lava Tubes But, they’re not really ‘whistle stops. The train overnights at these places!

If you take the full tour, overnight accommodation is provided … at Undara, the accommodation is in converted vintage railway carriages! The line terminates at a town called Forsayth. At first glance, it seems a strange place to terminate a railway, but like Kuranda, it was once a mining town, where gold and copper were obtained, and the railway was originally built to service it. There were plans to connect the railway to Croydon, where another vintage railway, the ‘Gulflander’ takes passengers to Normanton, on the Gulf of Carpentaria. But, these plans never came to fruition.

You can find out more about these trains by visiting their websites, and This is definitely another one for the ‘bucket list’ … the thing about such a list is that, for every item you strike off it … you add two more!




  1. Hi Keith,
    That is a very nice way of explaining the trains in OZ. 🙂
    I didn’t know about the other train, thanks for the info.
    Bucket lists are like that aren’t they. 😀

    • I didn’t know about it, either, till I came across their website while looking for something else. I don’t recall seeing it advertised in Cairns very much, either, which is surprising, because it seems there’s a lot to see on the tour.

      I don’t normally make a practice of writing about stuff I haven’t personally experienced, but in this case, I’ll make an exception, because I do feel that they should have more publicity.

  2. I’d like to visit the Lava Tubes. I think they would be incredible to see. And I love trains. I must do this. It is definitely a trip I would enjoy!

    • Well, if you get there before I do, I’d love to read your report. I’ve trawled through all the leaflets and things I brought back from Cairns, and don’t see it advertised anywhere!

      But, a lady from the Tourist Board tells me it is still running … the railway track is right by her apartment.

      Nor does there seem to have been much written about the area … not since Nevil Shute, anyway!

  3. Hi Keith,

    Thanks for the plug! We certainly are still running and will be until at least 2015 when our current government contract ends. We do stop over the wet season mind you and have a 10 week break coming up soon. You are correct about us not advertising much around Cairns. There are a number of reasons for this but best not discussed on an open forum. 🙂

    Hope to see you on board soon!


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