Savour top food on railway journey

Pumpkin and Spinach Filo served with seasonal salad and Balsamic Dressing along with Caramel Mousse for dessert – I’ve never tasted railway food this good!

I’d boarded the Spirit of Queensland at Maryborough West the evening before bound for North Queensland and barely had time to settle when staff delivered Beef Medallion with roasted potato and veggies for dinner, directly to my seat.  

On picking up the cutlery, I was transported back more than 40 years to when I used a small pocket knife to cut a fruit cake to share with my travelling friend Rose.

Rose and I were the only passengers on the old wooden freight train running between Barcaldine and Rockhampton in Central Queensland.

Both daughters of railway workers, we were looking for adventure and chose the familiar transport. The fruit cake we brought with us was our only food.

Since then I’ve enjoyed many rail journeys, among them on Queensland’s Tilt Train, Spirit of the Outback, and Tasmania’s West Coast Wilderness Railway between Queenstown and Strahan.

However, before this month’s 17-hour trip from Maryborough to Tully, I’d never experienced long distance rail travel in Business Class. I’ve always taken Economy seats or, on overnight journeys, bunked in Sleeper Cabins.

This time I was keen to try one of the new RailBeds I’d seen on Queensland Rail’s website. Basically, a RailBed is a large set by day that converts to a flat bed by night.

They’re placed three abreast, two on one side of the aisle and one on the other. 

The RailBed Car had an airline feel to it with a trolley service for meals and complimentary drink upon arrival. A Club Car was nearby to purchase other drinks and snacks.  

I could watch movies on an individual screen and there was even a 24-Volt Power Point on my chair armrests to recharge my mobile phone.

Pressing an orange button above my seat alerted staff that I was ready for bed. They flipped the seat to convert it to a mattress and even made my bed.

A shower pack and towel was provided if I wanted to freshen up before turning in for the night. As with airlines, the Car’s lights were dimmed and curtains closed.

In the morning, I only had to press the orange button again and staff converted my bed back to a seat.

While the seat was quite firm and the footrest too far away for my short legs to reach, overall my first RailBed experience was comfortable, the service was awesome and the food absolutely terrific. All meals were included in the package price. 

For anyone travelling from Brisbane to Cairns and/or return, if you can spare a day to sit back and relax, choosing a Spirit of Queensland RailBed is an excellent alternative to an air flight.


Mary to Bay Rail Trail a step closer

Hervey Bay firm Engineers Plus has been appointed to undertake detailed design and survey work as part of the proposed Mary to Bay Rail Trail along the old rail line that links Hervey Bay and Maryborough.

A rail trail is the conversion of a disused railway easement into a multi-use path, typically for walking, cycling and horse riding.

Fraser Coast Councillor for Sport, Recreation, Open Spaces and Events Darren Everard said engineers will be investigating a number of design and construction aspects along a 10km stretch from Urraween to Takura.

“The Mary to Bay Rail Trail could open up a whole new tourism and business market for the Fraser Coast but there are a number of factors to consider,” he said.

“The engineers will look at bridge design and costs over a number of crossings as well as suitable surface material; we’re looking at sealing some sections to make it more family friendly.”

Cr Everard said the engineers will also investigate possible connection points to surrounding streets and road crossings.

“Connection points would allow users to pick and choose which areas of the trail they want to travel and would be ideal for families with young children to access the trail,” he said.

“They would also allow better emergency access in the case of an accident which is obviously very important.”

Fraser Coast Regional Council worked closely with Queensland Rail and the Department of Transport and Main Roads to remove the remaining major rail infrastructure between Takura to Colton late last year.

Crews salvaged historical items including mile post markers, points levers and old signage which will be used in points-of-interest displays along the route.

The design and survey work will start in June is expected to take around four months to complete. A final report detailing the engineer’s recommendations and cost estimates will then be presented to Council.

Council is investigating external funding options including state and federal government grants to build the trail.

It is proposed the trail would be built in two stages as funding becomes available:

Stage One – Urraween to Nikenbah

Stage Two – Nikenbah to Takura

Rail Trails have become popular tourist attractions across Australia and overseas.

“We could learn from other regions that are reaping the benefits of rail trails including the Claire Valley in South Australia, Otago in New Zealand and, closer to home the Brisbane Valley,” Cr Everard said.

“The trail would open opportunities for tourism and small business ventures like cafes, tea house and bed and breakfast establishments along the route or bike and equipment rental to name a few possibilities.”

Caption: Rail trails such as Tasmania’s West Coast Wilderness Railway have become popular tourist attractions across Australia. Photo: JOCELYN WATTS