Rail holiday in Queensland

 
  ADG612 Locomotive Fireman

Was a great holiday. I will give a report later.

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  ADG612 Locomotive Fireman

I had I great time. I started in Cairns and while there I went to the wildlife dome and did the high ropes coarse and the zip line over a salt water crocodile. I then did a Gulflander, Savanahlander combined tour. A coach took me to Normandon where I stayed for 2 nights. I hired a car and drove to Kurumba just so I could see the Gulf of Carpentaria since I've come so close. The next day I went on the Gulflander. Its a very unique train because of how old school it is. The railway is 120 years old still with original rail and steel sleepers and has no ballast. The railway despite how cheaply built it was and the condition it appears to be in, is flood resistant because there's no ballast to get washed away and therefore is easy to repair. The rail motor is 60 years old with an 80 year old 100 horse power engine. It stayed open for so long before becoming  a tourist attraction because it was a vital supply line during the wet season because the dirt road often became flooded out.

A bus transfer picked us up man took us Forsayth and then the Colbolt Gorge.  We had  lunch at the resort and then got on a 4x4 bus to the gorge because it has to cross a dry river bed to get there. The gorge was awesome and is worth going there. The gorge is so narrow, the boat gets just inched from the walls of the gorge and saw fresh water crocodiles.

Back at Forsayth, every one got on the Savanahlander. The railmotors were built in the 60's and the drivers cabin wall has been removed so you can see out the front and even sit up front. This railway was cheaply built with no ballast 100 years ago, so the ride is slow and bumpy. This line was used for cattle until the nineties. They took us on a tour through the Lava tubes and spent a night at mt Surprise. Continued on the train the next day and saw a lot of good scenery and live stock run in front of the train. I couldn't stop taking photos and videos, especially up near Karunda. It was a good way to explore the Queensland outback at a leisurely pace, especially as a rail fan. It was  a unique experience in this day and age where we are used to rushing around in modern transport and was nice to unwind from the rat race of driving my truck around the city.  


Link below of the Savanahlander trip




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39VJpMfr9vA





After getting back to Cairns for 1 night, I caught the Spirit of Queensland to Townsville. I took economy class with high expectations, since its a modern train and because of the campaign about how awesome it is. However I was a little disapionted because the seats are very uncomfortable and can't recline. They look more like economy airline seats. Sure they have TV's on every seat, but thats not going to do much good on a long trip if you cant get comfortable. Doing an overnighter in those seats would be out of the question and I even heard of people saying they spent 20 hours in economy and they didn't sound very impressed. The sad thing about it is, the Sunlander is a far better train by a long shot even if it dose take a little longer. This new train is a big step backwards in rail travel unless they make corrective action.


In Townsville, I went to Magnetic Island and also the Reef HQ and than caught the Sunlander to Prosipine in economy class. These seats were very comfortable. I stayed in Airlie Beach for to nights. I did a jet ski tour to Day Dream island. It was awesome. It cost a bit of money, but its worth doing if you want something different than just another boat cruise or if you want some adventure. Experience is not required, they lead you in a convoy in either a short tour around the bay or a longer 50 km round trip to Daydream island. There was a strong head wind at the start, which made the conditions choppy, but on the way back, going with the wind and waves made it a lot easier. Link below if interested in watching it.


 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4JWNNHtQRs


The following day, I did a scenic flight over the reef and islands. It was a good view of the reef and really does look as good as it does on TV or in photos.






From there I caught the Sunlander to Brisbane in a single berth sleeper. I was very impressed with this train. The cabin is small, but comfortable and adequate for a nights sleep. I've wanted to do that for years and the good thing about this train is that the sleepers are for a reasonable price, unlike the Indain Pacific. The meals are also good.It is sad that this train is being decommissioned and being replaced with something thats not as good.


Stayed one night in Brisbane before frying home. I caught the Airtrain to the airport.That seems to be a convenient way to get there.  
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Excellent report, glad you had a great trip. I couldn't agree more regards the Spirit of Queensland which IMO offers very little in improvements over the Sunlander except quicker point-to-point times, and travelling slowly is one of the main reasons we travel by train anyway.

The Spirit of Queensland is a Ford Edsel...I'll never travel on it overnight, so QR have lost me for that market. The Business Class or premium Economy fares are outrageous so I can see a failure coming up as patronage drops further away.

Sorry...I had to have a chuckle at some of your spelling errors Laughing...but that's just me being 'old school'

The Savannahlander/Gulflander is the ULTIMATE travel relaxation & scenery experience...I love it Exclamation

Mike... 8)
  phil_48 Deputy Commissioner

Location: Wynnum North
Agree Vinelander. My wife and I just completed return trip to Townsville in our first class sleeper. We listened to comments by pax in the Club Car who have used the Spirit and CTT and say they wont use these again.

I gave a detailed description of this trip under the " Farewell to Sunlander " thread and noted the times saved in both directions of between 90 and 120 minutes with the 2 locos, which is pretty competitive with the Spirit and a lot more comfortable.
  ADG612 Locomotive Fireman

Is the Spirit of Queensland the same railcars as the old Cairns Tilt train ? And if so, did it have a different set of seats than it does now ? I thought I heard some one say the old tilt train was better. Are the Sunlander carriages worn out or is this move to decommission it a case of fixing something that isn't broken in the name of progress. It seems odd that they're even decommissioning the Queenslander class since thats a completely different market than what the Spirit of Queensland would be after.
  phil_48 Deputy Commissioner

Location: Wynnum North
ADG612,

On our recent trip which was booked 6months ago, we wanted to go Queenslander Class but it was booked out in both directions, such as its popularity despite price.

Re the Spirit vs CTT, I understand the main difference is addition of a car of so called sleepers, which are no more than a scaled DOWN version of long distance aircraft bed cubicles.  I say scaled down because it seems they are way smaller with less leg room and in listening to pax in the Dining Car on our Sunlander trip, they said they ( window seat passenger ) had to climb over the passenger next to them to go to toilet at night - zero passing room. And don't talk about the frozen meals.  All this for twice the price of the  Sunlander.

A new ( third ) set was built incorporating all this, and this was placed in service as a Spirit.  The other 2 CTT's are being taken out of service to make the necessary bedding adjustments, one at a time. Once all this is finished, estimated the end of the year, all 3 sets will run a 6 day a week Spirit service.  At least I think this is what is happening.

Also re sleepers - when we travel on the Sunlander, we put the beds down straight away as our bad backs won't allow us to sit up all that time particularly during daytime travel and with zero leg room.  I doubt if the other passengers would appreciate us doing this on the Spirit for 20 hours. ( Anyone from QR listening here ? I doubt it ).  Also in my personal case I have ongoing medical problems which don't allow me to fly but could also upset fellow Spirit pax, which is why I isolate myself in a sleeper on the Sunlander.

Re the Sunlander cars I feel the real reason for their non, updated replacement is privatization.  The 'Landers will never run as a profit but are seen as a SERVICE, which is not a part of the privatization language.  Also the ageing loco fleet.  So why would a private operator build extra locos as well as a new 'Lander fleet, knowing they would not pay.

Therefore the new Spirit is the best " Mickey Mouse " answer
  ADG612 Locomotive Fireman

I complained on the QR Facebook page. They responded something like " sorry about the less than comfortable seats. It'll the message on. However, there is first class available which is comfortable and the spirit of queensland is modern way to travel. ". I hope many people complain to QR.

It seems like they're trying to run it like an airline by making economy like a cattle class and except you to pay a lot for first class airline seat. Land travel doesn't work like that. People except even economy class to be comfortable on a long trip and first class to be luxury.

I think the rail beds have a place, but not as replacement of the private rooms and not as first class. They should be considered as premium economy for those who just want a bed to get from point A to point B and don't want to or need to pay a large sum for a private room.

I almost wish there was a save the sunlander campaign,but I don't live in queensland and therefore wouldn't ride the trains often anyway.
  ADG612 Locomotive Fireman

I complained on the QR Facebook page. They responded something like " sorry about the less than comfortable seats. It'll the message on. However, there is first class available which is comfortable and the spirit of queensland is modern way to travel. ". I hope many people complain to QR.

It seems like they're trying to run it like an airline by making economy like a cattle class and except you to pay a lot for first class airline seat. Land travel doesn't work like that. People except even economy class to be comfortable on a long trip and first class to be luxury.

I think the rail beds have a place, but not as replacement of the private rooms and not as first class. They should be considered as premium economy for those who just want a bed to get from point A to point B and don't want to or need to pay a large sum for a private room.

I almost wish there was a save the sunlander campaign,but I don't live in queensland and therefore wouldn't ride the trains often anyway.
  petey3801 Chief Commissioner

Location: On the rails
A new ( third ) set was built incorporating all this, and this was placed in service as a Spirit.  The other 2 CTT's are being taken out of service to make the necessary bedding adjustments, one at a time. Once all this is finished, estimated the end of the year, all 3 sets will run a 6 day a week Spirit service.  At least I think this is what is happening.


Just a slight nitpick, the new build DTT (Spirit) set hasn't actually entered service as yet, the current set in service was one of the originals which has been overhauled. The second original set is currently being overhauled, and the new build set is currently testing/being commissioned. The first of the new build locos has also begun on-track testing.
  phil_48 Deputy Commissioner

Location: Wynnum North
Thanks for update Petey.  As I said I said in my post, I THOUGHT what I said was happening.  Dimentia days approaching.
  petey3801 Chief Commissioner

Location: On the rails
No worries mate. I believe the new set is back in Maryborough at the moment on testing.
  ADG612 Locomotive Fireman

Just a slight nitpick, the new build DTT (Spirit) set hasn't actually entered service as yet, the current set in service was one of the originals which has been overhauled. The second original set is currently being overhauled, and the new build set is currently testing/being commissioned. The first of the new build locos has also begun on-track testing.
petey3801

Were the economy seats more comfortable before they overhauled the train ?
  phil_48 Deputy Commissioner

Location: Wynnum North
No.  Before CTT brought into service some years ago QR paraded it at various locations for inspection.  At  Townsville I had a look and discovered seats ( admittedly brand new ) were harder than 'Lander seats and didn't recline as much.  The plus side was the user friendly screen in back of the seat in front also showing loco mounted camera.   But all this at twice the price I said no thanks.
  petey3801 Chief Commissioner

Location: On the rails
That, and there weren't actually any economy seats in the old style CTT. All business class only. Never had a ride in one, so can't say how good or bad they were, although new seats will generally soften up a bit as time goes on.
  DM45 Station Master

Location: Redland City
That, and there weren't actually any economy seats in the old style CTT. All business class only. Never had a ride in one, so can't say how good or bad they were, although new seats will generally soften up a bit as time goes on.
petey3801

I travelled from Cairns on the Spirit last week in "Premium Economy" class. The train was very impressive as a piece of engineering technology, but as a means of conveying passengers long distances, it leaves a lot to be desired. The main problem was the seats.

They are now trimmed in leather (easier to clean), but the seat cushion is completely flat, with no bolster on the front edge so that my backside kept moving forward with the motion of the train and I had to continually adjust my position. I don't know if the ergonomics expert who designed the seats ever sat in them for any length of time, but if you recline the seat back, the head rest is so far back that you have to lean your head right back without a pillow.

There doesn't appear to be much lower back support - I used a rolled up blanket to allow me some comfort when I tried to sleep. In addition, there are no footrests (probably some obscure H&S requirement) - which means that you tend to slip forward in the seat.

In the end, my seat companion and I resorted to sitting up sleeping with our elbows on the tray table, heads supported on our hands.

He had travelled on the CTT before the Spirit was introduced, in business class which had more comfortable fabric seats (with footrests) in a 2 plus 1 configuration instead of the current 2 plus 2 setup.

My carriage was the PWD one which had single seats for disabled passengers and room for wheelchairs and luggage at the rear section of the carriage.

With respect to the rest of the journey, the Club Car was good - open all hours - prices reasonable. The choice of video entertainment was good except that there is no longer any video of the train track. I could not get anyone to explain what the USB port in the side of the seat was for next to the headphone jack. The view from the large windows is excellent and the toilets and showers were roomy and clean. The overhead luggage bins were large enough to accomodate an overnight bag and my laptop bag

I would suggest that if you intend to travel on this train, you bring a decent pillow and a blanket, as the pillows supplied are about the size of a 1 kilo bag of flour and just as unyielding and there are not always enough blankets.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Thanks for your report DM45.

I'm not at all confident the overseas tourism market can rescue this Ford Edsel of a train from its abandonment by the locals. Every time I read a report of the CTT it's never a glowing appraisal.

Sure the club car may be great and the service as well, however IMO the locals will try it once and say never again.

I'd like to be proven wrong but I can't see how patronage can grow on these trains and the consequence of this will probably be dire.

Having always travelled in a sleeper, I'll certainly never be travelling in a seat all night...no matter how comfortable, and really it IS all about comfort isn't it.

I'll give the CTT's 5 years...

Mike.
  ADG612 Locomotive Fireman

I don't even live in Queensland, yet I can't get over the fact that their getting rid of a perfectly good train that's probably world famous
  phil_48 Deputy Commissioner

Location: Wynnum North
Its called privatization.  No one wants to build new locos to replace those now 40 years old+  locos to haul any possible new Sunlander, let alone any passenger comfort as well as going to the expense of new cars and the staff to man them.  Qld Govt happier to spend the money on more toll roads in Brisvegas that few use and later on a toll Bruce Highway which will squeeze the cash out of those pax who used to use the Sunlander and who will now drive.
  Graham4405 Minister for Railways

Location: Dalby Qld
I can't get over the fact that their getting rid of a perfectly good train
ADG612

The problem is, it isn't "a perfectly good train", in that the M series cars are past their use by date. Refurbishing them to current standards would not be cost effective.
  DM45 Station Master

Location: Redland City
The problem is, it isn't "a perfectly good train", in that the M series cars are past their use by date. Refurbishing them to current standards would not be cost effective.
Graham4405

I agree, Graham4405, the M series cars first went on the rails in 1953! They are built of mild steel and painted. The rust is showing through on many of the coaches. Even after many refurbishments and retro fitment of retention toilets etc they are well past by their use by date. They are uneconomical to convert to current disability access standards.

The L series stainless steel cars, built in the mid 80s may be able to have some converted to twin sleepers but I don't think there are enough of them to supply trainsets for both the Spirit of the Outback & a Sunlander, let alone the Inlander & Westlander, whose future is also under a cloud.
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
I agree, Graham4405, the M series cars first went on the rails in 1953! They are built of mild steel and painted. The rust is showing through on many of the coaches. Even after many refurbishments and retro fitment of retention toilets etc they are well past by their use by date. They are uneconomical to convert to current disability access standards.

The L series stainless steel cars, built in the mid 80s may be able to have some converted to twin sleepers but I don't think there are enough of them to supply trainsets for both the Spirit of the Outback & a Sunlander, let alone the Inlander & Westlander, whose future is also under a cloud.
DM45

A quick google found the L series combine up of

(if someone could confirm what the code actually means, appreciated)
5 QPB, Power Cars
2 enclosed car carriers,
5 LDC, Dinning car
5 LAR, Sitter ?
5 LAL, First Class Twin Sleeper?
10 LBL, Guards Van or economy ???
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
Quote
"I don't even live in Queensland, yet I can't get over the fact that their getting rid of a perfectly good train that's probably world famous"


As stated by others, the train is not perfectly good, its falling apart and last time I rode it it was more than showing its age. How much dollar value the Qld govt places on the Sunlander reputation seems very small. Personally from my experience I don't think its that well known and the number of overseas tourists that fly here to use the train are probably very small. Looking at numbers quoted in another thread, Qlder class has shrunk to a single car. Not so long ago it was its own train.

Of the remaining L class cars, there would appear enough cars to make up two sets although some will/may need a refit of sorts to get a suitable fleet. From this you can form a SOTO set and another set for the NCL.

SOTO and the lets say Qlder sets should then be contracted out. The SOTO is part tourist train part CSO so fares would continue to be subsidised, however I think it should have a class of service that is full cost recovery offering a higher standard.

The Qlder class train would be operated as a more traditional service specifically targeting the tourist market filling in the gap by the CTT, aka IP/Ghan style and maybe picking up sort of where the GPSE failed. However it should have a two year target of full cost recovery from fares and the CTT remains the CSO service.

regards
Shane
  ADG612 Locomotive Fireman

"I don't even live in Queensland, yet I can't get over the fact that their getting rid of a perfectly good train that's probably world famous"




For some reason, most of what I wrote in that post didn't show up.
I went to say how its replacement is 10 steps backwards and how I would be reluctant to travel by train north of Rockhamption  if I went back to Queensland.
  Graham4405 Minister for Railways

Location: Dalby Qld
For some reason, most of what I wrote in that post didn't show up.
ADG612

You put a weird combination of brackets in, I guess it confused the software!
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

A quick google found the L series combine up of

(if someone could confirm what the code actually means, appreciated)
5 QPB, Power Cars
2 enclosed car carriers,
5 LDC, Dinning car
5 LAR, Sitter ?
5 LAL, First Class Twin Sleeper?
10 LBL, Guards Van or economy ???
RTT_Rules

5 QPB power cars
5 LDC dining cars (two to be converted to Economy Service Car, one to be converted to Economy Service Car with lounge)
2 DSOP car carriers
10 LAR Roomettes (three to be converted to Double Roomettes, five to be converted to Staff Cars)
5 LAL First class sitters (some stored)
5 LBL Economy class sitters

First conversions to be completed by December 2014...supposedly

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