Queensland’s outback is a place rich in history and beauty both rugged and rare, all of which can be savoured from the railway tracks aboard the Spirit of the Outback.

Story By Danielle Lancaster

Rail travel has its own magic, and when the train travels through some of the most beautiful and evocative country in outback Queensland, that sense of taking part in something special is only enhanced. So it is for those who embark upon a journey on the Spirit of the Outback, a 15-carriage train that snakes along the 1325-kilometre rail-route from Brisbane to Longreach, via Rockhampton and the Tropic of Capricorn.
A journey on the Spirit is more than departures and destinations, it is about becoming part of the landscape and its history, and doing so in the rich surrounds of tailor-made rolling stock. For the train is specially-themed; each car sports an iconic outback name such as the Tuckerbox Dining Car, the Stockman’s Lounge and Captain Starlight’s Club Car (the latter named after infamous cattle thief Harry Redford). The décor reflects the names and ensures that travellers feel the strong presence of our rich bush heritage while relaxing in the comfortable modernity of airconditioning and soft furnishings.
Since its inception 10 years ago, the Spirit of the Outback rail journey has become a favourite with people from throughout Australia and the world. For passengers Brian Trevor-Roberts and his wife Rosa, it is the combination of the social atmosphere onboard, the spectacular scenery, and the fact that they arrived in the outback refreshed and ready to explore that made their experience so positive.
“This was a fantastic holiday for us – really terrific,” Brian says. “Both Rosa and I had not travelled extensively into Queensland’s outback and it seemed at the time a wonderful option. In fact, it turned out to be an exciting alternative and one we remember very fondly for the experience it gave us. The onboard commentary was just enough to tell us interesting facts about outback life both past and present, the life of the railway as an essential service in the outback and the fascinating scenery we were passing. One of the great options for us was being able to load our car onto the Spirit. From Longreach, we travelled to Winton and continued on exploring to Cooktown.”
For those who do not load on their vehicle, there are day tours and extended touring packages to surrounding attractions including Winton, with its Waltzing Matilda Centre, Ilfracombe’s historic Wellshot Hotel, Lark Quarry Dinosaur Trackways, Blackall’s Woolscour, the Australian Worker’s Heritage Centre in Barcaldine and the Min Min Encounter in Boulia.
Passengers are accommodated in either sleeping berths (for up to three people) or seats. The sleeping berths are fitted with washbasins and power points. The menu served in the Tucker Box Dining Car should satisfy all, with a wide range on offer and all diets catered for.
On its journey the Spirit passes through a changing landscape: the soaring sandstone cliffs of the Blackdown Tableland; stands of brigalow; sweeping paddocks of wheat and cotton and the wide, open plains that signal the start of the vast pastoral country of the outback.

This story excerpt is from Issue #58

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2008