My Exciting Train Journey to Longreach

From the bustling city town of Brisbane, to the outback vista known as Longreach – and back again – my journey on the esteemed ‘Spirit of the Outback’ rail experience can be described in three words: Lots of Fun!

Spanning a massive 1,325km, the trip out west took a total of 25 hours. (Oh! I can hear you say). The train first travelled along the east coast of Queensland, from Brisbane to Rockhampton, before jutting off into the west, through Blackwater, Emerald, and Barcaldine, to Longreach. As the late travel documentarian Anthony Bourdain so brilliantly explained: the journey is part of the experience. And I can truly say it was quite the experience…

Upon first boarding, the energy was electric. Passengers bustled about, trying to take in as much as they could. Perched on the seat awaiting my arrival was a charming ‘Letter of Welcome’. I knew from that moment we would all be treated with warmth and attentiveness – and I wasn’t wrong.

Once we were on the way, it wasn’t long before excitement turned to hunger. The two meal-time sittings ensured there was no waiting or pushing, with each and every traveller getting the royal treatment.

The menu for each meal was well thought-out, with multiple tasty selections for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including a complimentary drink with lunch and dinner…What a lovely surprise!

Stretching my legs, I made my way to ‘The Shearers Rest’, the train’s exclusive Sleeper passenger lounge car. Serving drinks and complimentary tea and coffee with biscuits throughout the day, it was hard to say no. It was the perfect place to sit back with a book and cuppa, or chat with others. That is, of course, if you can tear your gaze away from the breathtaking views clambering for your attention out either side’s windows.

I will never forget the scenery going out and coming back – the ever-changing colours and flowing dams and creeks were wonderful to see.

There was a friendly social atmosphere, with everyone from staff to the man in the next room checking to see how I was going and stopping for a chat.

My single sleeper cabin (twin sleepers available if required) was a delight. It featured a comfy large seat by day – converting into a bed at night – with pristine clean white as-white sheets, doona, and very comfortable pillows. The bed may be a little narrow, and some flexibility was required to manoeuvre around when the bed was out, but those were inconsequential to this memorable adventure.

The train stopping at Barcaldine both ways was super. Our first step outside was like walking into the past, with the historic ‘Tree of Knowledge’ right beside the station. Crowding around the spectacle, I was amazed to read about the Shearers Strike of 1891 where ‘more than 1,000 men downed their shears to march through the streets demanding better conditions from graziers and for the recognition of unionism. Lasting four months, the strike ended with 13 of its leaders arrested and sentenced to three years hard labour to be served at St Helena Island prison.’ It was from this event that sprung forth the Labour Party.

Another unforgettable sight was the large Windmill – a symbol of the importance Artesian Water plays to outback Queensland. Constructed in 1917, the Mill stands on the sight of the first flowing bore in Queensland. It can pump in wind speeds as low as three kilometres per hour, and has a 27 feet wheel. Wow!

The end of our first leg of the journey approached quicker than we expected. Alighting from the train in Longreach, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself immediately standing opposite the Longreach Motel. Waiting for me was the hotel Manager, a lovely lady who accompanied me across the main road. Knowing that I had just had an operation a few weeks earlier, she even wheeled my suitcase across for me – talk about country-town hospitality!

This was a great start and expressed everyone I met in Longreach. ‘The Spirit of the Outback’ certainly lives up to expectations. I loved it and everything that followed…

Jacqueline Power
Australian Over 50s Living & Lifestyle Guide

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