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My Short Train Journey on Spirit of Queensland

Taking a short train journey from Cairns to Townsville as a crew gave me different outlook on the train journey itself.

By i.c Golina

There is always light at the end of the tunnel, if your on the right track.


I always been fascinated by the trains but never wanted to understand how they operate. Probably, growing up in a third world country, trains were never heard of and non-existence even today. This might have contributed to my lack of understanding or interests on trains, however, one of my childhood ambition was to go on a train ride. It didn’t matter whether the it was for a 5-minute train ride or a long distance train journey.

As I lay in my bed with a blank and vacant face trying to jot-back my memories and refresh my mind on my first ever train ride. It suddenly came to me that it was almost 40 years ago or even more when I had my first opportunity of a lifetime to ride on the train. I quickly jumped out of my comfortable bed and realised that I wasn’t dreaming. Yes, my first ever train ride happens to be in Cairns on Kuranda Scenic Railway.

Kuranda Scenic Train

I am a great believer in “FATE”. We humans co-exist on unknown forces of some kind that is beyond human control. It was’t just coincidence, not knowing that many years down the track I will be working on that very train where I began on my first ever train trip in my life. As part of my job, I travel up and down on the Kuranda Scenic train, which is one of the world’s greatest rail-journeys in the world and it is historical. Trip-advisor is the best place to find out if this train journey is worth doing. As you read through the comments made by many travellers on this train, it gives you a better understanding of what option you have to take. To me, it is one of the amazing train trip up the mountain and it is highly recommended.

Setting aside my thoughts on my first train journey, I began to think back on my first passenger train journey that I took on – “Spirit of Queensland” as an onboard crew member. Yes, working onboard this magnificent train as a crew member from Cairns to Townsville segment gave me a different perspective on the train journey. The Spirit of Queensland train starts its journey from Brisbane to Cairns five times a week. The train offers two classes of service, economy class and rail-bed service with modern style seating. Traveling on this train is contemporary, comfortable and designed for relaxation.

Townsville station

In travelling on this train journey, I have truly seen the modern rail travel experience with a comfortable and convenient way to access spectacular holiday destinations. Train journeys are not about travelling from A to B, whether it is a short or long-haul train travel, but train journeys are just as much about the experience. This rail journey from Cairns to Townsville I have seen the Far North Queensland in all its splendour, in air-conditioned comfort, while enjoying the train journey as a crew member. It certainly beats buses and coaches any day.

As an onboard crew member on Spirit of Queensland my day began at 0730am at Cairns railway station, an hour early before the train departs. Preparing everything onboard from snacks to lunch meals. Once, every passengers were checked-in, we finally commenced our 5 hour train journey from Cairns to Townsville. Like any other long distance train journeys, it has all the comforts for every travellers needs ranging from communal showers, restrooms to cafe area known as the “Club-Car” where most economy passengers gather and purchase most of their meals and all assorted drinks. For rail-bed passengers, most meals are complimentary served as part of the train-fare. Their seats slide out as sleeping beds while economy passengers sit upright most of the train journey.

As I love observing people’s behaviour, this train journey has became an ideal spot for my people-watching. From what I have seen and observed, the club-car area became a meeting place for most of the economy class travellers. As an employee on the tourist train, I could see the contrast between the tourist train and long passenger train clienteles. There was a huge difference in customers onboard and the quality of service. As a crew member on the train, I was to be broad-minded and be aware of the cultural differences as I was constantly dealing with people from all walks of life. I found that dealing with passengers on tourist train were more tolerant. 

It was about 15:30pm, when we finally arrived in Townsville. Since, it was a same-day trip for me, which meant that I was to fly back that same day back to Cairns. I had 4-5 hours of free time in Townsville before taking my 7pm flight back to Cairns. It has been a while since I visited the city of Townsville so I decided to take a taxi to one of the major shopping centres in Townsville. It was a beautiful day in Townsville when we arrived and the heat of the sun was not as bad as I first thought. I have been to Townsville many times before during my years of living in Australia, especially in Queensland, directions to various suburbs or places in Townsville was not an issue in scanning the area. I decided not to eat early as I wanted to do some window shopping before the shops were closed. Without been surprised, a lot of the speciality shops were slowly packing away their display stalls, manikins and cloth racks in front of the shops. It was just before most of the shops were shutting down when I finally finished shopping. I quickly bought some sushi for dinner before I catching the taxi to the airport for my return flight home.

To do some of the scenic train journeys whether in Australia or around the world, it was truly an unique experience for me. It was completely a different form of land travel experience with a bit of luxury compared to coach travel.

Disembarking Townsville Station, Rocky Staff jump in for next segment

From a personal perspective: It is sometimes unknown that you’re lucky enough to be working on a train where many travellers pay a lot of money to go on this train journey to experience it. Sometimes we don’t realise that, we are privileged to go on this train journey but we get paid for it – we earned it though.

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