Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mooloolah: hiking the old tunnel


Mooloolah is a small town of 3,263 which is located just a 20 km drive from Caloundra at the base of the Sunshine Coast hinterland. Being 77 km from Brisbane on the North Coast line, there are plenty of trains that pass through the single track tunnel located between Landsborough and Mooloolah. Back in 1932 however, this section of railway line was realigned, and a new tunnel built to replace the old one. So just what become of the old 1891 railway tunnel? They placed it on the heritage listing, and today it is part of a hiking trail through Dularcha National Park.


The north entrance (Mooloolah side) of the original 1891 railway tunnel. The Dularcha Park Rail Trail is flat, the path leading down to it from Roses Road is not. 2014.

To hike the Dularcha National Park Rail Trail, you have to start from either Landsborough end on the corner of Beech Road and Cunningham Avenue, or the Mooloolah end at Paget Street with car parking off Dorson Drive. Or, you can be a bit lazy like me and drive to the end of Roses Road (a dirt road off Tunnel Ridge Road with very little parking), and hike the very steep 350 metre descent to the tunnel entrance. I downloaded the Queensland Government Dularcha National Park map to use as my reference, and there are some signs along the way, if like me, you choose to drive to the end of Roses Road.

There really is light at the end of the tunnel. Walking through the 100 metre long old Mooloolah railway tunnel is not a stumble in the dark experience while ducking from swooping bats. Anyone can do this. 2014.

The Dularcha National Park Rail Trail would also make a perfect day out by train from Brisbane City. Just download the map, catch a Sunshine Coast Line train to either Landsborough or Mooloolah Railway Station to walk the 3.2 km trail, have lunch in one of these charming country towns, and then catch the train back to the city. The tunnel is 100 metres long on a gentle curve, is not pitch black inside and there are no bats to worry about for the scared-at-heart. It is relatively flat, (being a former railway line), and is located closer to the Mooloolah end of the trail if you are looking for a shorter there and back option to walk.

Emerging from the south portal (Landsborough side) of the old Mooloolah railway tunnel. Isn't she gorgeous? Umm... my wife that is, not the tunnel. 2014.

The advantage of driving to the end of Roses Road however, is that for train enthusiasts like myself, the road passes over the current alignment of the North Coast Line. At the top of the new (well, the 1932 version makes it new-er), Mooloolah Tunnel is a clearing that gives great camera angles to the north and south of the approach to the tunnel. I parked by car on the side of the road, and in a one hour period on a Saturday afternoon photographed three trains, (including the steam train special I had come to photograph), while running back and forth across the road to take photos as each train emerged from the tunnel.

The approach to the new-er 1932 Mooloolah railway tunnel looking to the south with the Glasshouse Mountains in the distance. 2014.


Two mountain bikers who I had passed on the old tunnel hiking track earlier stopped and asked our group of a dozen grown men who were positioned in the bushes with cameras what we were taking photos of. After explaining that a steam train special was about to pass through any minute, they waited eagerly on their mountain bikes with us for the next hour, trying not to laugh as we ran left and right across the road to photograph passing freight trains and suburban electrics.

A southbound Aurizon freight train exiting the Mooloolah tunnel, 2014.

When the BB 18 1/4 class steam locomotive came, went, and finally whistled out of sight, one of the lads said something along the lines of, "well, thanks a lot boys. That was the greatest anti-climax ever. Maybe I was expecting the Man from Snowy River to be riding alongside the train, but I can't believe we just waited an hour to see that."

The Glasshouse Country Festival steam excursion to Mooloolah exiting Mooloolah tunnel, Saturday 25th October, 2014.

I guess it's true. To even the most casual observer, we train nuts can come across a little strange. And while my wife and son were busy laughing their heads off in the car as the two mountain bikers pedaled off saying that at least watching the train photographers was amusing, they were waiting in the cool of the car that was parked beneath a shady tree, catching the breeze from our vantage point high on the hill. I, on the other hand, had just stood in the hot sun for a little over an hour after our hike, waiting, waiting, waiting for that perfect photo. As I write this now, my head is as sun-burnt as a beetroot. In making sure I had my national park map printed out, camera packed, batteries fully charged, a blank SD card to shoot nothing short of 148 photos, and some drinks packed in a small cooler bag, I had left my hat at home on a scorching hot Queensland spring day. I'm sure the guys on bikes weren't that silly.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Nambour: The Sunshine Coast Line


Nambour Railway Station is 101 km north of Brisbane's Roma Street Station and 13 km inland from the coast line at Maroochydore. If you want to get as far north from Brisbane as you can get on the CityTrain network, then apart from the twice daily Gympie North Intercity Train (which also passes stops here), Nambour may just be the perfect destination. Train services between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast terminate here, at the railway station and bus interchange that was opened in 1986.


Nambour Railway Station looking along platform 1. 2014

Before the arrival of the rails from Brisbane, the area was known as Petrie's Creek. The name Nambour was taken from a nearby cattle station and the town renamed when the railway line opened in 1891 to avoid confusion with the suburb of Petrie in Brisbane. Once famous for the sugar cane railway that serviced the Moreton Sugar Mill, the town has retained a short section of cane tramway on the corner of Currie, Mill and Howard Streets to preserve some of the charm of this former sugar town. Today of course, the sugar mill is gone. In its place is the Nambour Mill Village Shopping Centre. But plans are underway to use the remaining 2 foot gauge tramway line linking either side of the town with a New Orleans style street tram, to take tourists and shoppers on a joyride through the heart of town, and only a short distance from the railway station.

The southbound Sunlander arriving at Nambour Railway Station, 2014.

Being on the North Coast Line, Nambour Railway Station today sees a passing parade of freight and passenger trains along with 13 daily Intercity Trains that terminate here on platform 2, which is a stub ended platform alongside the mainline. The mainline north and south of the station is single track, making Nambour a busy location for passing trains. The station has a fenced off holding yard to stable trains overnight, a large commuter car park and easy access to the main street of town, meaning you'll easily find somewhere to grab a bite to eat before catching a train back to the city. Travel off-peak using a Go card, and you'll be treated to some of the postcard views of the Glasshouse Mountains between Caboolture and Eudlo that so often feature on rail travel posters for Queensland Rail's longer distance travel trains, all for a fraction of the price.

That's me about to board The Sunlander at Nambour Railway Station in 2014 for one last trip to Cairns before the train is retired.

With the Big Pineapple is situated only a few km out of town, and the beaches and shops of Maroochydore just 13 km away, Nambour is a convenient stepping off point for exploring all that the Sunshine Coast has to offer. For this Sunshine Coaster however, Nambour was the hopping on point when taking one last trip on The Sunlander to Cairns. Although The Sunlander will disappear into the history pages after her final run south on December 31, 2014, the Spirit of Queensland, Spirit of the Outback, along with the Rockhampton and Bundaberg Tilt Trains will continue to stop at Nambour on their way north from Brisbane. And to fully appreciate travelling by train along Queensland's Coast, there is always my book, Train Tripping Coastal Queensland.


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2014: Australia's Top 20 Intercity Trains


After compiling a list of Australia's Top 20 Train Journeys, my thoughts turned to the dozens of trains that make it possible for riders to venture to their state capital for a day of shopping, sightseeing and sporting events; the often overlooked Intercity Trains of Australia. Although these trains don't feature the luxuries of their long distance cousins (such as food service, choice of seating or sleeping compartments), they do offer a premium level of travel comfort compared to what is considered a suburban train. Cloth seating, armrests and wider windows treat passengers to some spectacular scenery that is often within easy reach of Australia's capital cities, and at a budget price too! Fancy a day trip from Sydney to the Blue Mountains for only $5.67 each way? You'd better believe it. These Top 20 Intercity Trains represent some of the best value train travel Down Under.


Calculated using a formula that compares the cost per km and cost per hour against a one way off-peak fare, the lowest ranking score represents what in my opinion is the best-value Intercity train service in Australia. It made it possible to put a VLine train to Geelong up against a Sydney Trains service to Newcastle and compare which of the two offered better value for your dollar. So here is Australia's Top 20 Intercity Trains of 2014. All links below will open in a new window and take you to the full review found at traintrippingdownunder.blogspot.com.au .

  1. Newcastle Intercity Train (7.44) - Sydney to Newcastle - Sydney Trains
  2. Lithgow Intercity Train (7.64) - Sydney to Lithgow - Sydney Trains
  3. Scone Hunter Valley Train (10.37) - Newcastle to Scone - Sydney Trains
  4. Goulburn Intercity Train (10.43) - Sydney to Goulburn - Sydney Trains
  5. Mount Victoria Intercity Train (11.01) - Sydney to Mount Victoria - Sydney Trains
  6. Kiama Intercity Train (11.75) - Sydney to Kiama - Sydney Trains
  7. Katoomba Intercity Train (14.61) - Sydney to Katoomba - Sydney Trains
  8. Port Kembla Intercity Train (18.80) - Sydney to Port Kembla - Sydney Trains
  9. Wyong Intercity Train (19.20) - Sydney to Wyong - Sydney Trains
  10. Central Coast Intercity Train (24.64) - Gosford to Newcastle - Sydney Trains
  11. Dungog Hunter Valley Train (29.09) - Newcastle to Dungog - Sydney Trains
  12. Gosford Intercity Train (59.92) - Sydney to Gosford - Sydney Trains
  13. Gympie North Intercity Train (60.70) - Brisbane to Gympie - QR TRANSLink
  14. Geelong VLine Train (64.84) - Melbourne to Geelong (Marshall) - VLine
  15. Echuca VLine Train (75.76) - Melbourne to Echuca - VLine
  16. Seymour VLine Train (83.40) - Melbourne to Seymour - VLine
  17. Ballarat VLine Train (87.97) - Melbourne to Ballarat (Wendouree) - VLine
  18. Nambour Intercity Train (89.14) - Brisbane to Nambour - QR TRANSLink
  19. Traralgon VLine Train (93.83) - Melbourne to Traralgon - VLine
  20. Bendigo VLine Train (104.56) - Melbourne to Bendigo (Eaglehawk) - VLine

Honorable Mentions: