Thank goodness, the final catch-up post. We had to be up bright and early, bags packed and loaded onto the truck, all ready for the final rather long day of travel. A couple of the camp staff were cooking up enough bacon and eggs on the BBQ to feed several carriages of rail enthusiasts, so that was a great start to the day.
Bacon and eggs for breakfast
Then it was all board for the final day of our outback trip. There were no such niceties as air con on this vintage train, it was open windows all the way.
The rail track is laid over both steel and wooden sleepers, both used for quite different reasons. The steep sleepers keep the gauge accurate and requires packing, and the wooden sleepers provides foundation for the line.
Bounding kangaroo and Braham cattle in the bush
The train stopped for an early lunch at the aptly named Railway Hotel at Almaden. No fancy city slicker food here, but the cold meat and salad was a hit on such a hot day. And there’s an artistic shot of our train across at the station.
Lunch stop at Almaden
There was quite a bit of excitement on board when it was announced that we were stopping for a train photo stop. Keen photographers clambered down from the train and got ready to snap some pictures. The train backed up then slowly came forward, while the paparazzi started clicking like crazy.
Train photo shoot
Our friendly driver Wil kept up a running commentary when he took over driving duties from Leigh in the afternoon. Wil professes to a deep love of snakes, and has more than his fair share at home. All sorts, and he breeds and sells them, and milks them for venom. Wil was a zoo keeper in a former life, so whenever he sees something interesting by the track, the train is stopped and he is off like a shot to investigate. Such as when he saw a kookaburra kill and fly off with a small snake in it’s beak and then drop it. He then carried it up beside the train to show the passengers before puting it safely back onto the ground so the kookaburra can find it again and finish his meal.
Wil with the small snake dropped by a Kooburra
Wil related the story of one of his hero's, Kevin Budden, who set out into the bush in 1950 to capture a taipan as this was the final antivenin yet to be developed in Australia. With no luck in finding this particular breed of snake, he returned to Cairns, where he caught 27 snakes before finding a taipan at the rubbish dump near Edge Hill. He caught it without any catching equipment or snake bag and walked to the nearest road and summoned a truck upon which he sat beside the driver with the snake in his hands. When he arrived at his friend’s place, the identity of the snake was confirmed. Unfortunately, Budden relaxed his grip whilst putting it into a bag and it bit him on the boot, before fastening on to his hand. Horrified onlookers wanted to kill the snake but Budden insisted it was too valuable for research and it was secured and he was rushed to Cairns Base Hospital. Unfortunately, early signs of paralysis appeared, his condition gradually worsened and, despite receiving Tiger snake antivenin, he died on 28th July 1950. The experts successfully made antivenin from the snake Kevin so bravely caught. His memorial states: ‘‘Kevin Cliff Budden, 1950, He gave up life for all Queenslanders, let us not forget him’’.
From the window – Retford, and one of the millions of termite mounds
The train came to a halt a little further along, and we were under siege, boarded by a couple of Ned Kelly look-alikes. They came aboard brandishing their guns, helmets firmly in place, and holding their money bags aloft. Robbing trains is obviously a very lucrative business, as we noticed a helicopter parked in front of the family homestead.
Your money or your life
As we travelled closer to the coast the landscape changed dramatically as we entered the Tablelands. Gone was the yellow coloured dry grasslands, replaced by viable cropping country. Orchards of mango, citrus and avocado trees, coffee plantations, sugar cane, and even grape vines were growing in this area. Wil related yet another story as we passed by a couple of brolga birds from his years at the zoo. Seemed one of the male birds took a real fancy to Wil as he went about his cleaning and feeding duties, jumped on his back and ……….I’m sure you could work out what used to happen next if he didn’t get out of the enclosure in time. These are rather big birds standing 1m high and have a wing span of 2.4m so would be hard to shake off.
Two brolgas in the paddock
The final part of our journey continued down the Kuranda line and through the rain forest once more. Once again the train came to shuddering halt when Wil and Leigh spotted a feral pig and new young family beside the track. After racing around they finally gathered up five piglets, placed them inside an Eski (chilly bin to Kiwis) to take home a fatten up. As Wil commented, these introduced pests ravage the delicate balance of the rain forest, cannot be hunted in this environment, so he is doing his part in their removal. Plus he has Christmas dinner organised. We stopped at the Barron Falls Lookout for a few photos – just a trickle now but well worth a photo in the wet season, we were told.
Then we were all gathered together for a group photo to go on the Savannahlander web site.
As we finally pulled into Cairns Railway Station, our train adventure had come to an end. What a marvelous time we had during our six day trip in the great Outback.
Maps of our journey around the outback of Far North Queensland.
Road trip to Normanton and Rail Trip from Normanton to Croydon on the Gulflander
Savannahlander Railmotor Trip