Kuranda Scenic Railway
The Kuranda Scenic Railway is a name for the railway line that runs from Cairns, Queensland, Australia, to the nearby town of Kuranda. The tourist railway snakes its way up the Macalister Range and is no longer used for regular commuter services. It passes through the suburbs of Stratford, Freshwater (stopping at Freshwater Station) and Redlynch before reaching Kuranda. The line is used for some freight services and other passenger services, such as The Savannahlander.
The railway is 37 km (23 mi) in length. It takes about one hour and 55 minutes to climb one way including the stop off at the falls.
The tropical gardens Kuranda rail station are a well-known attraction in the area. Downhill the line cuts through the Barron Gorge National Park. The tourist train stops at a lookout, with a sweeping view of Barron Falls. A number of smaller waterfalls are passed, including Stoney Creek Falls, just metres from the train. The station is a short walk into town where there is a zoo, markets, art galleries and ethnic Aboriginal crafts. In the zoo, there is the option to hold a koala and feed kangaroos, a true Australian experience. At the bottom of the mountain, where many people pick up the train, Freshwater railway station has an information center, a gift shop, and a cafe that is inside of an old train carriage. As the train travels up and down, a detailed and informative commentary of the railway's construction is provided.
Construction of the railway began in 1886. The railway was completed as far as Kuranda in 1891. Passenger services began operations on 25 June 1891.
Many lives were lost as numerous tunnels and bridges were built. 15 hand-made tunnels and 37 bridges were built to climb from sea level to 328 metres up the Macalister Range. Three million cubic metres of earth had to be excavated during construction.
The first operation of a tourist train from Cairns to Kuranda was in 1936, using four longitudinal seating carriages. In 1995 major repairs had to be carried out after a severe rock fall damaged the track. On 26 March 2010 the train was derailed by a landslide injuring 5 of the 250 passengers on board. The service was closed until 7 May 2010 while a geotechnical review of the track and risk assessments were completed.
Each carriage is fitted with three LCD televisions to provide passengers with detailed information of the history of the Kuranda railway. It also provides passengers with information about the Barron Falls. There are also two gold class carriages where refreshments and finger food are served on the journey. In the standard carriages there are two booths that face each other which create a section, and there are five of these sections in each carriage. The carriages are very rustic and have been restored to look like the original ones, the wood work is very detailed and everything about the carriage is like being sent back in time. Although the red leather seats can become very hot and the breeze in the train is very minimal the carriages are quite impressive.