In the 1888 timetable the train from Brisbane to Roma was officially called the Western Mail, with some runs extended through to Morven. With the opening of the line from Morven to Charleville on 1 March 1888 the train was again extended.
Victorian Railways introduced air-conditioned trains in 1935, and Queensland decided to follow suit in the late 1940’s. Carriages were designed to travel to all parts of the system, meaning a maximum axle load of 9 tons, which was a challenge for the dining cars. New features included showers in the sleeping cars, roomettes in first class and head end power cars, especially necessary where trains may be delayed by floods or other events, as was often the case.
The Westlander was introduced in August 1954, replacing the Western Mail and its wooden carriages with the present Commonwealth Engineering, Rocklea steel air-conditioned carriages. The route from Brisbane to Cunnamulla was 973 kilometres, with a connecting service to Quilpie from Charleville, 777 kilometres from Brisbane. Initially the Quilpie connecting train was not air-conditioned, so in 1967 a generator was fitted to an insulated van to provide power for an air-conditioned sitting car and mechanical refrigeration for the van to provide this comfort on the Quilpie service.
Later the Westlander was divided at Charleville, the service to Quilpie being nicknamed the Flying Flea and consisted of two passenger carriages, a guards van and power van.
The return service departed Cunnamulla at 09:00 arriving in Brisbane at lunchtime the next day. Even with the line speed from Cunnamulla being 30 km/h, the train was still preferred by many due to the lack of quality roads at the time. By 1957 freight wagons were also attached to the train, including louvred steel QRX and QLX-T wagons, and MPR refrigerated wagons. Up to 16 vehicles could make up the train. Passenger services beyond Charleville to Cunnamulla and Quilpie were withdrawn in 1994.
Today the train runs twice weekly to Charleville with a journey time of 17 hours. Connecting coach services operate to Cunnamulla and Quilpie.