Great South Pacific Express
|Service type||Tourist train|
|First service||April 1999|
|Last service||June 2003|
|Former operator(s)||Queensland Rail|
Venice-Simplon Orient Express
|Track gauge||1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)|
1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge
In December 1996, Queensland Rail announced it would enter a joint venture with Venice-Simplon Orient Express to operate a luxury tourist train between Kuranda (near Cairns) and Sydney. It commenced operating in April 1999. The train accommodated 100 passengers in up to 21 carriages, at a cost of $3,500 to $5,500 depending on type of accommodation. The train also made occasional excursions to Canberra, the Blue Mountains and the Hunter Region.
After the demise of the service the carriages were sold to Orient-Express Hotels for an undisclosed price in 2005, for use on their trains overseas. 20 of the carriages remained in storage at the North Ipswich Railway Workshops, with Queensland Rail stating an Orient Express holding company owned them, while an Orient Express Hotels manager in London said they were still owned by Queensland Rail.
In 2013, the Queensland Government approached the Venice-Simplon Orient Express for permission to operate the remaining carriages on tours in Queensland.
In February 2016 the carriages were moved from the Workshops Rail Museum at Ipswich to the Port of Brisbane for shipment to Peru where they will be used by the Orient Express Hotels' successor Belmond and its partly-owned railroad company PeruRail. The train may enter in service in May 2017 as Belmond Andean Explorer to carry passengers from Cusco to Puno (at the Lake Titicaca) and to Arequipa.
The 21 carriages were built at the Queensland Rail workshops in Townsville for $35 million. They were built to operate on both the narrow 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) gauge in Queensland and 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge in New South Wales with the train undergoing a bogie exchange en route at Acacia Ridge.
The train consisted of sleeping cars in three different comfort levels (Pullman, State and Commissioner Suites), two dining cars, two bar cars (one of them with an open-air observation deck), a power car and staff sleepers. The entire train layout was designed similar to the Eastern and Oriental Express, but with a different interior style.
- "QR joins with Orient Express to Operate Luxury Train" Railway Digest February 1997 page 17
- "QR's Great South Pacific Express Enters Service" Railway Digest May 1999 page 9
- "Welcome to The International Railway Traveler (IRT)". www.irtsociety.com. Archived from the original on 8 February 2003. Retrieved 24 June 2008.
- "QR sells Great South Pacific Express". www.travelweekly.com.au. 20 September 2005. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 24 June 2008.
- Queensland's luxury Orient Express train still sits idle in Ipswich after five years Courier Mail 4 October 2010
- Ian Townsend (3 October 2010). "Luxury train stuck in limbo". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). www.abc.net.au. Retrieved 3 October 2010.
- Thompson, Tuck (21 September 2013). "Queensland's own 'Orient Express' emerges from storage at The Workshops Rail Museum at Ipswich". Courier Mail.
- "Great train mystery solved as luxury carriages ship out". Queensland Times. 25 February 2016.
- "Belmond Andean Explorer - Luxury Train Travel To Machu Picchu, Peru". www.belmond.com. Retrieved 7 April 2017.