The service was introduced on 3 April 1995 by Queensland Rail but is now run under contract by a private operator, Cairns Kuranda Steam Pty Ltd. While primarily a passenger service between Cairns and Forsayth, the train can be chartered for large groups.
On 27 March 2019, a car collided with the Savannahlander at a level crossing in the city of Cairns. The driver of the vehicle failed to give way at the crossing and was subsequently injured in the crash. 
Route and timetable
Running for 39 weeks in the year, The Savannahlander departs Cairns Central railway station at 06:30 Wednesday mornings and travels up the scenic Kuranda Range. It then travels to the south-west on the Chillagoe-Mungana branch line. The train travels through the towns of Mareeba and Dimbulah before arriving in Almaden where it stays for the night. On Thursday morning The Savannahlander continues south-west on the Etheridge Railway. The rail motors pass through Mount Surprise and Einasleigh before terminating at Forsayth. On Friday the train departs Forsayth for Mount Surprise. The train then departs for Cairns on Saturday morning.
The Savannahlander rollingstock comprises three former two-car Queensland Railways 2000 class rail motors.
Two (2026 and 2028) are "PD" (Passenger / Driving) cars. These units have the classic 1960s era streamlined front ends and were built for Queensland Rail in 1963. Originally they had 160 HP Rolls Royce diesel engines fitted.
The third (2053) is a 2051 class rail motor, known as a "PLDT" (Passenger & Luggage / Driving / Trailing) car. These cars have access doors at each end at the expense of the streamlined front. This allows the cars to be placed in the middle of the other sets and sets of three or four cars can be formed. There were only four of this style of car built, and they were originally fitted with an AEC engine. It was built in 1971 and re-powered along with the other Savannahlander units in 2005.
- The Savannahlander - Forsayth to Cairns Thomas, A. Australian Railway History, July 2004 pp255-258
- "Savannahlander Launched" Railway Digest May 1995 page 15
- Queensland Transport - Long distance passenger transport service contracts
- "The Savannahlander". Queensland Holidays. Tourism Queensland. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
- Cairns Post (27 March 2019). "Train Driver's Shock at Crash". The Cairns Post. The Cairns Post. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
- Savannahlander Itinerary Savannahlander
- Rollingstock Savannahlander