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The Savannahlander stopped at Mutchilba to pick up the staff
Service typePassenger train
PredecessorForsayth Mixed
First service3 April 1995
Current operator(s)Cairns Kuranda Steam Pty Ltd.
Former operator(s)Queensland Rail
Distance travelled424 km
Average journey time4 Days
Service frequencyWeekly
Line(s) usedTablelands railway, Etheridge Railway
Rolling stock2000 Class Railmotors
Track owner(s)Queensland Rail
Route map
Barron Falls
Mount Surprise

The Savannahlander is an Australian passenger train service (primarily serving tourists) that operates in Far North Queensland. It travels on the Tablelands railway line and the Etheridge railway line from the coastal city of Cairns to Forsayth.[1]


The Savannahlander at Stoney Creek Falls in April 2005

The service was introduced on 3 April 1995 by Queensland Rail to replace the Forsayth Mixed (marketed as the 'Last Great Train Ride'). The line was closed from Mareeba to Mount Surprise at the same time. It was initially run with a 2000 class railmotor set that was refurbished at Townsville Workshops. This was only on the Mount Surprise to Forsayth section of the Etheridge line. However, after an upgrade of the line for sugar syrup trains from Cairns to Arriga, and a limited restoration of the rest of the line, the railmotor started travelling from Cairns to Forsayth in September 1998. In 2004 it was decided to run it under contract by a private operator, Cairns Kuranda Steam Pty Ltd.[2][3] While primarily a passenger service between Cairns and Forsayth, the train can be chartered for large groups.[4]

On 27 March 2019, a car collided with the Savannahlander at a level crossing in the city of Cairns. The driver of the car failed to give way at the crossing and was subsequently injured in the crash.[5]

Route and timetable

The Savannahlander at Lappa Junction in April 2006

Running for 39 weeks in the year, The Savannahlander departs Cairns railway station (16°55′33″S 145°46′16″E / 16.9257°S 145.7712°E / -16.9257; 145.7712 (Cairns railway station)) at 06:30 Wednesday mornings [4] and travels up the scenic Kuranda Range past the Barron Falls (16°50′11″S 145°38′34″E / 16.8364°S 145.6429°E / -16.8364; 145.6429 (Barron Falls railway station)) to Kuranda (16°49′09″S 145°38′21″E / 16.8191°S 145.6391°E / -16.8191; 145.6391 (Kuranda railway station)). It then travels to the south-west on the Chillagoe-Mungana branch line. The train travels through the towns of Mareeba (16°59′38″S 145°25′17″E / 16.9938°S 145.4213°E / -16.9938; 145.4213 (Mareeba railway station)) and Dimbulah (17°09′00″S 145°06′38″E / 17.1500°S 145.1106°E / -17.1500; 145.1106 (Dimbulah railway station)) before passing through Lappa Junction (17°21′33″S 144°53′10″E / 17.3591°S 144.8861°E / -17.3591; 144.8861 (Lappa railway station)) and arriving in Almaden (17°20′18″S 144°40′41″E / 17.3384°S 144.6780°E / -17.3384; 144.6780 (Almaden railway station)) where it stays for the night. On Thursday morning The Savannahlander continues south-west on the Etheridge Railway. The rail motor passes through Mount Surprise (18°08′48″S 144°19′04″E / 18.1468°S 144.3179°E / -18.1468; 144.3179 (Mount Surprise railway station)) and Einasleigh (18°30′50″S 144°05′30″E / 18.5140°S 144.0917°E / -18.5140; 144.0917 (Einasleigh railway station)) before terminating at Forsayth railway station (18°35′13″S 143°36′10″E / 18.5869°S 143.6028°E / -18.5869; 143.6028 (Forsayth railway station)). On Friday the train departs Forsayth for Mount Surprise. The train then departs for Cairns on Saturday morning.[6]

Rolling stock

Crossing a wooden bridge on the Tablelands Line

The Savannahlander rollingstock comprises three former two-car Queensland Railways 2000 class rail motors.

Two (2026 and 2028) are "PD" (Passenger / Driving) cars. They were built for Queensland Rail in 1963, and have the classic 1960s-era streamlined front ends. Originally, they were fitted with 160 hp (119 kW) Rolls-Royce diesel engines.

The third (2053) is a 2051-class rail motor, built in 1971, known as a "PLDT" (Passenger & Luggage / Driving / Trailing) car. It has access doors at each end, rather than a streamlined front, which allowed it to be placed in the middle of other sets, so that sets of three or four cars could be formed. Only four of that style of car were built, and they were originally fitted with an AEC engine. It was re-engined in 2005, along with the other Savannahlander units.[7]

All units were re-engined with a 250 hp (186 kW) Cummins Diesel engines. As well as the new engines, the units were fitted with new Allison gearboxes.[8]

See also



  1. ^ Thomas, A. (July 2004). "The Savannahlander - Forsayth to Cairns". Australian Railway History: 255–258.
  2. ^ "Savannahlander Launched" Railway Digest May 1995 page 15
  3. ^ Queensland Transport - Long distance passenger transport service contracts
  4. ^ a b "The Savannahlander". Queensland Holidays. Tourism Queensland. Archived from the original on 3 November 2011. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  5. ^ Cairns Post (27 March 2019). "Train Driver's Shock at Crash". The Cairns Post. The Cairns Post. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  6. ^ Savannahlander Itinerary Archived 28 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine Savannahlander
  7. ^ Rollingstock Archived 24 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine Savannahlander
  8. ^ "History". Savannahlander. Retrieved 1 August 2023.