The Westlander

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The Westlander
Service type Passenger train
Status Operational
First service August 1954
Current operator(s) Queensland Rail
Start Brisbane
End Charleville
Distance travelled 740 km (460 mi)
Average journey time 17 hours
Service frequency 2 × per week
The Westlander

The Westlander is an Australian passenger train operated by Queensland Rail on the Main and Western lines between Brisbane and the outback town of Charleville.


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.[1]

Victorian Railways introduced air-conditioned trains in 1935, and Queensland Rail decided to follow suit in the late 1940s. Steel 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 (605 mi), with a connecting service to Quilpie from Charleville, 777 kilometres (483 mi) from Brisbane.[2] 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. In August 1994 the service was cut back to Charlevile.[3]

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 (19 mph), the train was still preferred by many due to the lack of quality roads at the time.[2] 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.[2] Passenger services beyond Charleville to Cunnamulla and Quilpie were withdrawn in 1994.[1]


Today the train runs twice weekly to Charleville with a journey time of 17 hours. Connecting coach services operate to Cunnamulla and Quilpie.[4]

The dining and sleeping cars were withdrawn from 1 January 2015, with catering now provided by at seat snack packs delivered at meal times.[5][6]

Subsidy levels[edit]

In 2016, the service was estimated to have carried 3,677 people in the previous financial year, with the effective subsidy paid by the Queensland State Government for each passenger amounting to an estimated $4,007 (total subsidy $14.7m) [7]


  1. ^ a b "About Traveltrain - History". Archived from the original on 7 Sep 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  2. ^ a b c Robin Bromby (2004). The Railway Age in Australia. Lothian Press. p. 97. ISBN 0-7344-0715-7.
  3. ^ "QR's Westlander Service Truncated" Railway Digest September 1994 page 14
  4. ^ Westlander timeable Archived 11 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine. Queensland Rail 1 January 2015
  5. ^ The Westlander Factsheet Queensland Rail
  6. ^ "Westlander and Inlander to lose sleeping and dining cars this month" Railway Digest January 2015 page 16
  7. ^