Spirit of Queensland - 1700kms in a railbed seat

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mcropod

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 29, 2018
Messages
333
Location
Oz
I left you in Cairns, a tropical port and tourism city of north Queensland in Oz on the Pacific coast. As my home lies about 3,500kms south in a southwestern Victorian regional city, I had to find a way to get there.

I could cover about half that distance on a regular scheduled Queensland Rail service, the Spirit of Queensland, which covers Cairns-Brisbane (Queensland's capital city in the SE of that big state) as an overnighter service.

Previous incarnations of the sleeper service used traditional sleeper cabin layouts, but the SoQ has ditched that for the first class to be rail beds instead. These look like long-haul flights' business class seating/lie flat bed arrangements - a seat within a hard shell, able to be turned into a cocoon-like bed.

The size and location of Oz means just about every international flight we take is a long-haul (except for New Zealand which is just a shortie of four hours for us east-coast residents). So my recent OS flights have been up the BC end of the plane. I've happily enjoyed the offerings of Singapore Air and Qatar, and I was due to have a try of Thai before the current unpleasantness arrived so I'm familiar with how well they can work.

But I'm not a fan of QR's, sadly. The seat as a seat was large and well-padded, it had access to a decent-sized screen on which various entertainments could be seen. There was a USB outlet and a 3.5mm sound outlet for those inclined. There was a decent and very stable pull-out table, a footrest, and comfortable armrests. But it didn't have any angle adjustment - the only move it could make was forwards and backwards as a complete unit. The seat back and the seat itself remained in whatever its angle was.

to turn it into lie flat configuration required one of the OBS crew to come along, plug in a device, and then use that device to unlock it, and slowly get it to flat and stretched-out. It seemed very much more complicated than it could have been. But the main criticism is that it has so little adjustment for the occupant.

For me, one of the pleasures of taking a sleeper is the ability to get horizontal whenever you fancy. I've often left the bed down for days on a proper LD journey. I never know when the sleeps will hit, and because getting a decent go at night can never be assured, getting a few Zeds in whenever I fancy, is what best works for me.

There's nothing wrong with the concept, just that this seat does not compare favourably with its Qatar Air equivalent, even though the technology has to be similar. I don't have a problem with the open carriage - that's exactly the same as an airline's BC cabin - just the seatbed.

The layout is in 2-1 formation, each row is properly aligned with a window, the toilets and showers are great, the meals and service was tops and friendly, the scenery was wonderful as the train made its way down the east of the country - sugarcane and fruitgrowing for the first several hours before moving into cattle-grazing around the Tropic, which we crossed around midnight at Rockhampton.

The ride wasn't expensive, and I suspect this partly is because the SoQ is a government service to Queensland taxpayers as it's a vital link between its major regional cities and the capital. First Class was chokka, and Economy also looked very well occupied with people on and off at just about every stop along the two-day journey. It was on-time throughout.

I'd whole-heartedly recommend the train, and QR, but would prefer a more adjustable seat. At least one other LD QR service offers sleepers in traditional cabin form, and I'll look to have a run on that sometime soon.

Pics below of the seat and carriage (the first pic is one of the economy class carriages).

3E5AE255-9883-48F2-BF22-1277DB225AF1.jpegAAAD8653-7513-4378-986E-8A568AEE0576.jpeg3370F581-4607-4F45-999E-7BE6B7D6D589.jpegD9E8E0F2-65F3-464C-AC38-B90AEFC80A7F.jpegC5936EB1-5E78-46D1-9B6D-C3484141AE54.jpeg6D849248-1748-4818-B969-1FD198E2EF92.jpeg47CE64E4-3C2F-4030-BF15-A37BF415FC3C.jpeg373AF6D5-B5FE-43B7-BB2F-18D5454F5CB2.jpegAE3E66E0-B432-427A-9C56-59BE8EDB27F5.jpeg
 

mcropod

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 29, 2018
Messages
333
Location
Oz
The meals were good, and delivered to one's seat. Other than breakfast, they included a drink of hard or soft version - I chose a Shiraz, and found it was a Queensland vintner. My preferences are for Victorian and South Australian reds, and I was surprised to see Qld had anything at all. But it was perfectly acceptable.

First meal was around mid-day on Day One, quite a serviceable chicken noodle dish with a sticky-date pudding for dessert.

Second was evening Day One, and given we were going through the heartland of Qld's beef country, I had the beef cheeks. It must have come from a very happy cow who smiled a lot because it was very tender. It came with an entree of a pasta salad and a small cheese and fruit serve.

The third and last was breakfast on our departure morning on Day Two. It was a small omlette with a wee sausagey thing, and a warm crumpet.

There was a twice-daily tea and coffee service trundled up and down the aisle, and complementry seat service of tea/coffee was available at anytime. There was also a buffet car selling food and drinks with some seating, but I didn't explore.

Take a ride, if you get a chance!

Pics in subsequent post which is a repeat of this post, because I klutzed it up.
 
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mcropod

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 29, 2018
Messages
333
Location
Oz
Brisbane, Thursday morning, and I still have a few more rides before I get home. But that was the 1700kms on the Spirit if Queensland sorted!

All I had now was about the same travel distance to get back home to Victoria, but to do that I had to go through New South Wales.

There isn't a direct passenger rail service between Brisbane and Sydney, capital city if the state of New South Wales. Instead, NSW Railways runs the interstate service by a three-hour rail-link bus service from Brisbane to the NSW regional city of Casino, inland and in the north of that state.

The service runs from the Brisbane coach terminal, handily just a short walk from the SoQ's terminating station, Roma Street, so it was easy to find, and dead easy to get to. Unfortunately, neither Roma Street station or the bus station has a left-luggage service, so I had my bags with me for the four-hour interlude.

This turned out to be not much of an issue, as I found a decent cafe right by the bus station within some beautifully-maintained parkland. It was a good place to prop as I'd met up with a Brisbane-based rello and had a decent catch-up with what's going on in her life.

I got my check-in docs from the bus station manager, and waited the arrival of the rail-link bus. I'm not a fan of bus, I'd much rather have been on a train, but it wasn't on offer, so a bus it'd have to be. The service left at1430h and was fairly full, but it was only about a 50-capacity beast. It threaded its way through what became crowded roads as it left Brisbane for the Gold Coast.

Then it turned inland a bit, through farming (beef) country as the sky darkened. It was rolling along quite happily through the dark and eventually fetched-up at the Casino railway station where we were disgorged. I found the railway office and checked-in. I had a sleeper booked, and asked if I was the sole occupant - they are twin-share arrangements on the NSW intercity overnighters - and unless you book both berths, you might have a bunkmate.

I was told I was solo "...at this stage." So I could be lucky!

After a wait on the platform, the train arrived as an incomer service, letting out its passenger load who mostly disappeared into waiting busses for their onwards journeys. One of the waiting busses was the one I'd taken from Brisbane, likely to be driven back there by the same driver who brought us as I saw him at the door checking passengers in.

The boarding call was given and I found my cabin and loaded up. I like the NSW cabins, decent enough room, good storage, a three-pin outlet, good seats, and fine beds. A towel and amenities pack was waiting on my seat.

Earlier, whilst on the platform, one of the train's OBS personnel approached me and asked me what I'd want for an evening meal. I chose a roast chicken dish (a mere $10.50), and he offered to bring it to my cabin. This is Oz, and the offer wasn't in search of a tip, and I was happy to accept.

Once we began rolling, it was clear I was a solo and I did my happy jig.

It was a perfectly fine meal, and then got myself showered and set out for tomorrow and then hit the hay. Tomorrow was going to be a long day, with two potential fraught connections within busy capital city railway stations at commuter leak hours, so I thought it better to get organised that night rather than tomorrow morning. When I got back into my cabin, I saw a small snack-pack had been delivered.5027DA16-E05B-4415-82BD-40AD1C129D2E.jpeg319166B3-BCAB-4EBA-A878-47D0C8811A99.jpegB048595E-ED61-473C-913A-664B52699050.jpegEB065220-A6A4-4C53-949B-C158C5ED7175.jpeg2887F59D-B53B-40C9-9217-44441BB43B4E.jpeg95E8BE1C-28AA-4481-9495-E098396B8F68.jpeg26969B9C-8FB9-40F5-AA5A-A2A923FED391.jpeg93DA1E7B-D140-491D-B4E8-94C4A59F74CE.jpeg17647ABC-AFA0-4150-9280-52D1DBC4A5EB.jpeg

(Pics to follow when I can load them)
 
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mcropod

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 29, 2018
Messages
333
Location
Oz
NSW railways serves a complementry breakfast for sleeper pax, and mine was waiting in my cabin after I'd departed it for some ablutions. Nothing special, just a bit of cereal, milk, juice, and a deconstructed hot drink - mine was tea.

there was time to have a decent look at Sydney as it woke up and our train mixed it with the suburban traffic. We'd been about 20 minutes late at one point and I figured this might increase because of missing our slot through the suburban rush, but we arrived at Sydney's Central Railway Station pretty-much on time. This was a good thing, as I had to locate my Melbourne-bound daylight service for a departure within half-an-hour.

Sydney is not my town, or a station I'm very familiar with, except to know it's where most suburban trains let off thousands of commuter passengers, and I didn't fancy trying to navigate myself through the hubbub with a couple of bags while looking for my train.

My concern was unfounded because my Melbourne train was waiting on the adjoining platform - I had a walk of about ten metres only! I'd had a text message from NSW Rail to tell me my first class seat had been swapped for an economy one because my car (CarB) had been pulled for an economy car. The car and seat number was as before, but I'd be riding with the hoi-polloi for the 12-hour trundle to Australia's most gracious capital city.

I found my car, and as soon as we were allowed to board, my seat too. I stashed my bags and settled in - I was on my penultimate leg of a journey from the top of the country to the southernmost mainland state, Victoria, and my home in the sticks of the south-west.

(Pics to follow when I can post 'em.)
 

mcropod

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 29, 2018
Messages
333
Location
Oz
The Spirit of Queensland meals were good, and delivered to one's seat. Other than breakfast, they included a drink of hard or soft version - I chose a Shiraz, and found it was a Queensland vintner. My preferences are for Victorian and South Australian reds, and I was surprised to see Qld had anything at all. But it was perfectly acceptable.

The first meal was around mid-day on Day One, quite a serviceable chicken noodle dish with a sticky-date pudding for dessert.

Second was evening Day One, and was beef cheeks and vegies, with a pasta salad as an entree, and cheese and fruit as dessert. The cheeks were very tender and tasty, it must have come from a very smiley cow. I'm not keen on cold pasta so I mostly left that dish alone. I reckon it'd be good as a hottie though.

The last was breakfast on Day Two. It was an omlette with a wee sausage, and a hot crumpet. It was very acceptable. If airliney.

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mcropod

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 29, 2018
Messages
333
Location
Oz
I was delighted to find that my train into Sydney was arriving at a platform I could walk across to board my train to Melbourne. Even *I'd* not get lost or confused.

Now aboard the 0740h daylight service to Melbourrne and with bags happily stashed in the ample above-seat storage, I could happily consider my situation for the next eleven hours. It's about 900kms, and it should be possible to run a service at a much faster speed, but the will is not there yet.

This was another NSW Railways train, and like the Casino one, an XPT service. This gets turned around in Melbourne upon arrival to become that same evening's overnight service back to Sydney (it's a push-pull train, so no turning around is needed of coursee). There was a sleeper car attached, but all the rooms were in day-mode, as three-seater compartments, none occupied. This proved handy later as I went in search of a three-pin outlet to charge a dying phone which I'd need to coordinate pick-up arrangements as I neared home on my next and last train this trip.

My economy seat was OK, and not too different from the First Class ones in car C behind me. My car was also scarcely occupied, and so was quiet as we departed through Sydney's SW suburbs and hinterland. This is horse country, moving to beef as the kilometres mounted, then, from about midway into NSW it turned into sheep country, and we were provided the vistas which many think of when picturing Australia - the nation which resides on a sheep's back and all that.

After about seven hours or so we'd reached Albury, a border city, and which has a very famous place in Australia's railways story. Before Australia was Australia, it was a series of separate colonies, each very protective of its own industries against 'imports', and erecting extensive tariffs against them - a foolish economic strategy as most economists will tell you.

As part of the strategy to impede the free flow of goods, each of the colonies established different railway gauges. Any goods or passengers moving between the colonies by rail had to stop at border-posts (like Albury for the Sydney-Melbourne traffic) and be unloaded and then reloaded onto trains of the right gauge for further travel. (It wasn't until 1962 that there was a standard gauge link between these two capitals, and not until 1964 was there standard-gauge from east to west, Perth-Sydney. Much of Australia's goods transport was by ship, even after railways came into existence.)

As a result, the Albury station has a humungously long platform.

NSW chose standard-gauge, Victoria broad-gauge, and Queensland narrow-gauge. (No-one cared what Tasmania did because there was a good bit of sea between it and every other colony!)

Within minutes of departing Albury we were back in Victoria, and now with a mere 300kms to Melbourne, the end was in sight. It was a speedy run through part of the state I know quite well and enjoy. We went through Voilet Town, the site of one of Australia's few rail disasters, when an overnight Sydney-Melbourne train (The Southern Aurora) had a head-on with a northbound goods train at speed resulting in many dead. I'm always happy to get beyond that point.


Soon enough, we were mixing things with Melbourne commuter trains and then, after a short delay in the yards, arrived at Melbourne's Southern Cross station, terminal station for many Victorian regional and interstate services, as well as being a major CBD suburban station. It's still better known by many Vics as Spencer Street Station, so don't get confused by the name.

I disembarked at around 1840h and looked for the next train to my home city of Ballarat.

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mcropod

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 29, 2018
Messages
333
Location
Oz
Now in Melbourne, I wanted to get a VLine train (a Victorian government operation) for the c80 minute journey to Ballarat, a grand old gold-rush city in the state's south west. The next one was scheduled for 1928h and on a nearby platform. It was a bit after the evening rush and there wasn't a major event at the neighbouring sports stadium, so things weren't as frantic as they could have been.

Even a change of platform announcement wasn't a worry. And then there was a small problem with the arriving six-carriage train, which was to be split, with the front three carriages going to Ballarat. This set was so new, it was just out of the box, and it seemed there was an issue with the computer-recognition of the train on the VLine system which slowed things down a few minutes.

But six minutes behind, we were off for the last 130kms of an awesome journey on rails from the top right-hand bit of Oz to my bottom right-hand bit.

we arrived close enough to the scheduled 2051h not to have made much of a difference, and I reunited with my partner and we drove the last ten kilometres :)

All up, it was a great way to get around a good bit of the country, all on scheduled regular passenger services, from the sub-equatorial bits of Oz to the near Antactic :)
 
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