|1925 D17 Class Steam Locomotive 'Capella' in Tumoulin, Queensland|
Over 100 years ago on 31 July 1911, regional Parliamentary representatives invited to the Herberton-Tumoulin railway line opening were too busy to attend according to a local historian.
Exactly 100 years later – and how things have changed!!
|Crossing the trestle bridge, Tumoulin to Ravenshoe|
So, on 31 July 2011, during a re-enactment of the historic opening ceremony as 1925 D17 class locomotive 'Capella' steamed into Tumoulin 100 years to the hour later. Where ex-Queensland Rail welder and state Member for Dalrymple Shane Knuth was waiting to cut the ribbon!
In a fortuitous blend of serendipity, coincidence and blind luck, Pilchard and I joined the historic ride into Tumoulin from Ravenshoe – Queensland's highest town at 920 m (3118 ft) above sea-level on the Tablelands west of Cairns. Although Tumoulin is higher at 964.7 m (3165 ft) – and thereby Queensland's highest railway station – its height doesn't count in the 'highest town' honours because it's only a 'locality'!
|Tumoulin Railway Station sign|
Here on the Atherton Tablelands* there's no real clue that we're in the depths of northern Australia's tropics – cool nights are common, and the heat and humidity sometimes found on the coast even in winter is often absent. BUT … this paradise comes at a price as we're not that far from Queensland's highest mountain – Bartle Frere – and Australia's wettest locality – Topaz where aanual rainfall averages well above 4 metres, although it's WAAAY more higher in the ranges!
The final extension of the railway line from Cairns initially constructed to service Atherton Tablelands mining town Herberton, Tumoulin-Ravenshoe is ironically one of only two sections** still operating. And although completed 5 years after Herberton-Tumoulin opened in 1911, it's from Ravenshoe that we depart on this bright winter's day to take part in Tumoulin's centenary celebrations.
|Creatures en route to Tumoulin|
100 years later, it's all changed – the line from Atherton closed over 20 years ago, as has the tourist train from Atherton to Herberton Pilchard and I caught many years ago.
Luckily for us, however, the Ravenshoe-Tumoulin line is now managed by volunteer organisation Ravrail. Their fact sheets and railway line mud map (from which much information for this post was taken) highlight the assortment of regional attractions and a strange selection of creatures we will be passing en route to Tumoulin!
|No 268 - Capella|
|No, not a bushfire! It's a Steam train!|
As the immaculate train climbed upwards over wooden trestle bridges, past homesteads, orchards, forests and a crayfish farm, who would have thought Paris Hilton would have been lurking amongst the native animals? Or that we'd be encouraged to photograph a scenic public toilet??
Almost the most fun I've had for $AUD20, the festive centenary market with railway volunteers in period costume, Aboriginal dancers in traditional dress and fettlers camp gave this trip extraordinary value! But even without the centenary extras the return trip scenery and steam train experience is well worth the modest fare.
Ravrail are to be congratulated for succeeding where governments have failed for a) their contribution to Atherton Tablelands tourism; b) keeping the railway line open; and c) immaculately preserving this marvellous piece of Australia's heritage.
And I'm to be congratulated on my restraint - although my fingers were positively twitching to pull that antique emergency chain, I resisted - in absolute fear of the $10 fine being enforced!
|Centenary re-enactment - cutting the ribbon|
There's no point expecting a photo of the magnificent scones, jam and cream served by the Tumoulin Railway cafe – they disappeared WAAAAY too quickly for that!! But there's no need to wait another 100 years for them, or even for the next train trip to Tumoulin.
Take this magic railway journey every Sunday at 1:30 pm, or even hire the train for a memorable way to celebrate any special occasion.
The return trip to Ravenshoe – downhill all the way – ended this unexpectedly fabulous day where instead of just a train ride, we became part of this history-making journey!
|Ravenshoe Station, Atherton Tablelands, Queensland|
* The Atherton Tablelands is also known as the Cairns Highlands, or Tropical Tablelands. I've used its most common name although the highlands region also incorporates the Evelyn and Northern Tablelands
|Harry's Dunny ... no, not a real person inside!!|
** the other is the far better known and commercially run 'Kuranda Scenic Railway' from Cairns to Kuranda
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