Enjoying challenging myself to add to the WeekendNotes vast library.
Published September 7th 2021
Cloncurry rail gateway to outback stays and touring
Station main signage
On the Great Northern Line is Cloncurry Railway Station and a stop on The Inlander passenger train journey. As a larger outback town, Cloncurry, or known to locals as "The Curry", has previously been voted the friendliest town in the Keep Queensland Beautiful Tidy Towns Awards in 2018 - where such a win was part of an accredited process according to tidytowns.com.au. I reviewed the rail station due to significant stops on the Inlander, where the train needs to take a longer stop for any potential crew changes or adjustments required on the long 21 hour journey. It's got more track around it than comparable Hughenden or dare I say even the larger township of Charter Towers has less railyards, and that seems quite heavily linked to the mining industry which is centred around near-ish Mount Isa. For those who like their social media, I've added some links for Cloncurry Shire Council, linked here on Facebook.com.
For visiting, the station is clean but a bit sparse in effect. I would recommend waiting there for The Inlander because it turns up at civil times from Mount Isa (so around 5.25 pm) although heading to Mount Isa from Townsville it's an early start of 5.10 am. Which isn't too bad, so I totally agree that it could be used to travel by train to see or experience this friendly outback town. I'm not sure if bathrooms are open however at these times, and although staff are somewhere in the vicinity The Inlander has few passengers, so it can't have a designated staff member for passenger enquiries. Reason I say staff are around is because Aurizon vehicles are parked outside and there is a degree of size about the operation of the station, but that sparseness, it basically means, turn up only when needed to catch the train, and perhaps don't expect much more. I've added a link to the Cloncurry industrial estate and the local council's homepage, emphasising how "The Curry" is much different to Mount Isa, and even has a fair bit of distance from Isa at 121 kilometres along the Barkly Highway. The Landsborough Highway merges with the Flinders Highway near the east of Cloncurry and then after Cloncurry, the main road is the Barkly Highway up to Mount Isa.
While it helps to get one's bearings, Cloncurry is also quite well known as a destination, being quite sizeable for that part of Australia and there are some fabulous articles written by various touring writers about Cloncurry - a list of which I'm hoping to add to eventually as well.
For those keen to visit but new to this region, here are some WeekendNotes hints and tips to get one started:
There were some plaques and noticeboards at the station but the timetable was understandably not there, as there's very little need for it, although in the passenger trains' heyday that seems how it first got put up.
Old space for timetables
The mining is very important in that area, as seen in the linked Mount Isa Train Station - which has a mine behind it which according to Wikipedia is the major economic force behind the town's existence, by the smelter of copper and lead on-site at the mine, and, plenty of minerals from the entirety of this area's mining output make their way to the Port of Townsville via the Great Northern Railway Line - which passes Cloncurry at the station, and carries The Inlander passenger train. Port of Townsville is in fact, Queensland's fastest freight shipping service to Shanghai.
Tours indeed run from Cloncurry which I assume is due to it having a bit larger size to it, and such tours run to Mary Kathleen from Cloncurry, that company is RJ Coach Service. Some planning and research is important with this holidaying prospect, because it's in a more remote part of the world, but, overall, and especially out of the wet season up north, it can be better for its arid climate in winter making train services more predictable. The Inlander train is safe but it should be mentioned they won't run it if they can't get the weather for it hence it's better off in dry season, where I assume Queensland Rail Travel gets the most clientele. But in terms of accommodation, the town is typical outback, so hard walking distances, but very spacious, and, a taxi service is possible at this link here booked on phone (07) 4742 1075. Accommodation options are at various motels, hotel-motels, pubs and caravan parks. The taxi service would definitely help as the rail station is on the fringe of the main part of town, so walking is not really possible if carrying much luggage - with a map of town and other factors described here at outbackqueensland.com.au. There are about a dozen good accommodation options, if one searches on Google or Bing, so it's possible to visit by train and have a break to see Mary Kathleen old uranium mine (not to be confused with the Mary Kathleen Park in Cloncurry town centre).
It should be mentioned the Australian winter is the dry season in North-west Queensland, where Cloncurry is located, so May to September is ideal, April or October slightly wetter hence increased chance of cancellations, yet, November to March is when the significant rains occur affecting The Inlander Train schedule. The service runs all year round, but for cancellations etc. it's a far more reliable prospect in the cooler part of the year, but is always run safely as a paramount objective.
Conclusively, it's one entirely interesting place to visit provided it is given some research and planning, consider a tour or getaway to Cloncurry to see somewhere friendly yet historic and with a nice peaceful railway station for access.
The photos were taken by author 2021 on a trip on The Inlander passenger journey.