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Spirit of the Outback

Home > Brisbane > Trains | Railway Journeys
by T. A. Rose (subscribe)
From Brisbane, Australia, I mainly write for WeekendNotes, and at present, I enjoy challenging myself to add reviews on many diverse topics to this vast library of articles.
Published February 17th 2021
The train trip to the tropics where Qantas was founded
The Spirit of the Outback is Queensland Rail's passenger service from Brisbane to Rockhampton onto Longreach with buses to and from Winton. At 26 hours one way and an extra three hours for transfer to Winton, it's a long yet not boring way to travel. Winton is where QANTAS was founded, with Longreach being very important as well in that founding. Geographically, Longreach is in the centre of Queensland and on the Tropic of Capricorn.

Sunset Longreach
Sun setting near llfracombe on the way to Longreach.


In terms of cost for my train journey, I could buy tickets in advance (called B-quick) for 140 AUD each way and for about twice as much for a more last-minute option (called A-class). These are types of economy seated tickets. A different option is the expensive first-class - however, includes a cabin with perks such as lovely meals and a bed. For the facts about fares, Queensland Rail Travel's fare types are outlined here. This well appreciated YouTube video of a popular travel reviewer who has specifically reviewed the first-class option, is something useful to link, so one can investigate the alternative to economy.

Highlands between emerald and Alpha towns
Highlands between Emerald and Alpha towns.


When booking, I easily obtained a seat near a power charger, (so not much by way of USB charging though). Means one can charge a laptop or phone. It's good to use the computer or phone at night and then get some sleep and wake to daylight and scenery of 'rugged country' on route to Longreach after Rockhampton.

Tree between Alpha and Emerald.
Tree between Emerald and Alpha.


In winter, it can be a contrast from coast to inland - The Outback is drier hence markedly cooler in winter, whereas in summer the contrast is quite pleasant albeit dehydrating. In the more populous country town of Emerald and thereafter to Longreach, the climate was nicer and less humid.

Central Highlands trees and fields
Central Highlands trees and fields.


I was hoping to see the towns and landscapes continuing on from the nighttime stint from Brisbane to Rockhampton, as these are unfamiliar to me. Adequate stops were done, and the towns along the Tropic of Capricorn are pleasant and quiet and a little bit tranquil. A few of my photos here foreshadow the sceneries and settlements for other travellers.

Roma Street outback train
The Spirit of the Outback arriving at Roma Street station.


An overnight stay was organised at Albert Park Motor Inn near the Qantas Museum in Longreach, however, no trip to Winton, perhaps in future visits, but for other travellers, this YouTube video summarises well, although mainly in the last five minutes of the video. For timetabling (link is one click from the full pdf timetable of entire state services), the train accessed Outback locations in daylight while the Rockhampton-Brisbane near coastal sections are at night in my round trip.

Seats, spirit of the outback
Seating is wide due to availability, having space helps if travelling all the way to Longreach.


Based on this journey, I like to think economy is level with first-class because of the savings, especially now that my concept of what first-class involved from the YouTube research has made the difference clear. My conclusion is that despite the length of the journey, that economy seating is tolerable and hence advantage of the money saved levels out with the advantage of the first-class luxury.

Central Highlands qld
Central Highlands, Qld. From the Spirit of the Outback.


Highlands near Emerald and Alpha towns
Central Highlands, Qld.


Ultimately, there was reality versus expectations, but I highly recommend this trip even in economy as it prepares the mind for visiting. When disembarking at Longreach it was shockingly warm weather and plagues of bugs started swarming the disembarking passengers. I found I get good train scenery to photograph and an adventure at the destination. I think these experiences stop my life going totally stale, hence keen to leave this review as it's revealing an underrated product.

Dingo, Qld Central Highlands
Near Dingo and Bluff is a large machinery captured nicely from train windows.


The journey providers - Queensland Rail Travel are great because everything they do inspired confidence, from timely services to friendly and competent call centres representatives. Yet the train trip is a visual feast somehow, I found there was always something new going on out the window, and no boring sugar cane fields. I think although the departure was delayed an hour, we only got there a half-hour late, and considering the challenge of keeping the old train good enough to take four 26 hour journeys per week is something I respect hence timely is under the circumstances. Such a worthy trip, I feel surprised in a healthy way. The food is optional, except in some high classes it's factored into the pricing. The meals are simple yet tasty for economy class, so purchasing them is likely yet it ultimately adds to the costs, so your cost isn't defined all that well, it's not like Jetstar where there are so many ways to upgrade. The reason rail is so good is it goes at the right pace like what bicycles is for many riders it simply allows better appreciation of your journey.

Cooked train Breakfast brekky
Brekky, train food can sometimes be more like plane food, especially in economy.



Sunset Longreach qld
Longreach has incredible sunsets despite my photo taken through the window, incredible shade of red.



All photos courtesy of the author, taken from 16-18 February 2021 on the round trip.
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Why? The magic of long distance train travel or to commute to Longreach.
When: All year round, but departs Brisbane Tuesday and Saturday, while departing Longreach Thursday and Monday.
Phone: Qld Rail Travel: 1300 131 722
Where: Brisbane to Rockhampton, west onto Longreach and optional bus to Winton.
Cost: About $240 AUD for A-choice which is last minute and flexible ticket and about half ($140 AUD) for a B-quick advance booking.
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