By Josh Hutchinson
Growing up accompanying my grandfather on trips along the old railway line where he worked, I was not unfamiliar with their workings and capability to surprise even the most well-traveled guest. However, the historic Kuranda Railway has a charm rarely seen on tracks elsewhere in the world.
Snaking its way through the Macalister Range, this 23-mile track passes several waterfalls and crosses 55 bridges providing breathtaking views throughout. Upon boarding the train, I was impressed with the rustic feel of the carriage. Red leather seats in rows of 4 awaited us with space for up to 40 passengers per carriage. As the friendly voice tape reminded us, the carriages have all recently been restored in order to retain their original look and feel.
After several initial squabbles over who was to secure a prized window seat, the train slowly pulled away from the historic Kuranda Railway Station to make its steady way towards Cairns via Freshwater and also a quick stop at Barron Falls for photo opportunities. Aside from the obvious scenic views, the train provides an interesting glimpse into the lives of the over 1500 workers who toiled away in the baking heat in order to make the railway a reality.
Given the sheer drops faced at many points in the journey, it is easy to see how over 30 workers sadly lost their lives whilst building the railway. Despite the high human price paid for the completion of the railway, it is certainly a significant feat of human engineering. It was interesting to sit and marvel at the logistics of building the track through the mountainside.
The village of Kuranda itself is just a short walk from the Railway Station. Whilst on the small side and evidently geared towards tourists, gifts and souvenirs can be purchased for a cheaper price than in Cairns itself.
Overall, the Kuranda Railway provided breathtaking views of the rainforest as it dawdled through the mountainside and was certainly an unforgettable experience unique to North Queensland.