Cairns-Townsville, Qld. Pikelet or Scone Class on the Sunlander Train?

All aboard the Sunlander for Townsville & Beyond.


Up early again for breakfast & the beginning of my railway adventure. Queensland Rail has two trains that run from Cairns to Brisbane. The Sunlander is a traditional train with seats, overnight sleepers and dining cars while the high speed Tilt train is all business class or economy seating. On the Sunlander, an economy seat all the way from Brisbane to Cairns, will cost $240 & a first class/twin berth $450. There’s also the premium Queenslander class for $780 which includes meals. The Tilt train costs about $275-$344. Keep an eye out for holiday packages or Rail Passes  from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast or elsewhere in Queensland. The Distance between Cairns & Townsville is about 350km and the Sunlander takes over 7 hours so it is not a fast train. The tilt train also leaves at 9.15am but arrives at Townsville an hour earlier at 3.30pm. Here’s the timetable. The difference doesn’t matter much if your going to Townsville so it probably depends more on what train is running on which day, and if you prefer the older style where you can go to the dining car whenever you feel like it.


Cyclone Yasi has left traces of it’s destruction along the way but the Queenslanders prefer to get on with business as normal. Besides a few bananas and trees there’s not much scenery besides the sugar cane fields along the way. I guess it’s not a very exciting drive either as the tracks and highway tend to run alongside one another, so best to just take the train, recuperate, read a book or listen to an ipod and enjoy the sunshine.


Even though I had not had any success with scones in Cairns, I was still hopeful of finding them on the train. At morning tea, the menu was announced and I was shocked to hear picklets with jam & cream not scones!! I went to investigate and discovered that the Queenslander Class has it’s own dining car & have fresh scones made and served on the train. Woe is me to be in pikelet class!

It makes sense given the space limitations to have pikelets but I managed to find out that the chef was very proud of his scones which were made with lemonade. Mmm, need a recipe. Now which would you prefer, the pikelets or the scones? At least I fared better than on the XPT to Melbourne when I missed out completely!

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