8 months ago


As the sun slowly

As the sun slowly disappears behind the horizon, veteran English Electric locomotive 1604 brings The Q train around the shore of Swan Bay, as it approaches Queenscliff station on Saturday evening 28 October 2017. The Q train journey Approaching Drysdale (an intermediate station on the Bellarine Railway) I saw a rake of light blue-coloured M series cars waiting for departure, it somehow gave me ‘flashback’. I could have been walking up to Longreach station to board the Spirit of the Outback. Welcomed by Q train staff, I was taken along the red carpet to my table. The refurbishment appears to be extensive. Q class dining car MBL1509’s interior now looks like a luxury restaurant, with a bar (which resembles the former Queenslander’s ‘Daintree’ lounge bar) installed at the Melbourne end of the car. The former economy class seat numbers, luggage racks and individual reading lights are still intact! Although the dining car looks nothing like what QR ever operated the Bellarine Railway has ‘recycled’ a former Queenslander menu booklet! Walking through to the first class dining car, the former first class twinette sleeping carriage corridor still looks the same with its first class maroon colour carpet retained. However, each former cabin is now equipped with a dining table and a table lamp. ‘Club loco’ has returned to its former glory as a club car with a bar. The Q Train has retained QR’s original menu board behind the bar as a reminder of its former ‘Lander’ operations. The menu displays the drinks prices as if it was the early 90s and even lists items such as toothbrushes etc for sale. l walked to the front of the train, and took photos of English Electric 1604 hauling the Q train, which reminded me of photos of 1600 class locomotives hauling air-conditioned cars on the Westlander and Midlander. My train quietly left Drysdale for Queenscliff, reminding me of travelling on the Sunlander through the northern suburbs of Brisbane. The train was almost full, patrons were mostly ‘Generation X’ reflecting that Q train advertising is mostly through social media. We slowly travelled through canola fields and rolling hills as waiters brought drinks to the patrons. It was easy for me to imagine travelling on the Sunlander between Miriam Vale and Gladstone approaching dinner time. The section between Drysdale and Queenscliff is relatively long at 16km, and one fully appreciates the Bellarine Railway’s volunteers’ effort to maintain such a lengthy track. The train follows Yarram Creek to the estuary which forms a large wetlands and scenic area. The sunsets, especially in spring and summer months, looks extraordinary around this area, somewhat resembling the southbound Sunlander reaching Bowling Green Bay wetlands south of Townsville. Finally, an orange sunset is reflected in Port Phillip Bay as the train arrives at Queenscliff station. Bellarine Railway operates the Q train from Drysdale and The Blues Train from Queenscliff. Both offer meals to patrons, but Blues Train patrons have their meals and drinks on the platform at Queenscliff station. The Blues Train I observed appeared completely full, as was the Q Train on the night of travel. The two trains do a ‘switch back’, crossing each other before The Q train enters the platform at Queenscliff. One commends the Bellarine Railway for managing to operate two nearly fully-loaded theme trains at the same time. From December 2017 and January 2018 onwards, there will be a Q train departing Queenscliff for Drysdale. 48 RAILWAY DIGEST

The Q Train food experience The food served is nothing like any of the former ‘Lander’ services. The Q train offers six course meals, with a menu carefully designed so the taste of each course “matches”, starting with ricotta as entrée, follow by Sage Farm (located at Bannockbun, near Geelong) salted beef. The delicious salted beef brings out the appetite, while also perfectly preserving the taste of the texture of the beef. This was follow by Portarlington Mussels, which, while not quite the same as the former Queenslander class’s seafood platter lunch, the coriander and the mint sensation highlighted the ‘marine’ flavour of the mussels. Tasty Barongarook pork followed, with tastebuds overwhelmed by the sweetness and the smell of the crispy roast pork with a BBQ aroma! The main course of Sage Farm Lamb Two Ways immediately follows. This was possibly the best lamb, in fact the best meal I ever had in my life! It was cooked to medium rare, well marinated and full of tenderness and finished with local Wattle Grove honey and chocolate. In many ways the meal exceeded what the Queenslander class on the Sunlander used to offer. Above: MCC1521 ‘Club Loco’, seen here at Drysdale on Wednesday 21 October 2017, was built as a club/lounge car in 1958, then refurbished as a disco club car in 1992 for the Queenslander/Spirit of the Tropics. At the time, it was claimed to be the first disco on wheels! Around 1999 it was put in storage, until revived by The Q train in 2017. Left: Watching the sunset through the windows of the Q class dining car, the same evening, as the train passes a wheat field near Suma Park between Queenscliff and Mannerim. The Q train hard-cover menu sitting on the table is an original QR Queenslander class menu that has been ‘recycled’. FEBRUARY 2018 49 49Preservation & Tourist

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