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Sun Setting on the Sunlander

By Eleanor Flagler Hardy

Lounge car of The Sunlander in 1978

It is so, so discouraging one day to get a fantastic report on a train and just about two days later, to get a report that the powers that be are planning to shut it down.

The report we received was from world traveler Dr. Vincent DiNapoli. He loved all of the extras, the service, the warmth, the old-fashioned happy surprises that happen on a lovely top-class train. And he found all of this in Queenslander Class on the Sunlander, which runs 1,045 miles several times a week between Brisbane and Cairns. He just took this train this summer, along with all the other major routes in Australia. And Queenslander Class on the Sunlander was his favorite. (He took Gold Kangaroo Class — not the new luxury class Platinum, on the Ghan and Indian Pacific.)

Then we got the news that Queensland Rail will be running this train only through 2013, when it will be replaced with a faster tilt-train. We are sure the rail-travel lovers of the world won’t be as happy with this, and it’s such a shame. I hate to be a naysayer, but what good does it do to save a few hours on such a scenic route? Speed is not what people want on a vacation train. Beauty, scenery, camaraderie: there’s  the ticket.

So word to the wise: Ride the Sunlander in Queenslander Class while you can. You might have until the end of 2013.