Just for something completely different, as a change from going overseas, we decided to have a short couple of days in our own backyard, so to speak. In all the years we’ve lived here, we hadn’t been down the Mary Valley, a fertile area created by the Mary River. It’s not exactly a day trip, so we organised with a relo on the Sunshine Coast to stay with her for a couple of nights and booked tickets for the Mary Valley Rattler, a vintage steam train than runs from Gympie to Amamoor in the Mary Valley. It would tick off another box next to ‘trains we have travelled on’.
The loco runs on old tracks, the main line having bypassed it years ago, and leaves from an old railway station in Gympie. We arrived early and had an excellent breakfast in the Rusty Rails café before boarding the train at 10am.
The café was busy and the train was full. Most of the clientele were older folks like us but last week it would have been full of kids on school holidays – a time we carefully avoided. The train runs on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday as just a train trip. On Thursday they offer a special trip on a railmotor with lunch featuring local produce. (It’s okay. I didn’t know what a railmotor was, either.) You can upgrade to first class for a very special (more expensive) experience and for the real train buffs you can pay extra for the Footplate friends experience or the Steam Locomotive Light Up & Workshop Tour. Learn all about the various tours here. They also have occasional special events like a murder mystery trip, which sounds like a lot of fun. We sat in an ordinary carriage with the hoi polloi. We learned just yesterday that this hard-working group has refurbished two Silver Bullet trains that offer High Tea on Fridays.
The whole operation is run by volunteers, although I expect there are some paid employees. The young man who was the conductor on our carriage was a year twelve student who had Wednesdays off to work on the train. He told us he’s a train-buff and he wants to eventually become a train driver. It looks like the old trains will be going for a few years yet.
Guests are allocated to carriages, but from there it’s first in best dressed. We sat with two of a foursome who couldn’t sit together because there weren’t four free seats in a group when they boarded. We swapped with their friends so they could sit together on the way back. Our conductor told us that carriage 1416 is the oldest carriage on the train and dates back to 1908 or thereabouts.
We loved the locomotive but despite the advertising it wasn’t the most exciting or picturesque trip we’ve ever done. The trains passes a few suburban backyards as it leaves Gympie and kids from the local school came out to wave as we went by. Then it winds its way through farmland and bush. We stopped at the tiny town of Amamoor for 45 minutes. Locals had some booths set up to tempt the passengers with local produce and crafts and predictably, there was a queue for the ladies toilets. The locomotive was turned around on a turntable driven by steam from the loco and then we went back to Gympie.
We drove down to the Sunshine Coast where our relo lives and we went for a walk in the local botanic gardens late in the afternoon. It’s an extensive area but we confined ourselves to the sculpture garden where we admired some stunning studies of wildlife.
We had intended to visit Australia Zoo on Thursday but it rained quite heavily for most of the morning so that was a write-off. This is supposed to be the dry season in this part of the world but I guess nobody told the rain. Oh well. We have the tickets and we can try again another time.