Escorted Heritage Rail Tours

The Ins and Outs!

Since 2016, Cruise Express has successfully run a myriad of escorted heritage rail journeys that combine the wonderful experience of heritage train travel with the delights and highlights of touring regional Australia. We join regional festivals, visit farms and wineries, enjoy private tours and performances and dine in terrific and authentic local restaurants

Demand for this style of travelling has increased as our clients experience not only the destination but the joy of travel itself!

Why do our clients love heritage train journeys?

There is a nostalgic romanticism about heritage trains, a step back in time to a bygone era like no other. Many of our clients remember the trains of yesteryear and in many cases have actually travelled on them in the past. Time and time again we also hear that there is a wonderful camaraderie onboard and people make lasting friendships on our tours.

A journey on a heritage train is a step back to a time of glamour, buffets and restaurant cars, first-class lounges, railway restaurants as well as the ‘fastest’ and ‘firsts’ that helped these national treasures be sealed in our psyche.  


Who runs the show? 

The organisations that manage the preservation, restoration and conservation of Australia’s heritage trains are mostly self-funded and run by a small but dedicated group of volunteers. The organisations rely heavily on funding from our charters, private donations and revenue from their own tours. Cruise Express collaborates with these groups, organising all the touring, accommodation, and dining to create a seamless rail holiday experience.

The staff and volunteers are often current or ex-railway workers and possess special skills as boilermakers, drivers, engineers, carpenters/train outfitters and those with knowledge of rail safety operations. Many are usually entirely unpaid for their time.

Some carriages date back to the middle of last century if not further, and are often in much the same condition as when they left service decades ago, showing an amount of wear and tear as part of their long history. Many spare parts are no longer manufactured, so when something goes wrong, this is where the dedicated volunteers’ creative abilities come into play.

While 21st-century technology is evolving at a rapid pace, raising awareness and educating the public on the importance of preserving our railway history is paramount. Additionally, passing these skills on to younger generations is critical for the survival of the heritage train industry, and it can only be done with continued interest and funding.

What to expect?

Heritage rail journeys are often thought to be part of current Government Railway operations, but being privately owned and operated, the discounts and benefits often offered on public transport regrettably don’t apply.

Another misconception is that heritage trains are able to run and stop almost wherever which is far from the case. Each train journey will have carefully allocated stops, working around all other trains and activities on the network including passenger and freight trains and track work.

One charming aspect many don’t expect is that most rail motors and some rail carriages are from an era before air-conditioning became commonplace. This means the windows can open, providing a unique connection between the traveller and their surroundings.


For those that have mobility issues, it is important to keep in mind that heritage trains were designed and built long before mobility concerns were factored in. Regrettably therefore, doorways and corridors are often not wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs or walking frames. Onboard lavatories and bathrooms are also small.

Australia’s heritage trains truly are rare survivors of a long-lost era, and we are lucky to have access to them.

To find out more about our range of upcoming heritage rail journeys, please visit our rail page or call our Travel Specialists on 1300 766 537.

We look forward to welcoming you onboard!


Environmentally Friendly Steam

Keeping the Steam Dream Green

The Steam Dreams Rail Co. was the first rail charter to be carbon neutral and we are proud of our commitment to ensure our trains do not damage the environment.

Every time Steam Dreams Rail Co. run a steam charter (around 60 times a year) they make a donation to an organisation called Eco-Act, which invests in carbon reduction projects, to offset the carbon emissions that steam engines produce.

So for example, if trips produced 100 tonnes of carbon emissions through the use of coal, this can be can offset this by purchasing 100 tonnes of carbon credits to reduce the carbon impact to zero (to become carbon neutral).

Eco-Act’s carbon reduction projects usually take place in developing countries, in the areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency and forestry. Each of their projects removes a measurable amount of greenhouse gasses or prevents the emissions in the first place, to reduce the total concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that contribute to climate change.

Projects are carefully monitored and verified so that each tonne of greenhouse gas reduction can be certified as a carbon offset credit, giving total peace of mind that offsetting is transparent and effective.

In 2019, Steam Dreams are investing in a solar power project in India. This project provides the following positive impacts:

  • Provision of jobs in local communities across India for the construction and operation of solar plants;
  • Improvement to the livelihoods of families employed by the projects;
  • Awareness-raising of the impacts of climate change and how to mitigate them;
  • Reducing the reliance on energy generation from fossil assisting communities across India to gain access fuels to renewable and sustainable sources of electricity.

If you are interested in learning more about Steam Dreams Rail Co. UK journeys, please call Cruise Express today on 1300 766 537 or visit our website today.

The Secret to Fine Fast Food Dining

Whilst travelling 120km/hour


Stream Dreams – For over fifteen years, The Cathedrals Express steam train has been taking passengers on day trips to beautiful cathedral cities in the UK including Salisbury, Bath, Canterbury and York.

As soon as they board the train, passengers travelling in the Premier Dining or Pullman Style Dining classes are treated to a full English breakfast and a glass of champagne, with a four or five-course meal on the return journey – all cooked on the train in a renovated 1960’s kitchen car.

Serving up to five courses to almost 250 diners, The Cathedrals Express kitchen was specifically designed for Steam Dreams by a Michelin starred chef, bringing it up to date with modern restaurant requirements within the confines of a vintage carriage. 

The modernisation was completed in June 2013 and the Head Chef, Tony Keene, is delighted with the result; “Since our kitchen car entered service, the modern bespoke facilities have enabled us to raise our food offering to a whole new level. The new space allows food to be cooked and presented as close to modern restaurant-style as possible, with all dishes plated and finished off at the last minute.”

“On most of our day trips, we serve over 200 diners across our Pullman and Premier Dining coaches as well as 30 members of staff. All meals are prepared on board, so preparing and serving this number of meals whilst moving at high speeds and often working to very tight deadlines can be very challenging.

Unlike any other kitchens I have worked in, we don’t have unlimited supplies, with finite amounts of cooking gas, water and electricity but the new onboard facilities have made a huge difference. The extensive new storage and preparation space has enabled us to develop our dishes to offer a modern British menu with a nod to the glory days of the British Pullman cars,” said Tony.

Tickets for Steam Dreams tours are available in four different classes, ranging from Premium Standard through to the top class of Pullman Style Dining. Passengers travelling in Pullman Style will enjoy a two-course champagne breakfast on the outward journey and a five-course dinner on the return, whilst those opting for Premium Standard will be seated at tables of four in open carriages and served with complimentary tea and coffee at their seats.

For further information on travelling to the UK onboard any Steam Dreams journey please call Cruise Express on 1300 766 537.

Sample Pullman Style Dining menu onboard The Cathedrals Express


Fresh Croissant with Preserves


Fruit Compote with Granola & Yoghurt


Porridge or Cornflakes


Fresh Bread


Full English Breakfast with Free Range Scrambled Egg,

Lincolnshire Sausage, Sussex Bacon, Hash Browns, Tomato,

Mushrooms, Black Pudding & an English Muffin

(v) Vegetarian Sausages, Roasted Portabello Mushroom

with Free Range Scrambled Egg, Tomatoes,

Hash Browns & an English Muffin





Amuse Bouche


Smoked Mackerel Pâté,

Cucumber Pickle & Herby Leaves

(v) Chickpea Falafel with Beetroot Tzatziki


Sage Roasted Guinea Fowl, Crushed Sweet & New Potato,

Petit Pois & Wilted Baby Chard, Red Wine Jus

(v) Goat’s Cheese & Red Onion Marmalade Tartlet

with Thyme, Crushed Sweet & New Potato,

Petit Pois & Wilted Baby Chard


Lemon Mousse

with Raspberry Coulis & Blueberries


Selection of English Cheeses with Grapes,

Celery & Biscuits


Coffee & Biscotti


Thank you to Claire Newton of Steam Dreams Co. UK for sharing this article. 


Spectacular Southern Rail

The Southern Rail Spectacular lived up to its billing – it was spectacular!

The Southern Rail Spectacular – a new and first-ever 5-day adventure – offering the opportunity to ride behind one of Australia’s most famous locomotives, the legendary Beyer-Garratt 6029. This 265-ton monster, the largest locomotive ever to operate in Australia, is just part of this heritage rail tour from Sydney to Victoria and back in August of 2018.

Heritage Rail

Written by Cruise Express client and train enthusiast, Ken Ticehurst

The Cruise Express’ team spent over a year in planning this monumental journey and with a mountain of red tape to climb, the team put together an amazing array of 11 steam and diesel engines and 33 carriages to make five train sets for the journeys.

Below are a few highlights I’d like to share:

Day 1: Leaving Sydney Central station at 5:18am the train, hauled by two heritage diesels, travelled on the goods line, passed the dead centre of Sydney (Rookwood) and on to the main southern line. The Beyer-Garrett 6029 was attached at Junee. At Yass Junction, the train waited for the Melbourne bound XPT to pass. It was a great sight to see the 6029 & XTP together.

Day 2: After an overnight stay in the lovely Atura motel in Albury, we joined the first run of the Spirit of Progress on standard gauge tracks for the trip to Melbourne. It was a smooth ride in air-conditioned carriages, and a stop for lunch at Seymour, allowed time to visit the rail museum. Overnight in Melbourne at Vibe Savoy hotel was also most pleasant.

Day 3: The train to Castlemaine was hauled by two steam locos, one A class and one K class, and another set of carriages. At Castlemaine another set of heritage carriages were provided, with the A class Loco pulling the train to Maldon. Two special carriages, Macedon and Tambo, were used in the old Overland express in years gone by. A stop at Muckleford was provided so that we could photograph the train doing a run through the station.

Day 4: Another train, with K707 at the lead, took the group to Newport rail yards for an inspection of the fascinating activities undertaken to restore many locos and carriages. After lunch the Spirit of Progress train once again headed for Albury.

Southern Rail

Day 5: Another night at the Atura, at 6.30am we headed in 3 coaches to Canberra. As unpredictable as any travel can be, heritage rail journeys are no exception! After all the planning, ARTC announced that track work would extend to Monday. The Beyer-Garrett took the train to Moss Vale where it was decoupled and the two diesels were attached for the return to Sydney.

The organisation was first class. So much work behind the scenes was necessary to make a most enjoyable experience for the 150 travellers. Each day a staff member would bring a large card showing times and places for the following day. Nothing was too much trouble. The heritage rail personnel were all volunteers and really love what they do.

Congratulations to the Cruise Express team for a job well done!

Enjoy more of our spectacular photos from this history-making journey here.

Griffith Foodie Haven!

Food & Wine Extravaganza

Thanks to ‘foodies’ travelling from afar to the unsuspecting food mecca of Griffith, the Riverina region of NSW has seen significant growth in tourism and revenue over recent years. Many young chefs have even headed or returned home to take Griffith’s food and wine culture to the next level.

Griffith has always been proudly abundant with Italian heritage and culture, showcasing good food and wine. WHY GRIFFITH?

The focus on the outstanding quality of local produce and high-end restaurants dedicated to getting back to the roots of Italian cuisine are behind this boom, with several hundred visitors flocking to Griffith every day.

Located in Griffith’s old Rural Bank is Zecca Handmade Italian, dedicated to nourishing the community with the highest quality locally sourced produce. Working closely with local farmers and producers, the food must be seasonal and authentic to regional Italy, showcasing the best of what Griffith and the surrounding area has to offer.

We asked Daniel of Zecca what his thoughts are on the increase in ‘Foodie Tourism’ to the region – “People’s thoughts are changing on what’s a tourist attraction, and we’re finding that people are interested in getting back to more authentic experiences. They also now see eating and drinking as a leisure activity.

People have busier lives in general now, so relaxing over good food and wine while on holiday is very appealing. Consumers also now have more interest than before in what they’re eating. There’s more awareness of where the food comes from and the story behind how it’s grown and prepared. People are no longer willing to accept just anything – they want a fresh product and love finding out more about it.”

“Griffith’s multiculturalism and agricultural diversity have offered people from all over the world, especially Italians post-WWII, an opportunity to thrive. At the time that many immigrants arrived, the area was prosperous. Even if they arrived in Griffith with nothing, if they had a good work ethic, they could build something. And Griffith is still a great place for new migrants. We are always welcoming new people to our town and they’re able to get ahead. You can see the cultural diversity right throughout the town,” said Daniel D’Aquina of Zecca.

The main street of Griffith is lined with thriving Italian cafes, restaurants and delis, bakeries, bars and shopping galore. There really is something to do for everyone, every palate is sure to be satisfied! There are many outstanding wineries and cellar doors not to be missed in Griffith, many of them family-run including De Bortoli Wines, Calabria Family Wines and many more. Experience the sheer delight of lunch at Piccolo Farm where four generations of the Piccolo family will welcome you, and it is run by local Chef Luke Piccolo. Luke returned to Griffith after training at restaurants in Sydney and Michelin starred restaurants in Italy. Much of his quality produce is picked daily from his local family farm.


Since 2012, this month-long series of events runs annually throughout October – beautiful Springtime! Taste Riverina is a collaboration of the region’s finest food producers, showcasing much of the local agricultural produce and food, wine, beer and most importantly, local experiences throughout the Riverina.

Ultimately, the event is designed to inspire visitors to eat healthy fresher food, effectively becoming ambassadors to experience, understand and celebrate locally produced food.

Some of the produce the Riverina is known for includes rice, citrus, lamb, beef, wheat, canola oil, olive oil, grapes, prunes, potatoes and pistachios.

Events throughout the region will include agricultural tours, cooking classes, food treks, dinners, cafe specials, recipe competitions, local festivals, degustation menus, picnics, and live music.

For more information on how you can immerse yourself in 2021 Taste Riverina’s food and wine extravaganza CLICK HERE or call one of Cruise Express’ Travel Specialists on 1300 766 537.

All of our Taste Riverina Adventures sell out early – we suggest you book early to ensure you don’t miss out!