A Little Rail with a Big History!

Spectacularly Australian

Although we are relatively young, Australia is full of rich diversity and intriguing history, and our railways are a testimony to that!

Here are some interesting facts about what was happening in Australia in 1907:

  • NSW Rugby Football League was formed in Sydney, introducing League to Australia for the first time
  • The first telephone call was made between Sydney and Melbourne
  • The first Australian exhibition of art by women was held in Melbourne
  • Edward VII was on the throne and Alfred Deakin was Prime Minister
  • The Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club was formed
  • Traveling to London took 5-6 weeks one way
  • And, the Victorian Railways A2 Class steam locomotive was introduced (see photo below)!

A few other key dates for Australian railway history buffs are outlined below:

1907 – ‘Yarra’ Parlor Car

Built in 1907 for the Sydney or Melbourne Express, this is one of two cars built for the service where first class passengers paid extra to be seated in the Parlor Car. The car has an observation balcony at one end, a large lounge and two compartments.

Placed in storage in 1937 until the late 60s this car is a rare and spectacular survivor.

 

1907 – Locomotive A2 986

Entering service in 1907, A2 986 is the sole operable survivor of 125 locomotives in the class. For over forty years, the A2 class was the main express passenger locomotive on the Victorian Railways, hauling intrastate and interstate services.  

A2 986, was withdrawn on 2 December 1963. Put on display in a park in Warragul it was rescued in the mid-80s and taken to Newport for restoration – a process that took nearly 30 years!

Today, this former express locomotive is back in top form and ready to take Cruise Express passengers travelling on The Rail Spectacular in July 2019, for a full day of steam hauled fun. On this tour, the A2 986 will become the first A2 class in over 56 years to haul by itself between Ballarat and Melbourne via Bacchus Marsh.

 

1912 – State Car 4

Built in 1912, State Car 4 was based on the then state of the art wooden E type carriage design. It features an observation balcony at one end, Governors and Ladies bedrooms, dining room, kitchen, Gents and Ladies bathrooms and accommodation for Ladies in Waiting and other support staff.

Ride in a car that has literally been used by royalty!

The Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth), on the balcony of State Car 4 in 1927.

1956 – Locomotive 4204

Based on an American design, the 42 class entered service in NSW in 1956 as the first ‘streamlined’ locomotives in the state. Hauling well-known passenger trains of the time including the ‘Brisbane Limited’ and ‘Intercapital Daylight’, by the late 70s they had been superseded by more modern and powerful locomotives.

The 4204 was withdrawn in 1983 and entered preservation with Lachlan Valley Railway. One of two remaining in service, this locomotive represents a long-gone era when style mattered and everyone travelled by train.

If you are interested in experiencing any and all of these locomotives and carriages, Cruise Express runs steam and diesel Heritage Rail (& Sail) journeys throughout Australia throughout the year. If you are lucky you will have the opportunity to visit heritage rail yards where you can go behind the scenes and meet the volunteers who dedicate countless hours to keep these remarkable trains going – for our pleasure!

Click here for more information about this tour.

 

Griffith Foodie Haven!

Riverina Tourism Boom

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.

WHY GRIFFITH?

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

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 holidays 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 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.

McWilliam's

Limone is an intimate dining experience of pure artistry and 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.

There are many outstanding wineries and cellar doors not to be missed in Griffith, many of them family-run including De Bortoli Wines, McWilliams Hanwood Estate, Calabria Family Wines and many more.

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!

TASTE RIVERINA

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, potatoes and pistachios.

2018 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 this year’s Riverina food and wine extravaganza click here or call one of Cruise Express’ Travel Specialists on 1300 766 537.

Heritage Rail Travel

The Ins and Outs!

Since November 2016, Cruise Express has successfully run heritage rail journeys throughout the eastern seaboard of Australia. The demand for these trips has increased as passengers experience not only the destination but the joy of travel itself!

Why do our clients love heritage trains journeys?

There is a nostalgic romanticism about heritage trains, a step back in time to a bygone era like no other. Many of our passengers remember trains like the ones Cruise Express charter and in many cases have actually travelled on them in the past. Another thing we hear time and time again is that there is a wonderful camaraderie onboard and people make lasting friendships on these journeys.

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 ‘fastests’ 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 these heritage trains are mostly self-funded and run by a small but dedicated group of volunteers. The organisations heavily rely on revenue from their own tours, private donations and funding from charters.

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

Some carriages date back to the middle of last century if not even older, 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 volunteer’s 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 history is paramount. Additionally, passing these skill sets 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 confused to be part of current Government Railway operations or public transport. In fact, they are privately owned and operated vintage trains, meaning discounts and benefits often offered on public transport simply 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 will have carefully allocated stops working around all other trains on the network including both passengers, freight and trackwork.

One charming aspect many don’t expect is that most rail motors and some 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. Doorways and corridors are not wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs or walking frames. Onboard lavatories and bathrooms are also small.

On a final note, please be super nice to all of the men and women working aboard your heritage rail journey. The volunteers do more work behind the scenes than you can possibly imagine, giving up their own time, and often their own money.

The trains truly are rare survivors of a long lost era, and we are lucky to have them.

To find out more about several of our magnificent heritage rail journeys, please visit our rail and sail page or call our Travel Specialists on 1300 766 537.

We look forward to welcoming you onboard!

 

Why You Should Add Rail To Your Holiday Journey List

So Many Reasons to Explore the World By Rail

The wise old adage about the journey being more important than the destination, couldn’t be more appropriate for railway journey holidays. While epic odysseys such as the Trans-Siberian Express, the Alaska Railway or The Scottish Highlands are trips of a lifetime for many, there are also many adventures to discover throughout Australia.

Cruise Express has begun introducing rail as an add on to many of our cruising holidays. Many of the rail itineraries are exclusively organised by Cruise Express so are not available elsewhere. Below are a few good reasons Rail Journey Holidays are becoming more popular:

Nostalgic Charm – Restored heritage trains are a wonderful travel alternative, taking you through spectacular landscapes, culture and history. With a touch of romance, rail journey holidays will transport you into a bygone era when rail was a common way to travel.

Rail Journey Holidays - more popular than ever

Exclusive Destinations – Cruise Express is taking iconic trains to destinations that are often untouched by heritage rail tourism. Travel in comfort through majestic alpine scenery, along panoramic coastal routes, or spectacular gorges. Remote destinations can have limited or no access by road or sea, leaving rail the best way to meander through some of the world’s most stunning landscapes.

Immersion – While air travel may be a great way to arrive at your destination faster, there is so much of the sensory experience missed, including stops along the way to really immerse yourself in a local experience. Sit back, relax and watch the scenery, culture and history unfold all around you.

Relaxing Holiday – Rail travel is affordable, comfortable and relaxing with no airport transfers, jet lag or traffic to worry about. You have the choice to mingle with other friendly passengers, sit back and relax, stretch your legs and walk around, eat, drink or sleep – the choice is yours.

Rail Journey Holidays - more popular than ever

Care-free Holidays – Rail journey escorted tours are a perfect balance of inclusions and freedom for singles, friends, couples or families. Organised local tours offer unique insider perspectives, yet we recommend getting off the beaten track to create your own priceless memories.

Keeping Couples Happy – Combining rail and cruise is a great combination for couples that don’t necessarily agree on the best way to travel – be adventurous and try both – you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Financially Friendly – Most of the holiday costs are covered in a rail or rail and sail holiday. All inclusions are clearly defined in your itinerary to make budgeting easier. Enjoy the comforts of a premium holiday for exceptional value, and let Cruise Express take care of the rest!

Quality Inclusions – Cruise Express tours are like no other, offering unique experiences including Platinum Class travel, exclusive food and wine tours, private dinners, concierge services, and ship vantage points on Sydney Harbour for one of the world’s most spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Remember, when the whistle sounds and the wheels turn, your adventures begin.

Call Cruise Express today on 1300 766 537 or see our list of rail journeys here to have your own rail experience!

Rail Journey Holidays - more popular than ever