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The Spirit of Queensland Train’s RailBeds Review

Over the years I’ve been lucky to have travelled on some pretty incredible trains around the world.

I’ve experienced the romance of rail on the Venice Simplon Orient Express and the Royal Scotsman, zipped through the Japanese countryside on a bullet train and crossed Canada on The Canadian.

Here in Australia I’ve gone north to south on the Ghan and east to west on the Indian Pacific, travelled out to Longreach on Queensland’s Spirit of the Outback outback and was able to experience The Sunlander train before she became an Australian travel memory.

But I’ve never travelled on a train like this anywhere else in the world.

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The first of her kind in the Southern Hemisphere, the Spirit of Queensland was brought in to replace The Sunlander, cutting the Brisbane to Cairns route down from 31 hours to a 25 hour journey. A speedier trip isn’t the only change between the two, as while the Sunlander had private sleeping compartments, the Spirit of Queensland has two classes and both remind me of something you’d usually see in the sky.

The premium economy carriages feature leather seats, entertainment systems with on demand movies, TV and music in the back of the seat in front of you and a 30 degree seat recline.

Meanwhile the RailBeds are reminiscent of business class seats on an airline. Or possibly first class, depending on who you’re flying with.

Spirit of Queensland train

By day the RailBeds are large seats that can recline 35 degrees and have a footrest that can be used as a seat if you’re travelling with someone who wants to come and have a chat. By night they are converted into the sort of flat bed that I’d be very happy to find on a plane, measuring 1.9m x 0.51m.

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There are two RailBed carriages, with 19 in one car and 16 in the other to allow for wheelchairs. Most rows have three seats, with two on one side and another on the other side of the aisle, so if you’re travelling solo as I was you may want to request the single bed aisle when you book rather than the double if you’d prefer not to sleep next to a stranger.

Speaking of sleeping, if you suffer from sleep apnea and travel with a machine, you should let Queensland Rail know that you’ll be bringing one onboard so they can take care of you. All seats come with a 240 volt AC power outlet so depending on your machine you should be just fine, but do let them know when you book your ticket.

RailBed passengers also receive a lip balm, hand sanitser and hand cream from Queensland skincare brand, Bubbles Organic.

Spirit of Queensland RailBed amenities pack

While the Sunlander’s Queenslander class had a full dining car, the Spirit of Queensland’s RailBeds continue that airline feel with a trolley service, so you can have dinner and a movie without moving from your seat.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all included in your RailBed ticket, with one glass of complimentary wine with your evening meal. Any other drinks and snacks can be purchased from the club car, which is where premium economy passengers buy their meals.

Unlike the Sunlander where meals are all freshly prepared in the kitchen, here they’re more airline food style. It’s still all fresh Queensland produce but it’s mostly been prepped on land before it’s finished on board.

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When it comes time to get ready for bed, the staff leaps into action, bringing out the hydraulics to flip the seat over to reveal a mattress. They then make the bed for you, providing all of the bedding as well as a towel for those who fancy a refreshing shower at high speed.

The shower may move a little bit more than you’re used to, but it’s surprisingly good, and there’s more space than you find on some other trains so your clothes don’t have to get wet when you do.

As for what to wear to bed? Before leaving home I’d already decided I was going the PJs route and had packed my Singapore Airlines sleep suit. As I came back from the bathrooms feeling all comfy I noticed some people had the same idea as me while others planned to sleep in their clothes. So really the choice is up to you, and whatever you feel comfortable doing.

With the beds all made up, the lights dimmed and the curtains closed, the RailBeds feel like a fun slumber party. A fast moving slumber party.

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While the Spirit of Queensland can and does do 160 kilometres per hour at times, she doesn’t stick to that speed the whole way. There are little things like bends and track conditions to take into consideration, and of course slowing to come into towns and stopping to let passengers on and off.

Entertainment in RailBed Carriage on Spirit of Queensland train

But she does feel fast. While you can’t feel the speed of a plane once you’re up in the air, you can feel the speed of a train. You feel connected to the rails, and as the train tilts, so do you. It’s quite exciting and I’m grinning like a kid on a theme park ride as I pop my head under the curtains to see the shadows of trees whizzing past and the moon and the stars shining above.

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As my train / airline experience blurs a little I sometimes forget where I am, and think ‘oh, a little turbulence’ as the train moves. I also wonder why I can’t find the call button to contact a member of staff, and then realise this isn’t a plane and there isn’t one, except for wheelchair customers.

The next morning I wake up, look out the window and smile. The sun is preparing to come up over the mountain range, there’s mist everywhere, and kangaroos are hopping beside the train. I may have grown up on a farm where kangaroos were commonplace but the sight puts a big smile on my face.

It’s beautiful out there, and I feel lucky to be seeing this part of Queensland in a completely new way.

Amanda Woods travelled on Spirit of Queensland and the Sunlander as a guest of Queensland Rail, and stayed as a guest of the Brisbane Hilton. All thoughts and opinions remain her own.

Planning to get the train from Brisbane? This map takes a look at some of the hotels and Stayz home rental options nice and close to the station. As a Stay22 affiliate if you book through this map I may receive a commission but don’t worry it’s at no extra cost to you.

Leave a Comment

  1. Unbelievable prices. No wonder people just fly

  2. Lee Butcher says

    Is there power points for sleep apnea machines

    • Hi Lee, I remember being able to use my iPad and other electrical devices, but you’re best to call Queensland Rail and ask to find out for sure in case anything has changed, or in case it isn’t set up the right way for you. I hope you get to enjoy the train and sleep easily.

      • Christine Keys says

        Yes. The USB ports are useless for charging so I plug mine into the power point beside the bed.

    • Roselyn Morrice says

      It says there are a point for sleep apnea machine as I am travelling in September with mine so made the same enquiry and told them at time of booking

  3. Joanna Kingston says

    Are people forced to wear masks on the train?

  4. Noel Kimberley says

    do the single railbed seats at the front and back of the carriage have a window?

  5. Tom Gray says

    I have used the rail beds twice in about 5 years, Bris. to Townsville. If there is one drawback with this type of sleeper it is lack of privacy. Even the 2nd Class Sleepers in Thai railways have curtains. The other point is, although lights are dimmed or turned off at night, you still have people walking in and out of the carriage so you still bright light shining from each end of the compartment. The Staff on the Queenslander are EXCELLENT! No other words are needed.

    • Hi Tom, I’m glad you’ve experienced this one for yourself and that you love the staff on the trains. I’ve spent a lot of nights sleeping on trains and it’s true this one isn’t like the ones I’ve been on before with private cabins. But it’s pretty much just like being in business class on a plane where people may still be walking past and the little bit of light from the galley gets seen through the curtain. Which is why an eye mask and earplugs are a good thing to have in your bag so you can do that plane-like sleep (as hard as it’s getting to remember what that’s like!)

  6. Nicki Corkill says

    Joanna, my parents left Townsville yesterday (arriving in Brisbane this morning) and were told, yes, at this time it would be necessary for them to wear their masks at all times while travelling as Townsville was in a 3 day lockdown last week. However, when we helped them board yesterday the other guests in their carriage (B) who had boarded somewhere between Cairns and Townsville were not wearing masks.
    Hope this helps.

    • Thanks for sharing Nicki. Though with things changing all the time it’s always best to have a mask on you these days so you can do the right thing. The staff on the train will have the latest update for the day so just listen for their instructions if needed and come prepared.

  7. joan cattell says

    Hi Amanda, could you tell me what items are included in amenities bag on Spirit of Queensland please.

  8. Cheryl & Poppy 🐾 says

    Thanks for that…been thinking of a train trip with my Asisstance Dog. You’ve shown me where we’d be sitting/sleeping & it sounds wonderful 👍

  9. pawnsquared says

    How much were you paid for this review? My wife and I have just returned from a trip Brisbane to Cairns and returned Proserpine to Brisbane. I described the sleep time in terms of a ship. It was a very bad crossing on a ship without stabilisers, with screaming banshees all night. That was also the experience of the others in our tour party. Cars B and C are becoming old. We experienced USB ports that didn’t work, and ear-hone jacks that didn’t work. Toilet seats have become loose and generally a good refurbishment program would work wonders. On the plus side the staff and meals were excellent.

    • I wasn’t paid anything for the review, and clearly we had very different experiences. Sorry to hear yours wasn’t what you were hoping for.

  10. I was just wondering if towels were provided for the showers or if it was byo?

  11. Linda parsons says

    I have just returned from my first trip on the spirit of Queensland Brisbane to Cairns. I would like to say it was a wonderful experience. The staff on the train were just fantastic very professional and they just couldn’t do enough for the passengers. The service and the food was very delicious not a leftover to be seen at each meal. I will definitely taking another trip in the future with qld rail thank you for a memorable trip away.

    • Oh that’s so lovely to hear, Linda. I’m glad you enjoyed your Spirit of Queensland adventure as much as I did. And I’m with you and definitely want to do it again someday. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Rob Barr says

    Hi Amanda – are towels provided for economy seat passengers as well?

  13. Brenda Martin says

    If you are in the Sleeping carriage can you still walk through to the Dining / Club carriage for coffee etc

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