I last visited Queensland’s Sunshine Coast just under a year ago, when I was given a tour of the historic Mary Valley Rattler workshop at Gympie Station by Casey McGrath, the line’s Volunteer Guest Experience Officer.
Look, I’ll readily admit to knowing squat-all about century-old steam trains, but I could certainly see the devotion and pride of Casey and the other volunteer workers in restoring the Rattler — definitely a piece of Australia’s rich locomotive history — to its former glory and the chance to give a younger generation of taste of slow, enjoyable travel.
The ensuing rail journey to Gympie Station was only a couple of hundred metres, but it continued that show of devotion and pride — and also demonstrated the local community’s commitment to reviving a strong involvement in its transport history by revitalising a long-thought-dead rail connection to the nearby town of Amamoor.
The entire station had been transformed and polished to include a vibrant museum and a sustaining café.
Later this month, on the Australia Day long-weekend, the Mary Valley Rattler, which has been doing regular runs to Amamoor for a couple of months, will face probably its fiercest modern-day test — an evening trip to celebrate, right or wrong, Australia’s proclaimed national day.
With a toot of the horn on its iconic steam engine, the Mary Valley Rattler will start marking the Australia Day long weekend with the Aussie Express Twilight Train departing the historic Gympie Station at 5.30pm on Friday January 25.
It’s the first time the iconic heritage railway experience will mark the occasion since returning to regular services in October last year, and will provide a rare opportunity to enjoy a very special trip on the Mary Valley Rattler at night.
Mary Valley Rattler Chairman Ian McNicol said the Aussie Express will be just the second time the popular tourism attraction has run a night-time passenger service, after running a similar return journey to Amamoor in mid-December.
“It’s not only an incredible sight to see the sun setting across the Mary Valley from aboard a fully restored vintage locomotive, but a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the vibrant history of the area,” Mr McNicol said.
After a meandering hour-long trip through a most picturesque countryside, the Aussie Express will arrive at its destination of Amamoor, home to the annual Gympie Music Muster, for an evening of family-friendly fun.
Nothing says Australia Day more than a traditional Aussie BBQ dinner, available for purchase courtesy of the local Lions Club and the bar will be open for beers, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages.
At the Amamoor station, in a fascinating process reminiscent of a bygone era, the locomotive engine is turned on a restored turntable ready for the return trip to Gympie.
The Rattler’s Aussie Express Twilight Service will then return to Gympie, arriving back at the station at 9pm.
For those wishing to dine prior to boarding, passengers are invited to enjoy afternoon tea or a delicious meal at Platform No 1 Café. Takeway food and beverage is also available from the café. BYO alcohol is otherwise prohibited on the train.
Bookings for all tickets for the Mary Valley Rattler’s Aussie Express Twilight Train are essential, and for this special service assigned seating applies.
Restroom facilities are available at both Gympie and Amamoor stations.
The cost is $55 for adults and $30 for children aged 4-12.
Phone (07) 5482 2750 or visit maryvalleyrattler.com.au.