Savannahlander Train History

It’s a rare site but sometimes my guests get to see this shining stainless steel rail motor shuffling through the outback on my Two Day Outback Tour.

The Savannahlander train follows some of the original track that connected the Chillagoe smelter and surrounding mine fields to Cairns and was completed to Chillagoe in 1901.  Eventually, it became a popular tourist railway but regular services were suspended in 1992. Chillagoe In 2004 the Savannahlander recommenced operation utilising only some of that original track, going south at Almaden and is now one of the long distance passenger transport service contracts funded by the Queensland Government. I have had the great honour of driving the Savannahlander while training and therefore, have a special bond with this project. Perentie Tours as a part of its tour, drives beside this historic railway track for many kilometers and guests can observe the stone culverts, steel bridges and heavy gauge rail that provided a stable and comparatively low maintenance line for so many years although Termites have always been an issue with the timber sleepers

The ExperienceChillagoe (154)

The Savannahlander is one of the great rail experiences of the world as it rattles its way into the Outback and return, often slowing for cattle or flocks of emus. The Savannahlander doesn’t run during the Far North Queensland’s wet season. Often bridges are wash away and the track suffers severe damage. The drivers do commentary and generally entertain the guests for the 4-day adventure. Guests leave the train feeling like family because of the bond that is developed during the close contact and passion shown by the staff, most remembering the drivers names years after their travels.

More information can be found at

or have a look at the Perentie Tours home page


About Gary Bondeson

Gary has been directly involved in tourism in Far North Queensland since the 1990’s. His passion for the area was inspired by the rich history and many points of interest concentrated in the region and felt a strong desire to share this with others. Gary is heavily involved with tourism development and even co-hosted an episode of the popular travel show 'The Great Outdoors’ with Tom Williams showing the limestone caves of Chillagoe located 200kms west of Cairns. After being away for 5 years, Gary has now returned to the area that he holds so dear to his heart to share his knowledge and experience with those who wish to have a Fair Dinkum Ozzy experience.

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