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When you arrive in Kuranda, your first object of admiration should be the station, with its abundant foliage almost obscuring its reason for existence. The old fashioned train parked there completes an harmonious picture.


Kuranda's difference in altitude, together with its much smaller size, gives it a completely different feeling from Cairns, its city neighbour. Take a free bus up to the markets (since it is uphill) and walk back later. In the market area you can also find Birdworld with many exotic species of Australian and overseas birds, including the cassowary. You can also find there a Butterfly Sanctuary, the largest in Australia , with some 2,000 butterflies. There are also various rainforest walks of greater and lesser lengths and there is a bat rehabilitation home on the edge of town.


Kuranda Scenic Railway
The trip by train to Kuranda is described by Queensland Railways as a 34 kilometre long picture postcard. It is a route which must rank amongst the world's best short journeys and is a ride which you will always remember. Construction of this route was commenced in 1882, but Kuranda Station was not opened until 1891. The builders had to surmount the tremendous challenge of rising from sea level to an elevation of 328 metres through rugged, inhospitable and thickly forested terrain. It was a great engineering achievement, necessitating the construction of fifteen tunnels and 37 bridges and viaducts.


The train starts out from Cairns on the flat through the residential parts of the city, stopping at Freshwater, if required, and Redlynch. This part of the journey, although pretty, gives little hint of what is to follow. Now we start to climb, and this is no ordinary climb, for there was nowhere to put a railway here. It follows the creek bed, twisting and turning with its host, but even here ledges have had to be carved to support the track. Where such engineering works proved impossible, tunnels were constructed, and soon we start to negotiate them.


The original plan incorporated nineteen tunnels, but in the end it was decided to convert four of them into deep cuttings, through which we shall pass. Fifteen tunnels remain. They vary in length between 60 metres and 430 metres and all have a gradient of approximately one in sixty. They were all opened to traffic on 15th June 1891 . Particularly in the Wet Season, between December and April, this area receives heavy rainfall, which not only hampered construction of the line, but caused landslides, destroying work already completed and causing several fatal accidents.


The difficulties of working in such conditions can be imagined as we crawl up the forested slopes and thread our way through the tunnels. Several times we obtain panoramic views back over the foothills to the coastal plain and the Coral Sea glistening beyond. Stoney Creek station comes at approximately the mid-point of the climb. If one had to pick a single highlight of this journey, it would be the lofty curving viaduct which carries the railway in front of Stoney Creek Falls. It is the scene most often displayed on leaflets advertising this service and, during the construction of the railway, it was the spot chosen for a banquet held in celebration of the visit of the Governor in April 1890. It is said that the location chosen also eliminated the need for speeches, since nothing could be heard above the noise of the waterfall. On the section of line between Stoney Creek and Barron Falls we pass through the last two tunnels, the second of which is by far the longest on the line, at 430 metres. If precedent is followed, the train will be stopped at Barron Falls Station, a signal passed and water allowed to escape from the dam on the Barron River in order to permit Barron Falls to flow for the benefit of railway passengers, a charming custom.


Kuranda Station, at the end of our journey, is, in itself, something of a tourist attraction. Constructed in 1915, it has somehow managed to transform itself into a railway botanical garden. Much as stationmasters were once famed for their horticultural instincts, you will never have seen anything on a railway platform quite like this verdant and luxuriant growth. The train used for this journey consists of refurbished 1920s carriages hauled by a modern diesel locomotive.


Cairns Skyrail
Having gone up by train, you should return by Skyrail or do it in reverse. Read more about Cairns Skyrail.

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