The year was 1882 and the residents of the tin mining settlement, Herberton, had a serious problem – they were facing starvation! Due to constant flooding, the settlement was unable to bring in supplies from nearby supply towns, so it was decided that a railway needed to be built as soon as practical. Bushman, Christie Palmerston, was selected to map out a suitable route for the new line and the then premier, Sir Samuel Griffiths, was given the honour of turning the first sod when construction finally began in 1886.
The rail line – which stretched to Mareeba through the Atherton Tablelands – was to be built in three stages, with lengths of 13.2 km, 24.5 km, and 37.4 km. All three stages – a total of 75.1 km – were full of challenges, but the middle section was particularly arduous and harrowing, with Indigenous opposition, sheer inclines and dense rainforest creating barriers to completion. Despite these challenges – and with absolutely no modern equipment – 2.3 million metres of earthwork, 93 curves, 15 tunnels and a multitude of bridges were created to complete the line. Celebrations were held and the track was finally declared open in June of 1891, changing the lives of the people it gave access to forever.
These days, the Kuranda Scenic Railway is primarily used to provide visitor access to the quaint village of Kuranda. The iconic railway meanders for almost two hours through thick, lush World Heritage Listed rainforest, deep ravines and sparkling waterfalls on its way from Cairns to Kuranda, giving its passengers a view of Tropical North Queensland’s true beauty. While the old steam engine has been replaced by a modern diesel model, the carriages themselves are authentically refurbished redwood heritage carriages, recalling the lavish style of train travel in the early 1900s. Kuranda Village itself is full of an assortment of interesting attractions, artistic residents and plenty of old-world charm.
The Kuranda Scenic Railway is an experience you’ll definitely not want to miss and the views are simply stunning. Don’t forget your camera!