Four heavily graffitied train carriages are currently undergoing a restoration that is set to transform them into Queenscliff’s next big tourist drawcard.
Prominent heritage train enthusiast Andrew Bridger has his sights set on creating a unique fine dining and function experience, to rival California’s famous Napa Valley Wine Train.
In all, seven carriages will be trucked down from northern Queensland as part of the ambitious plan to create Q Train.
“There was a fleet of these carriages, about 60 or 70 all up, built in the 50’s and they were the trains that ran the Inlander and Sunlander services,” said Mr Bridger. “They ran from Brisbane to Cairns and out to Mount Isa and up to Townsville and out west.
“We’ve got a bunch of these carriages and we’re going to set this up as Q Train, a dining car and special events and function train. So It could be murder mysteries or anything you like on board and you can hire it for corporate events.
“We’re going to have a chef and our aim is to have a hatted restaurant,” he said.
Mr Bridger, a former president and long time member of the Bellarine Railway, said he was inspired to build the service after riding the 25-mile long Napa Valley route.
The heritage train experience runs through some of America’s best wine growing regions, and attracts thousands of tourists each year. “There is no other fine dining train in Australia. Q Train will use the Bellarine railway but it will be stopping at various locations along the line so people can sit and dine and enjoy the scenery. For instance sitting the train out there along Swan Bay, with the swans and birdlife, unique, it can’t be done anywhere else,” he said.
“I’ve travelled the world on trains for many, many years and I’ve always wanted to do something like this – Andrew Bridger”
“From a food and beverage point of view, the whole objective is to showcase Bellarine produce and wines. It will be like a taste of the Bellarine on rails. Mr Bridger said he first “nagged” Queensland rail about the carriages while they were still in service some five years ago.
When they were eventually replaced with new tilt trains he made an offer to buy seven. Once renovations are finished, some time mid this year, Q Train will boast two dining cars, two bar carriages, a state of the art kitchen and lounge carriages.
The venture could employ as many as 25 full and part time works and generate millions of dollars into the local economy, he said “The economic impact of the train will probably be in the order of $15 to $20 million per year. The Railways’ current economic impact in 2011 was $16.5 million, with the Blues Train, so give this three years and we’ll be matching that, if not increasing on it.
“I envisage it running to a scheduled time table each week of probably six trains over lunches and dinners and evening. We don’t want to in any way clash with the Blues Train… and we don’t think it will is because it’s a totally different product.”
Whilst is will be housed at Queenscliff, the train will begin its journey and return to the Drysdale station, occasionally passing the iconic Blues Train along the line.
“I’ve travelled the world on trains for many, many years and I’ve always wanted to do something like this and I’ve always seen the potential for something like this on the Peninsula. When the carriages became available I realized we had this marvellous opportunity to do this here,” Mr Bridger said.
This article was published in The Rip, January 2017
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