Category Archives: Cycling

TAG Rail Trails Trip Summary

The following correspondence was received from one of our guests who joined a TAG North Queensland Rail Trails tour in August. It is an interesting perspective from a retired gentleman who was formerly a locomotive driver;

TAG Rail Trails Trip“My initial communication with TAG convener & guide Peter Tuck was very simple. Peter described what he had to offer and I explained what our interest was. From this Peter designed a four day mountain bike ride that turned out to be immensely enjoyable and rewarding.

Our first day’s ride was on the Stannary Hills road and the Stannary Hills Tramway. All points of interest were explained to us by Peter in an easy to understand oratory. All of our meals were prepared by Peter’s wife Trixie and the meals were planned around good healthy food, exactly what was required for four days of bike riding. The Stannary Hills road was mostly gentle hills with long downhill runs surrounded by virgin bush; we enjoyed riding every meter of it. Riding the Stannary Hills Tramway formation was both exciting and astounding. We couldn’t believe how those early builders constructed this track through such challenging country, especially through Eureka Creek Gorge. All in all this was a great introduction for what was in store over the following days.

TAG Rail Trails TripThe bike ride for day two was along the Silver Valley road. The extended down-hill runs, beautiful bush scenery complimented by attractive mountains and hills, the remains of old tin mining activity, sharing conversation with Main road workers, admiring old aboriginal rock art and lunch on the bank of beautiful Wild River made this ride one to remember for us and one we didn’t want to end. However, like all good things it had to end but what a way to end, a gentle ride to Woodleigh Station Homestead paddock on the bank of the Wild River. The enticing water holes in the River extended an invitation that we couldn’t resist so it was a refreshing swim before our evening meal. Our evening meal was a tasty kangaroo stew with vegetables and billy tea while sitting comfortably around a friendly camp fire. When the fire burnt through, Trixie cooked a damper in the coals to be consumed the following day.

On day three we looked for and found the remains of the rail bridge over Return Creek at Mt Garnet. The bike ride for day two began on the outskirts of Mt Garnett. The first section was particularly enjoyable as it wasn’t part of the actual four wheel drive rail trail as advertised. On this well-constructed rail formation we came across all types of rail infrastructure as well as pieces of ore that had fallen off wagons and lumps of coal that would have fallen off coal hoppers and steam locomotives, this coal would have originated in Mt Mulligan.

TAG Rail Trails TripThis initial ride was followed by a bus ride to the top of the Lappa Range where our bikes were unloaded to begin the ride to Lappa Junction on the Cairns to Forsayth Rail Corridor which initially was the main attraction for our interest in this particular tour. We weren’t disappointed, mile after mile of downhill riding surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery, views for as far as we could see and most of it covered in virgin bush. Plenty of curved cuttings, drop offs, remains of bridges and very attractive stone pitched culverts constructed by expert stone masons makes this corridor an excellent one for riding on.

From Lappa Junction we travelled by bus to our camp-site on Emu Creek right next to a huge rock monolith populated by rock wallabies. A swim in Emu creek followed by our evening meal around the camp-fire was accompanied by friendly conversation followed by a good night’s sleep.

Before departure the next day we viewed the antics of a Giant Bower Bird in his bower. All in all, it was another great choice for a camp-site.

On our final day we returned to Lappa Junction to board the Savannahlander for a railmotor ride to Boonmoo. We encountered more captivating scenery during this rail trip, especially as we wound our way along Death- Adder Gorge. Boonmoo as mentioned earlier was the terminating station for the Stannary Hills Tramway. We had lunch on arrival there and then made our way by bus for the start of our bike ride over the section of tramway we couldn’t complete on day one. Once again we were struck by the ingenuity of those early builders as we encountered old bridge remains, sleepers, dog spikes, telephone poles, ore bins, cuttings, two to three chain curves and surrounded the whole time by bush scenery along the picturesque Eureka Creek. We returned to Yungaburra a lot of the time in silence contemplating what our TAG hosts had revealed to us over the four days. We loved what we had achieved during this time period and we both agreed that if the opportunity ever presented itself again, we most definitely would return for another dose of this district under the professional guidance and care of the good people from TAG.”


We were looking for a 40km loop in the dry back country close to the Tablelands and having heard about Stannary Hills a group of cyclists decided to check it out last weekend; what a find!! Less than an hour west lies a multitude of back road biking opportunities in a remote outback type environment defined by Australiana mining camps and history which reveals the story of the pioneers of this country.

We started the ride at Watsonville – the settlement with the windmill in the middle of the road!!, and headed toward Irvinebank before turning off onto the well marked Stannary Hills Road. We were pleasantly surprised at the good condition of the gravel road as it had recently been graded and rolled making for a firm, level surface. The countryside has never looked better after one of the best rainfall seasons on record; creeks were running strongly and herbage and trees were a flourishing verdant green.

About 6km along Stannary Hills Road we took a right and headed north through beautiful rolling hills, perfect for cycling. The support bus was waiting for us at Stannary Hills Pioneer Cemetery and we had a walk through the small enclosure and quickly appreciated the sacrifices made by the hardy early settlers. After a welcome smoko we continued north to the site of the former Stannary Hills mining settlement which sits on top of a knoll and offers excellent views of the surrounding ranges.

After tin was discovered in the region in the 1880’s Stannary Hills developed into a sizable township expanding to 725 souls by 1906. Records show that at its peak there were 8 hotels, a number of stores, a hospital, two butchers, two bakers and a teacher.

In 1902 a two foot gauge tramway was built from Stannary Hills to the Cairns-Chillagoe railway, following the Eureka Creek valley and joining the railway at Boonmoo to the north. The tramway lowered the costs of transporting tin out of Stannary Hills and in 1907 it was extended south to Irvinebank’s tin mines, making Stannary Hills and Irvinebank a major base-metal region.Ref; Centre for the Government of Queensland, 2011.

Today most of this former infrastructure has disappeared and a few stone middens, mining overburden and artefacts are all that remain of the township.

We heard that parts of the former railway alignment are accessible and that one can get from Stannary to Dimbulah via Boonmoo but that’s another day and perhaps another story.

We backtracked to Stannary Hills Road and enjoyed the freedom of a wide, gently undulating road under a brilliant blue sky before reaching Montalbion on the Irvinebank to Petford Road. An easy 6 km had us back in Irvinebank for a snack and drink by 12.30am.

A most enjoyable day with excellent cycling, beautiful fauna and abundant opportunities to appreciate our history.


Lappa – the Rail Trail

We went out to the Lappa last weekend – we needed another fix of the remote beauty of the land, the azure blue sky contrasted against spindly Eucalypt and red earth.

Our group met in Yungaburra and drove – with animated discussion in the rear of the van, down to Irvinebank an hour away. We kitted up and rode supported for about 38km along the Petford Road. We chose our favourite grassy campsite along Emu Creek which has good swimming holes shaded by huge old Paperbark trees.

There is a remarkable rocky pinnacle that we had seen on previous trips but never explored, it must stand about 25metres above the surrounding land and is completely isolated from all other geological features like an obelisk placed in a park. Some of us took the opportunity to have a late afternoon walk to explore it.  It overlooks a rocky bar and pools in Emu Creek. We spied two large rock wallabies basking in the evening sun as if standing sentinel over the place as we approached, but they were soon gone. The attached pictures show the lovely outlook over Emu Creek from the top.

We were up early and after a quick breakfast and by 7 am we were on the road.. Lappa Junction was a small but busy railway siding in the past but now waits patiently to serve one train – the Gulflander,  on its weekly return journey from Cairns to Forsayth. The pub appears to have remained unchanged  for 100 years – its rustic charm is beguiling and no first time visitor goes away from it unmoved.

We were on the Lappa Trail by 7.30 and Jeff drove the van about 7 km ahead and prepared a welcome smoko before turning around and driving around to Mt. Garnet for the pick up.

The Lappa Trail never disappoints and this trip took on a different dimension as we were unsupported for about 30km. We had prepared for this and were equipped with adequate water, snacks, spare tyres and tubes and an EPIRB. The countryside was as majestic as ever and the beauty of the landscape was intensified by the isolation – we saw one ute during the whole trip and the photos depict the surreal isolation of the place. We were fortunate to have had no incidents along the Track and were pleased to see Jeff with a beautifully laid out lunch in a superbly positioned site overlooking the distant ranges at the end of the pass.

We had been on the track for 6 hours and as the sun was biting we all decided it was time to call off the cycling and retreat into the shaded comfort of the van for the trip back to Yungaburra.

Another successful Lappa Trail with many more to come – come and join us!!