The Q Train's chef Greg Egan with the man for all seasons (and trades), Andrew Bridger, taking a break from refurbishing the carriages that should be ready for a trial run in September.

Down the track with The Q Train

The Q Train is in the final stages of being converted into a casual dining restaurant that will soon be running 2-4 times a week from Queenscliff to Drysdale. Beginning with trials in September and October, The Q Train will be formally launched in January.

Hospitality Manager, Daniel Trotter, and his wife Marie-Claire are overseeing the train’s degustation menu. The pair have been sourcing wines and produce from around the Bellarine. “We anticipate there will be 14-20 ‘well trained’ staff on board including a train driver, 4-5 in the kitchen, the same for the wait staff and possibly two crews as the needs arise,” said Daniel.

Head chef Greg Egan explained that the meals will be a fusion of modern and Asian influence’s and techniques. Greg’s career has seen him win several regional and state Golden Plate Awards including Best Chef in the 2013 and 2014 regional awards and Runner Up in the State awards for the Brougham Arms Hotel in Bendigo; winner for the regional awards and Runner Up for the state awards in 2015.

The Q Train was the brainchild of Andrew Bridger and Michael Barclay, both of whom have been involved in the rail industry, in both tourism and professionally, for many years. Andrew is an original member and past president of the Geelong Steam Preservation Society that runs the historic Bellarine Railway where the Blues Train has enjoyed a successful 23 year run.

“There isn’t another train like this in Australia,” says Andrew, “other than the Indian Pacific or The Ghan, where gourmet food is cooked on-board.”

Andrew says he had the idea for a dinner train like The Q Train for many years. “The catalyst for making the dream a reality presented itself last year when Queensland Rail announced it was disposing of enough carriages to get the project off the ground. The carriages, built in the mid-1950s, are made of steel and have an art deco look that we’re accentuating with carpets and wall furnishings.”

Carriages for the narrow gauge Bellarine Railway can only now be found in Queensland. Six carriages that once carried passengers from Brisbane to places like Cairns, Mt Isa and beyond, are in the process of being converted into a travelling dining experience for 88 people in two dining carriages, a commercial kitchen in the middle and two bar cars at either end of the train.

Future plans include theme nights, a private carriage with its own bar for 30 people and in First Class there will be butler service for seven private booths for two people to enjoy celebrations of types. What a wonderful romantic experience that will be!

“People who like trains, fine dining and new experiences are our market,” says Andrew who believes The Q Train has the possibility of contributing about $20 million annually to the local economy. “Our aim is to be acknowledged over time as a renowned gourmet restaurant experience and achieve a chef’s hat for it,” said Greg wistfully.