It’s time to shake, rattle and roll as the Mary Valley Rattler train steams from Gympie to Amamoor in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast on Australia’s third-largest heritage railway now with an all access carriage and a pet-friendly carriage.

Ride a heritage railway

Just two hours’ drive north of Brisbane, you can lose yourself in the rural bliss of the Sunshine Coast’s Mary Valley. Expect rolling green hills filled with friendly cows, cute coffee shops with a strong local food culture and locals who love to share their region. It’s hard to believe that this beautiful valley was once destined to be the site of the Traveston Dam. Thankfully, the dam was canned and confident of the future in front of them, local businesses are booming. The icing on the cake is the reopening of the heritage railway from Gympie to rural Amamoor. With the Mary Valley Rattler now steaming along the 46-kilometre return track, travellers are flocking to explore the region.

New all-access carriage

The latest Mary Valley Rattler improvement is a wheelchair and assisted access carriage for the train.  All passengers can now ride the Mary Valley Rattle in comfort with the introduction of a new all-access carriage. Constructed in 1924, the carriage has been extensively renovated by Gympie craftspeople to accommodate four fully equipped wheelchair spaces. The conversion of the carriage was sponsored by the Gympie Motor Group.

Engine 974 Mary Valley Rattler, Gympie Region


mary valley rattler

Bear, an Australian Koolie that is part of a team at the Detection Dogs for Conservation Centre at the University of the Sunshine and his fellow detection dog Maya, were the first to experience a ride.

Ride a heritage railway with your pet

Have you always wanted to share a train ride with your favourite four-legged friend?

The Mary Valley Rattler steam train has made access available to everyone, including pets, with a new ‘Pets On Board’ service. The Rattler now has a carriage configured with two segregated booths that can accommodate up to six people per booth with up to two pets per booth from the same family.

Two dogs from the Detection Dogs for Conservation Centre at the University of the Sunshine Coast were the first to experience Rattler train travel. Maya and Bear, who is an Australian Koolie (a herding dog which has a natural instinct to circle widely round sheep and bring them back to their owner). Both dogs are trained to detect live koalas through the scent of their fur.

The pricing for passengers is the same as the regular service and $10 per pet cost is applied. Pets can travel on board the Rattler on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday services subject to availability and terms and conditions apply.

Engine 974 Mary Valley Rattler, Gympie Region

Mary Valley Rattler heritage railway tracks

Mary Valley Rattler heritage railway tracks at Ammamor.​

Railways not roads

The Mary Valley Rattler line dates from the time when railways not roads were the main form of long-distance transport on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

It was the discovery of gold in Gympie by James Nash in 1867 that changed the game for Gympie Region. Gympie became known as the ‘town that saved Queensland’ as more than 25,000 people, my Irish great grandfather Jack Heaney amongst them, went to work on the goldfields.

Jack came to Australia at the age of 16, pretending to be 18, which seems impressive today. He continued to live around Gympie and had four children with his wife, Helena.

Riding the Rattler is quite a heritage railway experience and will bring back lots of memories if you have travelled on old trains before. There’s a gentle, rhythmic rocking to the journey as the train goes along. It’s interesting watching the scenery change from cows in paddocks to people’s backyards as the train draws into Gympie.

Two generations of my family lived and grew up at Imbil Road, Long Flat, Gympie.  The road no longer exists but the train line passes close by so I guess they would have travelled on the line. The scenes are very different from the 1900s but still, there are patches of paddock and dairy yards that are not much changed. It’s interesting to reflect.

Building the heritage railway

Getting materials and equipment in and gold out was a high priority, but the cost was high, and a railway to the closest port was essential.

Both Maryborough and Brisbane put their hands up as the best port, but Maryborough won the bid. The Mary River line from Maryborough to Gympie was completed in August 1881. It took another 10 years until a railway connection between Brisbane and Gympie was established in 1891.

As the Gympie region became established in agriculture, timber and dairying, the Mary Valley line between Gympie and Brooloo was built. Part of this line is used for the heritage railway tourist train.

In 1970 the viability of the Rattler as a commercial entity came under scrutiny. The final straws were the Gympie Rail bypass built-in 1989 and the closure of Gympie Station in 1995.


The Mary Valley Rattler as a tourist train

The Mary Valley Heritage Railway began operation as a popular tourist steam train service in 1998. Around 33,000 guests travelled the route every year until late 2012 when the Rail Regulator suspended operations so much needed track work could be undertaken.

The locals will tell you there was a lot of track work required, including bridges and these railway materials are all handmade not something you can pick up at Bunnings!


Departing from Amamore Railway Station

Heritage railway underway

After six years of track upgrades, half-day tours on a fleet of historic steam and diesel locomotives and carriages now run between Gympie and Amamoor several days a week.  The Rattler operates a fleet of fully restored rolling-stock including steam locomotives, diesel locomotives and rail-motors.

From the comfort of meticulously restored vintage carriages, passengers can enjoy the scenery of the Mary Valley, which is amongst the Cooloola hinterland’s most picturesque. The train travels on the same route used by the early settlers, farmers and gold miners of the region, so you are really going through history.

The route passes through the small town of Dagun which is home to a beautiful heritage station. It then continues on to the historic village of Amamoor. The train only stops at Dagun during special events.

Nestled in the centre of the Mary Valley, Amamoor town is bordered by State Forest and is close to the site for the popular Gympie Music Muster.

The train station is in the heart of the town, and there is a café in the grounds. Just after disembarking, you can watch the engine being turned on a restored turntable in readiness for the return trip to Gympie.

On Saturdays, there is a Collective Market in the Amamoor station grounds from 9am to 12 noon.

While most of the original track has been replaced over the years, parts of the line originally date back as far as 1914.

Gympie’s historic railway station.

Platform No. 1 Café, Gympie Railway Station

Believed to be the largest timber railway building owned by Queensland Rail during the 20th century, the historic Gympie station is the headquarters of the Mary Valley Rattler and Platform No 1 Café.

Located in Tozer Street, the café is open Wednesday to Sunday for breakfast and lunch, and there is a gift shop and heritage railway display next door.


Inside the Mary Valley Rattler’s restored carriages.

Riding The Mary Valley Rattler

The Classic Rattler Run departs on a half-day tour from Gympie Station on a return journey on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 9 am and 1.30 pm.

The Mary Valley Rattler is a not for profit volunteer-run organisation dedicated to preserving the rail experience. They are always on the lookout for more volunteers, so give them a call.

You can also board the train for a return journey at Amamoor Station at 11 am. The trip costs $59 for adults, $30 for children and $49 for concession holders.

A Rattler Picnic Train hamper costs $25 per person.

Gympie is a one-hour drive from the Sunshine Coast airport and a leisurely two-hour drive north on the Bruce Highway from Brisbane.

Want to stay in the region? Take a look at this Mary Valley retreat. If you are a keen train traveller, take a look at The Ghan Expedition journey from Darwin to Adelaide.

Disclaimer: Eat drink and be Kerry was a guest of Gympie Region Tourism

Volunteers are the heart of the Mary Valley Rattler train experience.