COAL, water and passion - it takes tonnes of each to fuel the BB18 and a quarter steam engine that's making historic tracks across central Queensland this week.

The First World War troop train re-enactment carrying 250 passengers and more than 20 Queensland Rail volunteers and staff steamed into Longreach four hours after leaving Winton on Monday.

Built in Maryborough in 1956 and restored at Queensland Rail's Ipswich workshop, the historic iron horse is charged with pulling nine carriages, including a dining car, two water wagons and a diesel tank across more than 1400km of Queensland's arid outback.

The locomotive weighs 102.8 tonnes, has a four-six-two wheel arrangement and can carry 10.5 tonnes of coal and 15,910 litres of water.

Managing a top speed of 80kmh, the locomotive will chew through hundreds of tonnes of coal as it continues its run from Longreach today  into Emerald, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Maryborough and Cooroy before terminating at Roma Street Station in Brisbane late on Friday.

The steam engine is a baby compared to the carriages it is coupled to.

The carriages range from 87 to 113 years old and seat 300 in total.

Their plain dark red exteriors house exquisitely crafted wood panelling and leather high-backed seats.

The dining car, the youngest of the nine, features blue, gold and green pelmets and curtains, silky oak architraves, panels and tables with floral carpets and pressed metal ceilings.

No smoking signs and fire extinguishers are among the few concessions to the 21st century.

Kristine Clarke is one of the dedicated QR staffers charged with keeping the train on track.

There's no mistaking Ms Clarke's pride in her charge.

"The locomotive has never been out of service," the QR heritage operations manager said.

It might be the pride of the fleet now but there was nothing special about the locomotive when it rolled of the Maryborough production line 59 years ago.

"It was just another BB18 and a quarter," Ms Clarke said.


The engine's maintenance crew work hard to keep the BB18 in tip top condition.

"Everything is original," Ms Clarke said.

"We maintain it in a traditional manner; we operate it in a traditional manner using coal and water.

"Maintaining it takes quite a bit of doing."

The drivers usually pilot modern trains across Brisbane.

"Because they are city train drivers they don't have route knowledge so we've brought a pilot (navigator) with us," Ms Clarke said.

 

Getting the train from Winton to Brisbane is no mean feat - especially where fuel is concerned.

"We had to work out where to locate he coal so we could fuel it," Ms Clarke said.

"We'll use hundreds of tonnes of coal.

"We use anthracite coal which comes from Clermont.

"It's the finest burning coal you can buy.

"It burns very hot and leaves next to no ash."

Drought conditions also played a factor in the train's water supply.

"In the old days you had a lot of tanks with hoses and you could fill up with water all the time.

"They are no longer in existence so we have to carry 100 tonnes of water behind us."



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