Queensland Places - Queensland's First Railway

The first railway in Queensland opened on 31 July 1865, running from Ipswich to its terminus at Bigge’s Camp, later to be known as Grandchester.  Bigge’s Camp was situated around thirty-four kilometres to the west of Ipswich and this line was to be the first stage of a railway which would eventually provide a link to the wealth of the Darling Downs.

Rail transport was to bring great efficiencies to the movement of goods and equipment, as well as reducing the duration of journeys, however rail construction was expensive.  Looking for savings, the Queensland government opted for the cheaper, but controversial narrow gauge.  The benefits to the Queensland economy were immediately obvious, for instance, in 1865 it took about seven days to transport a dray load of wool from Toowoomba to Ipswich.  When the rail line from Ipswich reached Toowoomba in 1867, it reduced the same journey to only five hours.

The choice of Ipswich as the starting point for the first rail line in Queensland was a testament to the importance of Ipswich in early Queensland.  Coal was needed for steam trains and Ipswich’s port was an inland freight centre.  In Ipswich, this first line skirted north around the river, running through North Ipswich to enter a two-storey iron station, then on to the Bremer River wharf.  This wharf handled rail freight until a line joining Ipswich to Brisbane was opened in 1875.

Opening of Queensland's first railway at Grandchester, 1865. Negative number 150529, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

This photograph, taken at the opening of this first Queensland railway, shows the guests and dignitaries carefully assembled and posed for the photographer.  It seems to have been a calm winter day, with the flags hanging rather limply along the top of the marquee where, we can assume, celebratory refreshments for the guests awaited.

Brian Randall - Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland.


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Quite an important railway for my family history as well as many others as Michael Courtenay along with a number of other Irish men came out and worked on building the railway.

A beautiful moment yah Helen

I would like to know about the history of qld's first railway line built

Hi MinaIf you would like submit your question via our online enquiry form, one of our library staff will assist you. http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/services/ask-usMyles Sinnamon – blog editor

I would like to know more about the history of Kalpowar. Sighns still exist. Turn Style still at gate entrance and other railway remnants. We just cant find the story of Kalpowar and its rail history.

Hi Loretta. Kalpowar is on the Gladstone to Monto branch line. The section from Barrimoon to Mungungo via Kalpowar was opened in 1930 and the line was extended to Monto in 1931. Kalpowar was a timber milling settlement. The line was suspended from use in 2002.

I wish to build a replica of rail line through oakey in 1870I wish to build a scale model of the tracks and town, this is for our museum at oakey historical society.any info would be great

Hi DenisThank you for your question. Could you please fill in our online enquiry form and our reference librarians will look into this for you. Here is the link – http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/services/ask-usThanksMyles Sinnamon – blog editor

I would like to know if there are any photos of the first train to cross the first Albert Bridge?Do you have a name of the train?And the date of the first crossing?With thanks,Helen