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.
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.