All aboard for a big day out

Don’t forget your billy. The hot water is free. So ran the advertising to lure Brisbane tourists to Mapleton and Buderim in the 1920s. You carried your own tea leaves as well. Everyone loved a cup of tea on arrival after long hours of steam train travel from the city.

Rail excursions on weekends or public holidays such as Foundation Day or May Day at special reduced fares were the magic carpet ride at that time.
Today we would call it tourism.

City-ites were offered day trips to the Darling Downs, Southport, Canungra, Samford and Dayboro but the North Coast took the cake. Here was a chance to see green cane fields, to take in fresh mountain air and to enjoy magnificent panoramas of land and sea. The trams and trains had to run like clockwork. Brisbane to Nambour was 62 miles and took three hours in a steam train. Day trippers left at about 9am and needed to be back by 9 pm.

For a return fare from Brisbane of six shillings, visitors could travel to Yandina which had a forked line and could turn the engine. The cost was less if you got off before then. In 20 years, the cost barely changed. From Palmwoods visitors could buy a return ticket on the Buderim cane tram (completed in 1914) for an additional five shillings.

One way took one hour through thick bush over bridges and through cuttings. Buderim was a sight for tired city eyes with prosperous farms, orchards and banana plantations.

From Nambour, visitors could take the sugar mill cane tram line to Mapleton (completed in 1915), gloriously on high in the hinterland or they could take the cane tram to Coolum Beach (completed in 1922).

Visitors to Maroochydore were able to take the launch service from Deepwater at Bli Bli.

Visitors had four to five hours to spend at any of the destinations, bathing, sun catching, rambling and, at Coolum Beach, tobogganing. Brass bands would sometimes come out at both town and city stations to play for the holidaymakers. They entertained with a program while they waited for the train or, as one report stated in 1925, they played on the headland at Coolum.

Some travellers would stay overnight for moonlight excursions on the river and then ride the cane tram by night to arrive back at Nambour at 11 pm. What an adventure it was for those formally-dressed city people to travel in a cane tram. Some found seats in special carriages while others sat on six-inch planks in noisy cane trucks that rattled over a narrow line.

Sometimes, so many people bought excursion tickets that two trains were scheduled from the city. On one occasion, 200 people journeyed to Yandina from where they climbed over Mt Ninderry to enjoy the rugged slopes and waterfalls.

By the 1930s, there were buses to meet the trains and day trippers were able to cram in even more sightseeing. From Palmwoods a bus would take visitors over Buderim to Mooloolaba and Maroochydore and return in time for the train. Buses for Caloundra met the train at Landsborough. There were also buses at Cooroy to take eager passengers on to the beaches at Tewantin and Noosa.

Sadly, with increased road transport, the time came when the little tramline extensions closed marking the end of the heyday. With the opening of the Bruce Highway in 1935, visitors began to travel under their own steam and it became popular to motor to the resorts where guest houses and boarding houses opened to offer accommodation for visitors to stay longer.

The very mention of an excursion by steam train brings a nostalgic smile to many of us. It was a leisurely way to travel and, who knows, someone might be there at the end of the journey to offer us a cup of tea.

Guide for the keen tourist

The best train by which to travel North Coastwards leaves the Central Railway Station in Brisbane daily (except Sunday) shortly after 8am,” was the advice of the Intelligence and Tourist Bureau in Brisbane in 1923.

At Nambour, The Royal Hotel, adjoining the railway station was “the popular hotel for tourists” with its “large coffee and dining room, excellent cuisine, excursionists and tourists catered for, good stabling and horse paddocks”. Letters and telegrams were replied to promptly.

Maroochydore’s Club Hotel was an “ideal resort for tourists” and could arrange delightful river excursions. It promised “good shooting, boating and river fishing, surf bathing” all for 8 to 10 shillings a day or 35 to 50 shillings a week.

Mapleton’s Ocean View Hotel on top of the range “amidst evergreen orange and banana groves” charged 6 to 8 shillings a day and 30-42 shillings a week.

In Brisbane, Hotel Australian at the corner of Queen and Albert Streets was “the most centrally situated first class residential hotel in Brisbane, right in the heart of the theatre district”. It had electric and Turkish baths, hairdressing saloon and stationer from 15 shillings a day.

The Carlton Club Hotel in Queen Street was conducted as a first class hotel with prices, from 11 shillings and sixpence a day. It had the “finest and most airy lounge in Queensland” as well as hot and cold water baths.
Main Image: Visitors head to the beach on the Petries Creek tramline. Image courtesy Sunshine Coast Council Library