Steam train excursions rule the rails

Rail excursions began immediately after the rail link from Brisbane to Gympie opened in 1891. Some travellers just wanted the experience of the train. Part of the promotion was the beauty of the scenery and the splendid appearance of the country.

An excursion like no other was the special train which ran from Brisbane to Gympie for the official opening of the line on July 18, 1891.

Travellers were the premier, Sir Samuel Griffith, governor, Sir H.W. Norman and almost all the members of the Legislative Assembly, their wives and guests.

A large crowd of Gympie people welcomed the visitors. Tom Glassey and other Labour leaders were placed in a buggy and drawn by workers down Mary St.  Three hundred guests sat down to a special lunch and there were toasts to Queen Victoria, the Governor, Parliament, success to Gympie, Wide Bay and Burnett districts, the Defence Force and the mayor of Gympie.

To every toast there was a speech in reply. Eventually, at 5pm, it was time to board the train for the four-and-a-half hour journey back to Brisbane. All agreed it was a great day out. The good publicity for the return trip from Brisbane to Gympie in one day proved attractive for future excursions.

In 1904, excursionists from Gympie to Yandina were accompanied by the Monkland Band who gave a recital on the platform. An account claims that between 500 and 600 people visited on that occasion, of which 400 descended on the hotel for lunch and 600 for tea before the journey back to Gympie.

Many found time for a ramble around the bank of the South Maroochy River or a venture into the scrub collecting ferns, palms, orchids and bush plants.

Yandina was an important terminus for trains because it had a forked line for turning an engine. Trains were also able to take on water pumped from the nearby river into large holding tanks at the station. 

In 2017, the forked line is still used but a steam train on excursion carries its own water. In the 1920s and 1930s excursions by train reached their most popular. Some travellers detrained at Palmwoods for a tram trip to Buderim.

Trams used in the cane industry through the week were used for excursions on the weekend. City visitors could connect with a cane tram at Nambour and then a boat to Maroochydore; some went to Mapleton on the tram.

Another day excursion for city visitors was to connect with a cane tram to Coolum and return. Visitors could also detrain at Yandina and take Coulson’s mail boat to Maroochydore.  Coast schools, sporting teams and clubs also ran regular steam train excursions for educational tours, competitions or fundraising.

In the 1930s, hundreds of city visitors often detrained on weekends at Yandina for a day of different sports. Many were hikers set on climbing Mount Ninderry.

The Glass House Mountains attracted excursionists and hikers as well. There were no council walking paths at that time.

Take a ride
The Australian Railway Historical Society presents the Burnett and Capricorn Wanderer, December 27-31. From Roma St to Kingaroy, Moura, Biloela, Childers and more.  A chartered coach will link to accommodation, and to explore railway sites.  Enjoy the country air and relax at local taverns. Limited availability. Brochures with full details are available from the Australian Railway Historical Society, Tuesday-Thursday 10am-3pm, call 3252 1759, email arhsqld@bigpond.com or visit arhs-qld.org.au/sunshine-express-rail-tours