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The tramline linking hinterland to coast

The opening of the tramline to Coolum. Then governor Nathan and guests admire the view.

History

The tramline linking hinterland to coast

With debate surrounding a planned trail between Nambour and Coolum, AUDIENNE BLYTH travels back in time.

Community groups have been talking about a trail from Nambour to Coolum in recent years.

Sunshine Coast Council endorsed the idea in 2017. Several groups including the Coolum Residents Association also support the concept. It would be an almost-50km planned track that could offer walking, running and cycling and provide great scenery including the river, cane fields, wetlands and forests of tea tree and heath.

There is much debate about the route. No doubt there is nostalgia to retrace at least some of the original route of the cane tram that operated from 1923 to 1935. The original cane tram lift bridge and the tramline have gone forever. Hardly a trace remains – just the memories.

The tramline from Nambour to Coolum was established to carry cane to the sugar mill in Nambour. It was also vital for transporting supplies and passengers.

Newspapers reported that Sir Matthew Nathan, then governor of Queensland, officially opened the line on November 2, 1923. About 80 members of government, as well as guests, arrived at Nambour Railway Station in a McKeen Car (an American rail motor) from Brisbane and made their way to the cane tram outside the Royal George Hotel in Nambour. There, they were  joined by dignitaries from the sugar mill and the council. Visitors were amazed by the little steam locomotive with its two-foot wide gauge.

With all aboard, the travellers set out, passing through Petrie Creek Valley and experiencing the thrill of the ride. They had to wait at Prentis’s Junction, then up and over Andersons’ Ridge, over the tea tree flats and across the Maroochy River by the lifting span bridge, built in 1922.

They crossed two bridges via an island in the middle of Coolum Creek and passed through low scrub, she-oaks, mangroves and swamp where drains had been cut.

Nambour, with its sugar mill, was the centre of a most prosperous and fertile valley. The investment in the new line indicated faith in the district’s future. The Coolum Beach Estate developer said at the time that 94 allotments had been sold at 50 pounds each. Hundreds were still to sell.

In the following years, the railway advertised special trains from Brisbane to meet the cane tram. Early photos show well-dressed women and men travelling in an open wagon without seatbelts, windows or doors. It was a roller coaster ride in sideless carriages over sideless bridges.

 Audienne Blyth is a member of the Nambour Historical Museum, open  1-4pm Wednesday to Friday, and 10am-3pm Saturday.

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