The International Steam Pages

Preserved Steam  in Queensland, Australia 2015

James Waite reports on another of his flying visits in July 2015.

The QR opened its first line on 31st July 1865 from Ipswich, at the head of the navigable parts of the Brisbane and Bremer rivers, 40km or so west to Grandchester. Most of the state's early railways were built as isolated lines to open up the countryside beyond the navigable rivers and it wasn't until many years later that the north coast route was built to join up most them up into a single system. It was the first 3ft 6in gauge line anywhere in the British Empire, the only previous use of the gauge being in Norway. 

These photos mostly show A10 class 0-4-2 no 6, built by Neilsons in 1865. It was one of 13 of these locomotives in QR service and is a locomotive which has led a charmed life. It was sold to a sugar factory in the early 1900s and continued in service with them until the 1960s, having been reboilered as late as 1958. The sugar factory gave it back to the QR in 1965 so that it could run in the centenary celebrations that year. It ran a few main line trips later in the 1960s before being put on display in the old Redbank museum, an open air place which closed in the 1990s. It was then restored to its original appearance and put back into working order. It has formed a part of QR's heritage fleet ever since though its outings are very few and far between. It spends most of its time as an exhibit at the excellent Workshops Railway Museum at Ipswich which is housed in one of the main buildings of Ipswich works, the QR's main repair centre. There's another survivor from the A10 class, no 3 which remained in service with the QR until 1914, starred in their 50th anniversary celebrations the following year and ran one last time at a railway parade in 1936. For some years past it has been standing dismantled in the shops while a debate continues between QR's staff, who would like to put it back into working order even though this would involve a new boiler and other major components, and the museum staff who would prefer to keep it as a static exhibit with all its original parts.

This was the occasion of the 150th anniversary re-enactment train between Ipswich and Grandchester - though in fact the first train was hauled not by an A10 but by one of four Avonside-built 2-4-0s which were built a year before the first of the 2-4-0s. These weren't such successful engines and they all disappeared many years ago. I took a lot of night shots as this was a day of thoroughly dismal weather and I despaired of getting any worthwhile daylight photos at all. I woke up about 4.00am (during a hard frost - who said the weather in Queensland was tropical?!) and decided to head over to the works in the hope that I would be allowed in to take some night shots of the locomotive raising steam. This was a bit of a long shot as the locomotive was standing in the QR works yard and I doubted very much whether I'd get past the security at the gate. By great good fortune I arrived at the same time as the works manager, one Paul Slater who turned out to be a great enthusiast, and he not only welcomed me in but also lent me his tripod - I was travelling with hand baggage only and had left mine at home. Despite the large number of enthusiasts at the lineside I was the only non-QR person there and was given the run of the place. Really kind people. The building behind the locomotive is the QR's steam restoration shop and you can see some of the locomotives there, a C17 class 4-8-0, a 4-8-2+2-8-4 Beyer Garratt and a Baldwin-built MacArthur, in some of the photos. The Beyer Garratts were built in the early 1950s and were the QR's largest locomotives. Their design was based on the Garratts in Burma and the East African 55 class but they had to be fitted with a smaller boiler to bring them within the QR's permitted axle-loading. Sadly this locomotive now needs a new boiler and is unlikely to run again in the foreseeable future. The QR is much the most heritage-minded of the Australian railways. Their heritage efforts are currently being devoted to restoring Pacific no 1089, a sister of 1079 (below), built in 1958 - the last steam locomotive to be built in Australia.

The train set off towards Ipswich station along the workshops branch, the very first part of the railway to be built.  At Grantchester, the locomotive was turned on the the triangle while Pacific 1079 (built by Walkers of Maryborough, Queensland in 1956) waited to return to Brisbane with an ARHS special. The next picture shows the train on a low viaduct across a lake just beyond Grandchester station.

At Rosewood station, the western terminus of the Brisbane electrified suburban system, where the train stopped for water on the return run the sun appeared. The locomotive had been adorned with palm branches for its entry to and departure from Grandchester, re-enacting something similar with the 50th and 100th anniversary trains, and the palm branches were removed here. The final picture in this batch shows the train crossing a timber bridge between Rosewood and Ipswich. There are lots of these bridges on the QR, even on the main lines like this, and they're the chief reason why the QR has a very light axle loading, much more so than the other Australian 3ft 6in gauge systems.

The final picture shows 1079 the following day in light steam and on display at Roma Street station in Brisbane with its long train of old wooden carriages, another part of the anniversary celebrations. It was due to work another train to Grandchester the following Friday 31st to mark the actual anniversary.

Click for full size image.

Rob Dickinson