Queensland Railways are celebrating 125 years with a range of nostalgic rail journeys and many a mild rail buff or who wanted to give their children an experience of a steam locomotive, these listed trips would have greatly interested their families.
Queensland Railways was the first operator in the world to adopt narrow gauge (in this case 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)) for a main line. This remains the system wide gauge within the State even today.
The 3 ft 6 in narrow gauge was controversial but predicated by the government's desire for the fastest possible construction time frame at least cost. The Department of Economic Transport some years ago released a paper that verified that the shorter sleeper was a major cost factor.
The narrow gauge also allowed sharper curves and a lower axle load than was considered possible using standard gauge, and an assessment at the time put the cost of a narrow gauge line from Ipswich to Toowoomba at 25% of the cost of a standard gauge line.
The Queensland non-indigenous population was 30,000 at the time, and economically was well understood in Government who had find the budget monies. By 1932 there was 10,500 km of rail track. Queensland is a very large state.
Steam held sway throughout Queensland right through the war years and it was in the early 50's that the Queensland Railways saw that the future lay in Diesel. Now here we have some uncertainty on a number of fronts although thorough research has been undertaken.
I have two copies of Leon Oberg's Locomotives of Australia, the first edition I purchased years ago and the fourth edition to 2007 I was given as a Christmas gift by a family member. I recommend this book.
But it's not the purchase history or the diesel engines of the time and their power source and point of manufacture that interests me, rather the livery. I have written previously in this column from the Historical Society sources that initially the early Queensland Railway diesels were to have a livery of maroon and silver.
But all that came to naught when it became common knowledge that the Commonwealth Railways were adopting that livery and moreover the South Australian Governments were using a very similar livery design.
The Queensland Railway researches have not revealed who made the decision to change the livery to a light blue and a white with an apricot line. How ever it was did a remarkably forward thinking thing as these are the colours of the Sunshine State and it wasn't until the eighties that it changed to the corporate colours of maroon and yellow.
There was weeping and gnashing of teeth throughout the historical buffs who poured scorn upon QR for making such a radical livery change and now again it has changed with vast black half moon sections along the sides of these modern diesels and I for one was not impressed with these livery alternatives.
Moreover now you have private owned trains and hauled by their own locomotives with different livery's again. It is more than a grown man can cope with. Bring back the blue and white that stands for something logical and beautiful.
Commencing in November 1979 the Brisbane suburban network was electrified. By 1983 a decision was made to electrify the Blackwater and Goonyella coal networks. This was due to an expected increase in coal traffic across the networks, ageing diesel-electric locomotive fleet and the increase in diesel fuel costs.
The project was to be carried out in the following stages:
Stage 1: Electrification of the main line from Gladstone to Rockhampton, including parts of Rockhampton marshalling yard, then west to Blackwater and the coal mines in the area. This was a total of 720 kilometres (450 mi) of track.
Stage 2: Electrification of the coal lines south of Dalrymple Bay and Hay Point, then west through the Goonyella system, south-west to Blair Athol and south to Gregory – linking the Goonyella system to the Blackwater system. This was a total of 773 kilometres (480 mi) of track.
Stage 3: Electrification of the main western line from Burngrove to Emerald. This would allow electric freight from Rockhampton to Emerald.
Stage 4: Electrification of the line from Newlands coal mine to Collinsville and north-east to Abbott Point. This stage never went ahead. In 1986 it was decided to electrify the North Coast line between Brisbane and Gladstone instead and this became known as Stage 4.
South Brisbane Interstate Rail
For all southbound rail traffic, freight and passenger, it was standard gauge running from South Brisbane travelling south across the New South Wales border all the way to Sydney. It was only 20 years ago that the standard gauge line was taken across the Brisbane River into Roma Street from which the XPT runs.
Now QR has taken its very successful freight business interstate with its own locomotives with that unlikely black livery hauling coal initially and now inter-modal fast freighters with containers and all the way to Western Australia.
In June 2009 the Queensland Government announced the privatisation of Queensland Rail's freight business. This resulted in Queensland Rail's freight assets being transferred to QR National (now Aurizon) from 1 July 2010.
Queensland Rail has come a long way in 125 years. In my grand-father's diary he speaks of the excitement of the railways coming to Gympie. I can speak of my experiences as a boy riding on The Sunlander (closed in October last year) and those beautiful bog blue and white livered diesels.
The railway opened up a nation to commerce and trade. It was mammoth in lowering the measured time from farm to market. Bullock trays to rail lines. Phenomenal.
The Footplate Padre says, no more so than the world being was turned upside down, as it says in the Book of Acts, when the message of Jesus' Salvation spread abroad and today, we are beneficiaries of that saving message.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html