You are about to travel back in history, to a time when everything was slower, a time when everybody living along the Mary River saw life through the prism of the River, a time when the Mary Valley railway line was a very important part of their community.
But long before the Mary Valley Rattler steamed out of the fog to make such an impact on their lives the Valley people battled rough terrain, fire, and if you know Gympie like we know Gympie, floods in their comings and goings to town.
From the very early days of the Mary Valley settlements there were noises and agitations being made about a railway, after all, plans for the Maryborough to Gympie line began in the late 1860’s. And these were very loud, after all, everyone wanted a railway to connect them to the outside world.
There was no railway connection between Brisbane and Gympie until 1891. What was called the “Maryborough railway” had its beginning as a result of the discovery of GOLD, by James Nash, at Gympie in 1867. It was to be most important.
The effort, time and cost of transport of both materials and equipment to the area and, of course, the gold to be shipped out, was indeed very high. Step by step arrangements were being made to connect the nearest port to Gympie to allow export of the fruits of their labour…… That port was Maryborough.
Both Brisbane and Maryborough fought long and hard to be the major port for Gympie to export the gold and the produce from the valley. After nearly a decade of political battling Maryborough won. So the first railway to link Gympie to a port was to be very much a “Mary River line”.
The line from Maryborough to Gympie was completed early August 1881.
By this time the broader Gympie Region and the Mary Valley continued to develop especially in agriculture, dairying, and timber. To provide transport the Mary Valley line was built from Gympie to Brooloo.
The Rattler served the valley well but even in 1970 noises were being heard that the railway was being reviewed as to its viability. The final blow came in 1993 when it was announced the Gympie Station would no longer function in that capacity. The last train arrived in Gympie from the valley in mid 1995. A new railway line was built to bi-pass Gympie in 1989.
The Mary Valley railway entered a new era, the time had come to showcase the beautiful Mary Valley and what better way could it be done than being viewed from the carriages of the original Rattler.
As the line itself was not closed it allowed an organisation known as the Mary Valley Heritage Railway to operate as a Tourist Steam Train service. Forming In 1996 the organisation became custodians of the line.
On May 23rd 1998 the Mary Valley again welcomed the Rattler which carried upwards of 33,000 guests annually. The Heritage railway continued on until late 2012 when the Rail Regulator suspended operations.
On to happier times
Here at the Historic Gympie station the full yard can be viewed, the large number of lines that allow for loading, shunting etc of goods that pass through the station also cater for passengers that in times past was quite substantial and it is our hope will be again. Originally the line was a dead end, traffic came from Maryborough to Gympie, the station building before you was built around 1913 replacing the original.
As mentioned previously the line to Brisbane connected with Gympie in July of 1891 but as the station was built on top of the hill the approach from the south created difficulties as it was quite steep even by today’s standards, a climb of 1 metre in 50 metres for 3 kilometres. This, at times required the use of a banking engine, a second engine to help with the heavy loads.
The original station building was demolished in 1911-12, and a modern station was constructed for the thriving railway centre. From the 1860s Queensland railway stations were predominantly built in timber. You will note a particular style of architecture, it is referred to as the “Pagoda’ style. Through the years many additions and modifications were carried out. The other buildings include refreshment room, telegraph and booking office and even a cellar to keep the necessities cool.
Other passenger stations built in the ‘Pagoda style included the much smaller Cooyar’ Yarraman, Dirranbandi and the Brooloo stations.
The platform was converted into an island arrangement with a new track on the eastern side. The new station design was completed and officially brought into use in June 1913. As part of the major works new quarters for train crews and a new signal cabin was completed in late 1914. The platform was lengthened in 1927 and modern signalling and interlocking systems were installed two years later. A modern innovation was a subway-type street entrance
Gympie’s Station appears to be the largest timber railway building in Queensland Railways during the twentieth century and can certainly be argued that it is one of the most stylish and elaborate within the context of timber railway architecture in Queensland.
Within the yard there some 17.6 kms of railway line.