Queensland's first railway line opens from Ipswich to Bigges Camp (Grandchester)

The first steam locomotives and rollingstock on the Southern & Western Railway that would open in July, 1865, between Ipswich and Bigges Camp (Grandchester), arrived in the colony of Queensland in late 1864.

To provide motive power on the line four locomotives were ordered from the Avonside Company of Stratford-on-Avon, in England.  This included a 2-4-0 wheel arrangement which cost 1260 pounds. These small (25 ton) locomotives burnt firewood supplied from timber alongside the line and were assembled from kit-form at North Ipswich.

The first locomotive to move under its own steam (named 'Faugh-A-Ballagh') took place as a test run from North Ipswich to Wide Gully with two carriages on 11 January 1865.

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In later years after the opening of the first section of the Southern & Western Railway, the Avonside locomotives travelled further afield. No.2, went to the newly opened Maryborough-Gympie railway, in 1880. In 1890, it received a new number No.108. In the same year it was sold to the contracting company Overend and Paterson, who built Section Three of the Bundaberg-Gladstone railway.

When we think of the steam train era in Queensland, we tend to think of locomotives that burnt coal, to create heat in the firebox, that would then boil the water in the boiler, to generate steam.

However, in the beginning of the steam era on the Queensland Railways, in the 1860s, the first steam locomotives burnt wood.

A more efficient form of fuel was investigated in 1869-70, and coking coal was used, along with locally obtained coal from the Ipswich area.

Although coke was to be the preferred variety of locomotive fuel, (a contract was awarded for its supply in 1869), in 1870, the Commissioner for Queensland Railways made the decision, instead, to go with coal as the fuel for steam locomotives. 

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In December, 1870, the then Commissioner for Queensland Railways issued an instruction that coal would be burnt in the fireboxes of steam locomotives in preference to wood, or coke. One of the first locomotives to be altered to burn coal, B11 No.15, is shown in this photograph.

Roma was a small township before the railway arrived.

The extension from Blythdale on the Western Line to Bungil creek opened on 21 June 1880.

Temporary timber girders were used at Bungil, allowing the railway to Roma to open on 16 September 1880. Floods in 1880 required an additional 1260 metres of bridging to be built at Bungil and Blyth Creeks.

Roma remained the terminus until 8 October 1883. It was provided with an engine shed in 1880, and a coal stage and repair workshop in 1881. At the time of the completion of the line, Toowoomba was the nearest workshops, and a decision was made to construct the Roma repair workshop as locomotives would work west from Toowoomba as far as Chinchilla, and Roma engines east to Toowoomba.

Roma operated as its own autonomous railway district, similar to Maryborough. A district engineer was appointed around 1897, eventually coming under the control of a District Superintendent. Responsibility for the Roma district centred on the lines west to Charleville, Cunnamulla and Quilpie. Steam operations to the west of Roma came to an end in 1964.

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The busy atmosphere of Roma is captured very nicely in this photograph taken around the early 1900’s. A very American looking A12 steam locomotive is off to the left hand side with a passenger train. To the right what looks like a B13 class steam locomotive with a goods train. 

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Steam locomotive B12 No. 30 is a very nicely staged photograph on the Bungil Creek bridge near Roma. Date is thought to be around the early 1880s.   

1885 introduced the vacuum braking on rollingstock (major safety innovation), and the opening of new branch lines.

• July 23 1885: First buildings of new Ipswich Workshops occupied.
• April 9 1885: Opening of First Section of South Coast Line to Loganlea.
• August 10 1885: Opening of Isolated Mackay Railway to Eton and Mirani.
• August 22 1885: Completion of branch railway to Killarney.
• September 1885: Continuous vacuum brake adopted for passenger trains.
• November 30 1885: Opening first section of Cooktown Railway to Palmer Road.

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Cooktown harbour with the Cooktown to Laura railway line running along the foreshore, photographed around 1898-1902.

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The first section of the railway line to Killarney, opened to Emu Vale, in 1885. Emu Vale is photographed around 1887-8.

On 16 January 1888, the first passenger trains commenced between Brisbane and Sydney. Other major developments included:

• February 20 1888: Maryborough to Bundaberg railway was completed
• March 1 1888: First section of the North Coast Line to Petrie
• March 1 1888: Western Railway to Charleville opened
• May 16 1888: Logan Branch Railway to Beaudesert opened
• October 8 1888: Cooktown Railway to Laura opened
• December 22 1888: North Rockhampton to Emu Park opened

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In the early years of the 20th century a double headed Sydney Mail train crosses Quart Pot Creek bridge, just outside of Stanthorpe. The lead steam locomotive is an A12, and would have been based at Allora, being used for banking duties on the ‘Mail’ train. Train locomotive is a PB15 and carriage behind, a Travelling Post Office carriage.