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C17 Class locomotive no. 256, 1 January 1930. This engine was built in 1921 by Evans, Anderson and Phelan in Brisbane, and was written off in 1967. The C17 Class was Queensland’s most numerous class of steam locomotive. Photo: State Library of Queensland, Wikimedia Commons.

The aftermath of the accident that occurred near Camp Mountain, on the Dayboro line, on 5 May 1947. A picnic train left Brisbane with nearly 500 women and children at 8.55 am. At 9.55 am the leading carriage jumped the rails in a cutting. Sixteen people were killed, making it Queensland's worst railway disaster. Photo: State Library of Queensland, Wikimedia Commons.

Major Events in Queensland Railway and Tramway History

David Matheson

15 May 2019

31 July 1865

Queensland’s first railway opened between Ipswich and Bigge’s Camp (now Grandchester).

1 May 1867

Railway opened to Toowoomba, completing the line from Ipswich.

5 July 1876

Opening of the first Albert Bridge across the Brisbane River between Indooroopilly and Oxley Point (now Chelmer), completing the line between Brisbane and Ipswich, and the existing line to Dalby.

June 1883

First F Class (later B13 Class) 4-6-0 locomotive entered service. With 112 members, the F Class was the most numerous class of locomotive in service in Queensland in the 1800s, and saw service throughout most parts of the state.

10 August 1885

Horse tramways began operations in Brisbane.

14 February 1887

Railway opened to Wallangarra on the New South Wales–Queensland border, completing the line from Brisbane.

16 January 1888

New South Wales railway opened to Wallangarra, on the New South Wales–Queensland border, completing the line from Newcastle, and connecting the lines between Brisbane and Newcastle.

1 March 1888

Railway opened to Charleville, completing the line from Brisbane.

18 August 1889

Railway opened between Roma Street and Central in Brisbane.

15 June 1891

Railway opened to Kuranda and Myola, completing the line from Cairns. Construction of the line between Redlynch (near Cairns) and Kuranda was a major engineering feat, taking five years to complete and involving over 1500 workers. It included the building of 15 tunnels and numerous bridges, rising in altitude from 34 feet (10.4 m) to 1081 feet (329.5 m) within 13.5 miles (21.7 km).

16 February 1892

Railway opened to Longreach, completing the line from Rockhampton.

21 June 1897

First electric tram commenced running in Brisbane, along Logan Street and Stanley Street in the suburb of Woolloongabba.

December 1899

First PB15 Class 4-6-0 locomotive entered service. The PB15 Class was one of Queensland’s most successful steam locomotives, with some lasting in regular service until 1969. A total of 202 entered service from 1899 to 1913.

August 1920

First C17 Class 4-8-0 locomotive entered service. A total of 227 members of the C17 Class entered service over 33 years until 1953, making them Queensland’s most numerous class of steam locomotive. They operated passenger and goods trains across the state. Twenty-five C17 Class locomotives have been preserved.

8 December 1924      

Daradgee Bridge opened, near Innisfail, completing the line between Brisbane and Cairns, and making possible a railway journey between Cairns and Perth.

June 1926

First B18¼ Class 4-6-2 locomotive entered service. A total of 83 members of the class entered service between 1926 and 1947.They were one of the most popular locomotive types in Queensland and primarily saw service working mail, suburban passenger and goods trains.

27 May 1929

Railway opened between Duchess and Mount Isa, completing the line from Townsville.

6 November 1939

DL1, leader of the DL Class and the first diesel locomotive to operate on an Australian government railway system, entered service.

5 May 1947

Worst railway accident in Queensland killed sixteen people following the derailment of a picnic train near Camp Mountain.

3 February–5 April 1948

Longest railway strike in Australia, lasting for 63 days throughout Queensland. Some limited train services continued to operate during the strike.

22 September 1950

First Beyer-Garratt Class 4-8-4+2-8-4 locomotive, the most powerful steam locomotive to run in Queensland, completed its first trial run, between Brisbane and Ipswich. A total of 30 members of the class entered service.

6 November 1952

First 1210 Class diesel-electric locomotive, 1213, the first mainline diesel in Queensland, entered service with Queensland Railways.  The ten members of the class were renumbered as the 1300 Class in 1956, and later were renumbered again as the 1150 Class.

March 1958

BB18¼ Class locomotive number 1089 entered service with Queensland Railways, becoming the last steam locomotive to enter service with a government railway in Australia.

28 September 1962

Fire at Paddington tram depot in Brisbane destroyed 65 trams.

13 April 1969

Brisbane tramway system closed. The final tram to operate in Brisbane’s streets was four motor car No. 534, which ran from Oriel Park in Ascot to Ipswich Road depot in South Brisbane. Another four motor car, No. 554, earlier became the last official car to operate in Brisbane when it ran from the Valley to Milton Workshops, where a ceremony was held to mark the end of the Brisbane tramway system. Number 554 is preserved at the Brisbane Tramway Museum.

19 December 1969

Last regular steam-hauled trains operated in Queensland. PB15 Class 4-6-0 locomotive 446 worked trains from Mackay to Netherdale and return, while BB18¼ Class 4-6-2 locomotive 1070 worked trains from Mackay to Sarina and return.

18 November 1978

Railway opened between Roma Street and South Brisbane across the Merivale Bridge. The first official crossing was by a 17-carriage passenger train.

17 November 1979

First electric train services commenced running in Queensland, between Darra and Ferny Grove.

5 November 1986

3100 Class Bo-Bo-Bo unit 3101, the first electric locomotive in Queensland, entered service. A total of 20 of the 3100 Class locomotives entered service, along with 66 of the 3200 Class units, which operated with them. The 3100 Class were command units, which were able to control the 3200 Class slave units in the middle of the train through the Locotrol remote control system.

25 February 1996

Gold Coast railway opened between Beenleigh and Helensvale. An earlier railway to the Gold Coast on a different alignment had lines extending to Southport and Tweed Heads. The line to Tweed Heads closed in 1961 and the line to Southport closed in 1964.

6 November 1998

The Tilt Train, the fastest train in Australia, entered service between Brisbane and Rockhampton. It was later extended to run between Brisbane and Cairns. In 1999 the Tilt Train set the Australian rail speed record of 210 km/h. It has a maximum speed of 160 km/h  in regular service.

7 May 2001

Railway opened between Eagle Junction and Brisbane airport. The line was built and is operated by private company Airtrain.

22 November 2010

QR National privatised. Owned by the Queensland Government before privatisation, QR National changed its name to Aurizon in 2012. It is now the largest railway freight operator in Australia.

20 July 2014

Gold Coast Light Rail line opened. Known as G:link, the opening of this line was part of the provision of public transport services on the Gold Coast in preparation for the XXI Commonwealth Games held in 2018.

3 October 2016

Redcliffe Peninsula railway line opened between Petrie and Kippa-Ring in Brisbane’s northern suburbs. A railway to Redcliffe had first been proposed in the late 1800s. Construction of the line was funded by federal, state and local governments.

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Brisbane dropcentre tram No.242 at the New Farm Ferry terminus. The tram is in its original configuration, without enclosed ends, about 1925. Photo: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Wikimedia Commons.



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Queensland Rail EMU train at Ferny Grove station for the opening of the first stage of rail electrification in Queensland, 17 November 1979. Photo: Lindsay Bridge, Wikimedia Commons.

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