Roma Street Railway Station, Brisbane, circa 1883. Photo: John Oxley Library, Wikimedia Commons.
Tilt train at Platform 10, Roma Street, 4 January 2013.
Roma Street Station
18 August 2020
Roma Street station is Brisbane’s terminus for regional train services. It is also a busy suburban station. An original heritage building has been retained, making it the oldest surviving major station building in an Australian capital city.
Most countries or colonies begin their first railway from the capital city, but this was not the case with Queensland. Queensland’s first railway opened between Ipswich and Bigge’s Camp (now Grandchester) on 31 July 1865. The line was soon extended to Toowoomba and then further inland, and it was almost a decade before the first station as opened in Brisbane.
Opening as Brisbane terminus on 14 June 1875, the station now named Roma Street was the first station in Brisbane’s central business district. Upon opening it was the city terminus of an isolated line of 6.6 km to Indooroopilly, but this line would soon be part of the Main Line to Toowoomba. In 1875 the bridge across the Brisbane River at Indooroopilly was not complete and passengers and goods were conveyed across the river between Indooroopilly and Oxley Point (now Chelmer) by means of a punt. The first Albert Bridge across the river at this location opened on 5 July 1876.
No official opening was held for the Brisbane terminus station on 14 June 1875, but a number of people gathered to watch the first train depart at 6.30 am. Despite its opening for train services, work on the station was still ongoing, including construction of rooms and the roof. When completed the station included various offices for the Station Master and other rail traffic staff, a booking office and waiting room. This original building remains relatively intact today.
A temporary carriage shed was erected around the time that the station was opened. This structure was replaced by a new carriage shed in 1882, and the platforms were extended around the same time. As well as serving passenger trains, goods were handled and a goods shed was built in in 1875–76.
Connections to the north
Brisbane terminus station was connected to Brisbane’s northern suburbs with the opening of what is now known as the Exhibition line on 11 May 1882. The section of railway between Brisbane terminus and Central was opened on 18 August 1889, requiring construction of a tunnel. At this time the new station became Brisbane Central and the original Brisbane terminus was named Roma Street. The link from Central to Mayne Junction was opened the following year, on 1 November 1890. This enabled trains to travel between the northern and southern suburbs of Brisbane through Central and Roma Street. Long-distance trains for northern destinations commenced their journeys at Roma Street and proceeded through Central and Mayne Junction before continuing north.
A re-organisation of the Roma Street station precinct occurred from 1911, involving
the removal of locomotive and carriage facilities, and the establishment of a large goods yard. Roma Street continued to develop as Brisbane’s major goods loading point. The goods yard was later closed. An additional storey was added to the covered entrance of the station building in 1914. This provided offices for the General Manager of the South-Eastern Division of Queensland Railways, as well as the train control office for the Brisbane suburban area.
Traffic density increased, putting pressure on the section between Roma Street, Central and Mayne Junction. Consideration was given to quadruplicating the line between these locations, but instead Roma Street was developed further as a station for all long-distance trains, with new platforms added.
A new Roma Street station was opened by the Queensland Minister for Transport, James Larcombe, on 30 November 1940. New platforms were built on the southern side of the original station building, whereas previously all platforms had been on the northern side. A large garden area was established at this time, which provided an attractive sight for station users.
From the opening of the new station, many long-distance trains commenced their journeys from Roma Street instead of Central. North Coast line trains, including the Sunshine Express and the Rockhampton Mail proceeded from Roma Street along the Exhibition line to Mayne Junction before continuing further north.
During 1958 a large roof that had sheltered three of the platforms in the older part of Roma Street station was dismantled to provide room for the extra facilities required when the Ipswich line was quadruplicated as far as Corinda.
Brisbane Transit Centre
Roma Street station is located in Brisbane’s central business district, on the northern side of the Brisbane River. Prior to 1986, standard gauge trains from New South Wales terminated at South Brisbane, on the southern side of the river. In 1986 standard gauge was extended through to Roma Street, where the new Brisbane Transit Centre was built. It featured an island platform with standard (1435 mm) gauge tracks on one side and narrow (1067 mm) gauge tracks for Queensland regional trains on the other side. Much of the 1940 station was demolished as part of the redevelopment.
The Brisbane Transit Centre was officially opened on 21 June 1986. An XPT passenger train led by power car XP2014 took invited guests from Casino and Kyogle to Brisbane for the opening. From this date the standard gauge passenger terminal at South Brisbane was closed. The first regular train to arrive at the new Brisbane Transit Centre was the Brisbane Limited Express, which arrived behind locomotives 8040 and 8049, following the XPT. Although Brisbane Transit Centre was opened in 1986, work was still ongoing. A hotel and coach terminal were among the facilities still being built.
1990s until today
A new platform for long-distance trains, Platform 10, was opened at Roma Street on 1 November 1995. Before Platform 10 was opened, Queensland long-distance trains used Platforms 2 and 3. However, standard gauge trains continued to use Platform 1, meaning that a direct across platform change of trains was no longer possible. Access between platforms is by subway. Removal of the goods yard at Roma Street enabled the construction of the new platform, and part of the site of the goods yard is now taken up by the Roma Street Parklands. Platform 10 was built long enough to cater for a 19-carriage consist of The Sunlander, which operated between Brisbane and Cairns. The first train to depart from the new platform was the 8.25 am Spirit of Capricorn, running from Brisbane to Rockhampton. Additional suburban platforms were added soon afterwards.
The platforms at Roma Street are currently used by the following services:
Platform 1 is no longer used by trains and has been converted to a busway.
Platform 2 is used by NSW TrainLink services to and from Sydney.
Platforms 3 to 9 are used by Citytrain network trains.
Platform 10 is used by long-distance Traveltrain services.
Major changes are planned for Roma Street station. As part of the Cross River Rail project a new underground station is being built at Roma Street, which will have extended 220 metre platforms to cater for future capacity. Brisbane Transit Centre is being demolished, to be replaced by a new plaza and station entrance. It is planned that Roma Street will become the city’s major transport interchange location for suburban, long-distance and interstate trains, as well as suburban regional and interstate bus and coach services. The Cross River Rail project is scheduled to be completed in 2024. Roma Street station has a long history from when it was Brisbane’s first railway station through to today, and it will have a vital role in the city’s transport needs into the future.
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‘Roma Street railway station’, Queensland Heritage Register, <https://apps.des.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=601208>.
‘Roma Street station heritage building works’, Queensland Rail, <https://www.queenslandrail.com.au/Community/Projects/Pages/RomaStreetstationheritagebuildingworks.aspx>.
Roma Street station’s original building on Platform 3, 15 July 2020.
Roma Street railway station viewed from Roma Street Parkland, 15 July 2020.