The development of railways in Queensland was instituted by the Government four years after the granting of Separation. Construction began on the new line from Ipswich to Grandchester (Bigge's Camp) on 25 February 1864 and it was opened on 31 July 1865 as the first 21 miles of the Southern and Western Railway.
Extensions to Toowoomba, Warwick and Dalby in south eastern Queensland, as well as other lines in central and north Queensland, had been completed prior to 1875, ten years after the first railway from Ipswich had been built.
The line from Ipswich to Brisbane terminated at Oxley Point in February 1875 and the trains ran from Brisbane (Roma Street) to the spot opposite Oxley Point from 14 June 1875. Passengers and goods were conveyed across the river by punt until the Albert Railway Bridge over the Brisbane River was completed and uninterrupted communication to Roma Street began in July 1876.
During the period in which the railways in southeast Queensland were built, active development of agricultural, pastoral and wool production extended in the area from the Brisbane coastal settlement to the Darling Downs. Coal mining in West Moreton district had likewise shown a steady growth.
Notwithstanding the benefits of the newly built railways, there remained the disadvantage, that in the Brisbane area, no railway had been constructed to give access to deep navigable water either on the river or the bay for the growing export trade of these products.
Many proposals for the route of a railway to provide this facility were submitted, and one may hazard the guess that few railways of less than ten miles length, as this one was estimated would be, have had so many and so varied plans for so short a distance.
Details which were placed before the investigating railway commission were:
To build the line from Toowong Station along Coronation Drive to North Quay under Victoria Bridge to Queen's Wharf near Margaret Street where coal shoots would be built. This proposal was comparatively inexpensive and the opinion was held that as the prevailing breezes were from the north east, the coal dust would be blown into the river.
A line to the same area but commencing near the Police Barracks, Petrie Terrace to be built down Skew Street with the cutting in that street arched over or a tunnel 110 yards long. A tramway for coal wagons from Roma Street Station along to Albert Street to a central coal storage depot in the area between the old Market Reserve Market Street and the Port Office (Lower Edward Street). Extension to Bulimba from Roma Street with a high level line for coal shoots. (The railway then terminated at Roma Street but until 1889, there was no line between Roma Street and Mayne Junction except by the Normanby Victoria Park line as part of the Sandgate line). Further extension from the Port Office area to Creek Street and via the Customs House to Kennedy Wharf, Petries Bight (involving a tunnel 220 yards in length). From Queen's Wharf area through the Botanic Gardens to the Port Office area (involving a tunnel of 176 yards near Parliament House); Oxley (district) to Lower River Terrace via Woolloongabba and eventually an extension between Stanley Street and the river frontage to Victoria Bridge.
The Queen's Wharf was inexpensive but only a limited area was available. Albert Street to the Port Office area and with further extensions to the wharves near the Customs House was conducive to railway passenger facilities through the city but was very expensive.
Bulimba was about 3½ miles further haulage for the thousands of tons of export coal. Moreover, Bulimba in 1878 was outside the town boundary and it was considered desirable to have the shipping and wharfage in the town area. Another objection to Bulimba was that sailing ships, after discharging at town wharves and before being moved to Bulimba would have to be “stiffened", i.e. load ballast (rock) to provide stability against capsizing, due to empty holds and the heavy top weight of lofty masts and long yard arms. Ballast cost 4/- per ton and the many disadvantages set out above militated against Bulimba, at that time, being used as an export coal wharf.
Agitation primarily by West Moreton coal owners in the late 1870s for a link from the Ipswich line to South Brisbane saw Parliament approve in 1881 the establishment of this railway line. Advantages of the resulting Woolloongabba Railway, or as it was originally termed, the Southern and Western Railway, (South Brisbane Branch) from Oxley district to Stanley Street near the Dry Dock and Victoria Bridge were that the terminus at Lower River Terrace had a large water frontage of over 900 feet without any excavation being required, still in the hands of the Government as a reserve.
Between Woolloongabba Water Reserve (Main Street to Merton Road) and Lower River Terrace, no land resumptions were necessary. The Woolloongabba Water Reserve had outlived its original purpose as other sources of water were available.
Space for a lengthy line of wharfage sites and a railway line serving these would be available to eventually link up with the projected wharf 350 ft. (built in 1885) by Gibbs Bright near Bright Street and the Kangaroo Point Hotel (now Story Bridge Hotel).
The fact that the Woolloongabba Railway would also form (as it later did) part of the line to the seaside suburbs of Wynnum, Manly and Cleveland all tended to influence the decision to build the line in its present position. It was also considered that this survey plan would provide a valuable line for suburban passenger traffic to the adjacent suburbs.
However, the actual Oxley district to Woolloongabba line was still the subject of varied opinions and proposals. One survey followed the south bank of the Brisbane River and skirted the Four Mile Swamp (Oxley Creek district) and then kept to the elevated ground near the site of the Yeronga
Fire Station and remaining on the left side of the road above flood level until Boggo (Annerley) Road was reached. This road was crossed before reaching the Clarence corner of Annerley Road and Stanley Street, and then continued along to the foot of Vulture Street hill where it again crossed the road to Lower River Terrace.
Another survey plan proposed that the line be run along Ipswich Road (from Balaclava Street) towards Park Road. The extension of the line from Merton Road (Hotel Morrison corner) was proposed to be built on Stanley Street from that spot to the Clarence corner and to continue the line also on Stanley Street to Vulture Street and to Lower River Terrace.
Stanley Street, at that time, in the portion between Merton Road and the Clarence corner was only 66 feet wide and this proposal prompted the Woolloongabba Divisional Board to vigorously protest to the Minister for Railways against the scheme.
Statistics were available to show that the volume of traffic was 1,397 horse drawn vehicles daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The real point at issue was building the tunnel under Vulture Street at a cost of £6,000 to give access to Lower River Terrace and deep navigable water.
The tunnel, the heaviest work on the line, was cut through to Lower River Terrace. The resulting circular approach to Woolloongabba across Ipswich and Logan Roads, Stanley and Main Streets was to avoid tunneling through the elevated ground on the west side of this line. The general opinion was that the line should not have been built through the populous part of Woolloongabba.
Three sets of gates a few chains apart would be necessary and those on Ipswich Road were 20 feet wide. Traffic delays were foreseen in the long ago days of 1882 and the definite realisation of those apprehensions were long fulfilled until the final demise of the Woolloongabba Railway Yards.
Gilliver and Wockner were the successful tenderers for the 6 miles 30 chains railway and their tender of £23,510 was the lowest of seven submitted. However, the firm became financially embarrassed and the work stopped until the building of the line was resumed by the Government under the supervision of Thornloe Smith with 100 men.
The problems of obtaining ballast for the rails and suitable timber for fencing caused some delay in construction. With a contract price of £11,830, Acheson Overend & Co. were the successful tenderers for the coal wharf and sidings. Accepted in December 1882 the work was completed by early May 1884.
The line was put into use without any formal opening ceremony on 2 June 1884 and three mixed trains ran daily as the original timetable shows :
|Station||Departure Times from Stanley Street|
|Stanley Street (Sth Brisbane Dock)||5.35am||11.30am||5.40pm|
|Woolloongabba (Railway Yards)||5.41am||11.36am||5.46pm|
|Logan Junction (Yeerongpilly)||6.1am||11.56am||6.8pm|
|South Brisbane Junction (Corinda)||6.10am||12.5pm||6.15pm|
Trains in return from South Brisbane Junction (Corinda) arrived at Stanley Street at 8.40 a.m. 1.45 p.m. and 7.45 p.m. respectively. The speed between Stanley Street and 1 mile 40 chains (near the present Dutton Park Station) was not to exceed 10 miles per hour, which was to be reduced to 6 miles per hour when passing over level crossings. When approaching and passing over level crossings the engine bell was to be sounded.
Stanley Street station initially consisted of a single raised timber platform 305 feet [91.5 metres] long on the southern side of the line, overlooking the dry dock. A timber station building 86 feet [26 metres] long and 12 feet [3.6 metres] wide was constructed by Worley and Whitehead in April 1884, but was removed in the 20th century.
The station at Stanley Street catered only for passenger traffic and every train arriving had to be pushed back to Woolloongabba before another could use the line. The ability to handle increased traffic was limited. When the Melbourne Street extension and passenger terminal was opened on 21 December 1891, the Stanley Street station was closed.
After the 1893 flood a considerable deviation was necessary to remove the line in the area of Fairfield Station where it was only 7 feet above high water mark, and of course, very subject to inundation. Two curves each of ten chains were taken out of the line, grades were reduced and duplication was built between Boggo Junction (Dutton Park) and Yeerongpilly.
An area of 22 acres was resumed for the deviation of 2¼ miles, a new Fairfield Station was built. The cost of the deviation was at the rate of £12,488 per mile the remains of the old railway line earthworks were visible for over a century.
Parliament in 1894, authorised the extension of the dry dock siding to Victoria Bridge servicing the wharves and commercial enterprises along the river bank at South Brisbane. Four different schemes were submitted for linking up this extension of ¾ mile with the terminus at the South Brisbane Dry Dock area. Kirk Brothers & Frew won the contract in May 1896, and the completion was in March 1897.
The export of coal during the first ten years after the opening of the line (viz. 1884 to 1893 inclusive) totalled 1,146,982 tons and it continued to serve the export coal trade and the bunkering of ships. Since the gradual change over the past forty years from coal burning vessels to those oil-fired then motor and turbine driven, a diminishing quantity of coal has been exported.