Railway workers digging a cutting for the Grandchester line.
(Photo: State Library of Qld)

The first movement to establish a railway network in Queensland was met with some opposition from a sector that wanted to start a private tramway company. They opposed any measures by the Government to establish an inexpensive and light rail system. The tramway idea failed to launch and the Government put their Bill forward for a second time and it was passed by a majority of one. An appeal was made to the public and at the general election it was evident that the people wanted a railway. When looking at a map, there was no doubt how much of the State would benefit and be accessible to Moreton Bay by the construction of a rail network.

The line was to commence in Ipswich, cross over a bridge built across the Bremer River to North Ipswich, and run parallel to the river to Ironpot Creek ,then follow the general direction of the old road from the One Mile Creek via Campbell’s Gully to the Rising Sun Inn at the Rosewood Scrub. Here the first railway station would be built. From there it would run through the township of Alfred and on to Bigge’s Camp, where a second station would be situated. The track would continue over the Little Liverpool Range with a tunnel at the summit of the incline, then cross the range over several gullies and ravines, through to Laidley then run parallel to to the Gatton road, across the Lockyer River on another new bridge, on to Grantham, Murphy’s Creek and ascend the Main Range to Toowoomba. From Toowoomba it would go in two directions, to Dalby and to Warwick.

The ceremony of the turning of the first sod was held on Thursday, 25th February, 1864 at North Ipswich. Lady Bowen (Governor’s wife), assisted by Hon A. Macalister (Minister for Lands), to cut the turf using a sliver spade taken from an ornamental cedar barrow. Messrs. Peto, Brassey and Co., Contractors, were assigned to take charge of the task.

Seventeen months later on Monday, 31st July, 1865 the first section of the Southern and Western Railway, from Ipswich to Bigge’s Camp (Grandchester) was opened by Governor Bowen.