Steam train to visit to celebrate rail history
THE railway has been a part of Gladstone for 117 years, and to celebrate, residents will be able to step back in time when a steam train choofs into town early next year.
Queensland Rail's heritage fleet, part of which dates back to 1902, has been restored to make a month-long journey to far north Queensland, and will arrive in Gladstone on January 20.
The steam train's arrival will celebrate 150 years of Queensland railways and the end of an era for the Sunlander, which is retiring this year after 60 years of transporting passengers from Brisbane to Cairns.
A new Spirit of Queensland fleet - three trains, one new and two refurbished - to replace the Sunlander has also been completed.
When the steam train whistles into Gladstone, residents will be able to jump on board.
The team will feature locomotives B18¼ 1079 and 1089, which were both built in Maryborough.
It will also include nine wooden carriages, the oldest of which was built in 1902.
Queensland Rail senior manager heritage Greg Fill said thousands of working hours had gone into restoring the steam train.
Travel and Tourist executive general manager Martin Ryan said railways had come a long way in 150 years.
"As we enter a new era of rail travel, this special steam train service will be a chance for people to step back in time and experience the roots on which Queensland's rail industry was built," he said.
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Former train driver won't miss the moment
GLADSTONE resident Stan Jansen is sure to be on hand when the train arrives in Gladstone.
The former train driver, who has driven B181/4 locos, reckons it's something you wouldn't want to miss.
"You can take the man out of the railway, but you can't take the railway out of the man," he said.
"The B18s were really good locos. They were good steamers but a bit light on their feet, so they slipped easily, but once you got them moving they'd go like the wind."
He said the return of the train would bring back many great memories. "I'll be down there for sure. It'll be a great event."
Gladstone's rail history
GLADSTONE'S railway history dates back to 1883, when survey work was carried out to link Bundaberg with the region.
Fourteen years later, the rail link between the two towns was officially opened, on October 1, 1897.
But plans to continue the line any further north came to a halt, with continuing bitter rivalry between the ports of Gladstone and Rockhampton.
Travel between the ports occurred on the ocean until the early 20th century, when a rail line finally linked Rockhampton and Gladstone.
During the Second World War, Gladstone became an important staging post for railway operations along the North Coast line, with trains frequently passing through carrying troops or equipment.
In the 1960s, the long-awaited "great port" of central Queensland came to fruition, and construction of the Moura Direct Coal Line, which bypassed the bottleneck of Mount Morgan, caused coal exports to grow.
Coal trains have been operating between central Queensland's Blackwater fields since 1968.
Double-headed diesel-electric locomotives used to haul trains, but these progressively increased to four or five electric locomotive engines, hauling 15,000-tonne trains.