Welcome to the Sunshine Express

Operating rail tours in Queensland since 1957


Join us again as we travel by Steam Train from the Ipswich Railway Workshops to the historic Grandchester Railway Station on Sunday the 24th March.

Our motive power for the day will be the workhorse of the Queensland Rail Heritage Fleet Steam Locomotive “Bety” BB18 ¼ 1079. 1079 was one of the final twenty BB18 ¼ Class 4-6-2 passenger locomotives constructed by Walkers Ltd, Maryborough between 1955 and 1958.

It entered service with Queensland Railways in November 1956 and was retired from normal revenue service in October 1969. Unlike most of its sisters, 1079 escaped the scrap heap, instead being retained by Queensland Railways for historical and tourist train duties, being based and maintained with the small fleet of heritage steam locomotives at the Ipswich Railway Workshops.

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About us

On 19th May 1933, six enthusiasts met in Sydney and formed the Great Railway Circle of Australia. In May 1936 the name was changed to Australian Railway and Locomotive Historical Society and further changed to Australian Railway Historical Society in August of 1952.

Membership grew steadily and in 1945 a Division was formed in Victoria. Other Divisions were subsequently formed in the South Australia in 1952, Queensland in 1957, Western Australia in 1959, Tasmania in 1965 and finally the ACT (Canberra) in 1967.

After its original formation The Australian Railway Historical Society – Queensland Division was incorporated in 1968 as a non-profit company with liability limited by guarantee. It has one regional Committee in Townsville.

The different State divisions have all developed separate interests and activities, with four operating museums, three operating railways as well as seven State-based magazines currently in production. The countless magazine issues, books, special trains and meetings stand as testament to Australia’s greatest railway preservation group.

Members of the Society could be described as “mechanical greenies” and heritage “doers”; women and men of all ages who come from all walks of life who share a common interest in railways and who enjoy one or more of the myriad of activities available to members of the Society.

The objects of the Society are to promote the appreciation of railway heritage and to maintain authenticity in the recording and preservation of this heritage for the people of Queensland.

This photo taken in 1964 features some of the original founding members of the ARHS – QLD Division. Located on the right-hand side of the Locomotive – John Knowles, John Armstrong and Bernie Southcomb. Located on either side of the smoke box are Teddy Hancox and Stan Moore. - Photo taken by Eric Marggraf.

Our History

The History of the Sunshine Express

In the early years of Federation, two great railways were being built simultaneously across the far corners of the nation. One was the Commonwealth's Trans-Australian Railway, running east-west; the other was Queensland's North Coast Line. Both advanced Australia along the path of nationhood.

In their time, they were Australia's longest individual railway projects, each stretching for more than 1000 miles and, upon completion, they differed by only eight miles in length. Both were begun by pick and shovel.

Two Scotsmen had influential roles in making the Sunshine Express a reality. Their expertise lay in money and mechanics. One was William Forgan Smith the Premier of Queensland and the other was Robert J. Chalmers, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Queensland Railways. Both came from Glasgow.

Decisive and a superb political tactician Forgan Smith was the undisputed leader of the Labor Party in Queensland.  He led a government that invested in rail as part of its program to lead post-Depression Queensland toward better times 'Bobby' Chalmers, sometimes fiery tongued, impulsive and impatient guided the mechanical fortunes of the Queensland Railways for 14 years.  At Ipswich he was a respected engineer and undisputed chief of the workshops he ruled.

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