History of ARHSQD Tours

The history of the ARHSQD Tour operations goes back to the early days of the formation of the Queensland Division. A very early tour is recorded in the minutes of the Society meeting and occurred on the 13th April 1957. It was a visit to the Queensland Railways Mayne facility and in almost business-like fashion was recorded as follows –

  • B15C 345 still going strong
  • C19 196
  • B13½ 0-6-0 No. 400
  • PB15 605 (Tba)
  • BB18 ¼ 1039 (Tba) tender 1041 but originally 1031 but with a line through 1031 and 1041 below
  • C17 920 brown tender, cab etc but black boiler
  • C19 798 (dead engine mover) with a 3-link coupling
  • B17 691 (last B17) in Fitters shop having her wheels taken out to be fitted to 538 (the first B17). 691 has been in rotten row for months;
  • B18 ¼ 843 with cylinders lined out in red and brass dome.
  • At the Diesel shed members learnt of the test loads on the range with DEL1206 550tons up (125 tonoverload) 750 tons down (100ton overload)

In July of the same year the members undertook a longer tour this time to Bundamba. Again, the report from the tour was recorded in the minutes and reads –

10 Members attended. Members travelled to Bundamba on the 9:22am train, entraining at various stations. B18 ¼ No 913 did some quite sprightly running with the 7 car train. This engine is at present fitted with a C19 Class Tender painted green.

The walk around the loop commenced about 10.30am. Various abandonments leading off the original section to the 3 mile chain loop were seen, that loop being reached at about 12.00 noon. The track is only 40lb material there on the main line. The branch line from here to Bonnie Dundee, abandoned now on the final 2 miles was not followed. The walk continuing along the main line, a couple of abandonments being traced for a short distance, one to Alker’s Mine and one to a tunnel. A short halt was called at Bogside No 2 Colliery for lunch. Members were extremely interested in the “wonderful” points of the skip tramway. This colliery is right on the line, yet the coal is sent out by road.

Upon arrival at the 4 mile 54 Chain Loop, the main line was left and the ¾ Mile Branch to Blackheath was followed. After some searching the boiler of 2′ 0″ Gauge Orenstein & Koppel No 605 of 1913 was found but the frames of an A12 which were part of a winding engine could not be found. A new tramway going up the hill on a 1 in 20 grade was followed as far as it had been constructed finding along the way the frames of a 2 ‘0″ gauge engine on the hillside. Nothing is known of the locomotive so far. (It was later found to be half of the 3’ 6͟ gauge Fairlie Patent Locomotive).

The remaining section to Redbank was covered at a good pace. The fact that three members are experienced bushwalkers had a considerable effect on our pace. On the entrance to the Redbank Yards, various works in connection with the yard enlargement were seen. Redbank was reached about 4.30pm, the distance covered being about 15 miles. Members returned to Brisbane on the 4.38pm train drawn by Diesel Electric Locomotive No 1203. Congratulations were due to Mr. Petford who did the walk without any trouble at all. (Stan Petford was at this time about 75 years old)

While the tours above were attended by our rail enthusiast members the Society’s first tour of wider appeal was the trip to Nambour on the 20th October 1957. The Society’s Minutes read –

After hectic last minute ticket sales our two unit 2000 Class Motor left Roma Street on time at 9.55am. A momentary stop at Central was followed by an interesting front view of suburban track works. Dr. Suggitt undertook the arduous job of obtaining signatures to the indemnity form while a note on the Shay Locomotive and the ARHS were passed around to the passengers. The easy timetable required no spectacular running and a five minute unscheduled stop was made at Landsborough for photographic purposes.

At Nambour we were met by Mr. Glasgow the Manager of the Mill and Mr. Ellington the Chief Cane Inspector who conducted us to the Shay in the main street. A quick departure was made amidst a small crown of interested Nambourites. The final car of the interesting set made up for our conveyance developed a hotbox while a spark from the Shay caused a fire. While having the picnic therefore, the engine returned to put the fire out. Official Society photos were obtained around the Shay (45) headboard before return. An inspection of the Mill took place on return to Nambour. Our Shay headboard was presented to Mr. Glasgow as a souvenir of the outing.

Our return trip, slow to the Glass House Mountains was from there speeded up on account of a 6 minute delay and much 50mph running was enjoyed with a 55mph maximum reached.

At the ARHSQD 50th Anniversary function life member Keith McDonald spoke and regarding the Nambour tour he commented –

The publicity we received from this trip was quite good. There were news announcements broadcast over the ABC and 4BK stations during the day, Gympie station 4GY having advertised it previously. There were also notes in the ͞Courier Mail on both the Monday and Tuesday. Total Numbers travelling were 89 on the motor and 103 on the tram. These were excellent numbers considering we only had 18 members at the time.

It has now been more than 60 years since that fledgling group of railway enthusiasts made the pilgrimage to Nambour. The object of their journey was the ageing Shay locomotive, the last of its kind operating in Australia. The owner of the locomotive (Moreton Central Sugar Mill) provided an odd assortment of narrow gauge rolling stock, the visitors rode off behind the ancient loco into the canefields and AHRS tours in Queensland were born. Today, the little engine sits in retirement at the Nambour Museum but there is living memorial to her. A legacy of more than 1000 ARHS tours operated since 1957. These tours have given enjoyment to thousands of people from Queensland, Interstate and Overseas.

The story of the Nambour tour carries another message though – a message of the variety of interest provided by ARHS tours. The participants naturally chose to travel to Nambour by train and in view of the recent introduction at the time of QR’s 2000 class railmotors elected to use these as their mode of transport. Thus, in one day the Society looked both backward and forward in history. So it has been in subsequent excursions. To think of the Society as an organization which organises steam train excursions commemorative of the great days of steam on the Queensland Railway is to consider only part of its function. Over the years steam train tours have formed the major part of tours run by the Society but extensive tours have also been mounted allowing participants to visit some of the most modern and spectacular railway installations in the State. Thus, whilst tours have been run to celebrate anniversaries of lines and the sad closures of others, travellers have also had the opportunity to visit the spectacular coal railways in Central Queensland and to travel behind some of the latest motive power, within months of its being commissioned.

Since 1994 the ARHS Queensland Division have operated under the Sunshine Express banner as a tribute to the once great luxury Steam Hauled Train that serviced the North Coast Line from Brisbane to Cairns. Following the vision of our founders we are continually striving to offer our members and travellers uniquely Railway flavoured trips and tours within Queensland, Interstate and Overseas.