Monday, 10 October 2016

South Brisbane: end of the line


South Brisbane Station was once the terminus for interstate trains travelling north from Sydney via the standard gauge North Coast Line. Board the Brisbane Limited at Sydney's Central Station at 6.30 in the evening, and the following morning at 10.14 am it would pull into South Brisbane Interstate Station, leaving you to find your way across the Brisbane River and into the city by taxi. For interstate travelers, South Brisbane was the end of the line. Today, the Brisbane XPT glides past South Brisbane's platforms and instead terminates across the Brisbane River at Roma Street Station. Yet South Brisbane Railway Station still retains its' heritage listed building in the face of the massive change that has swept Brisbane's South Bank area since the city's hosting of World Expo '88.


The impressive entrance to South Brisbane Station as photographed in February 2016.

South Brisbane Station first opened in 1884 as part of the Queensland Railways narrow guage network. Back then it was known as Melbourne Street Station, standing on the corner of Melbourne and Grey Streets. With the Brisbane River's potential for flooding already being realised early-on, the present station was rebuilt on higher ground in December 1891 and renamed South Brisbane. By 1918, the station had expanded to 6 platforms, and remained the terminus for all train services on the southern side of the city until the opening of the Merivale Bridge in 1978. The standard gauge line from Sydney didn't arrive until 1930, when the line was extended north of Kyogle through the Border Ranges.

South Brisbane's No. 1 platform with the Convention Centre and Brisbane Eye in the background, May 2016.

Interstate freight and passenger trains continued to use South Brisbane Station up until 1986, when the South Brisbane Interstate Station and goods yards were demolished to make way for Brisbane hosting World Expo '88. The tracks across the Merivale Bridge were relaid as dual gauge and from June 1986, the Brisbane Limited (and the 1988 Expo Expresses) crossed the Brisbane River to terminate at Roma Street Station.

The Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre dominates South Brisbane, photographed May 2016.

Following Brisbane's hosting of Expo '88, the entire South Brisbane precinct underwent a rapid and massive transformation into what is now South Bank Parklands. The 17 hectares of riverfront public space have transformed Brisbane into one of Australia's most pleasant cities. While the adjacent space to the west of the railway line where the Interstate Station and goods yards once stood is now dominated by the curved roof outline of the massive Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, which at one point even straddles the railway line itself.

The Queensland Museum as viewed from South Brisbane Station, May 2016.

Today, South Brisbane Station consists of 3 platforms served by trains on the Cleveland, Beenleigh and Gold Coast Lines. The 1891 heritage listed brick station building remains Brisbane's second oldest railway station and is a key station for stepping from the train to visit the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, Queensland Museum, Queensland Performing Arts Complex and South Bank Parklands, all of which stand parallel to the station.

Having visited the Queensland Museum in February 2016 to see the Medieval Power exhibition along with my wife and daughter, it was ironic to look back at the station from the steps of the museum and find it was like looking at a museum piece set against a backdrop of modern progress. The red brick facade of South Brisbane Railway Station, along with its white stone trim and picket fences, stands out in contrast to the white steel roofs and concrete architecture that surrounds it on all sides.

As a young boy growing up not far from the railway line in Gosford, I'd always fall asleep at night to the sound of trains heading north out of Sydney, wondering if perhaps one day I would get a chance to discover for myself what lay waiting at the end of the line. Standing on the steps of the Queensland Museum with my wife of 23 years and our daughter who was about to turn 21, I finally realised I had already found the answer. Sometimes it is only by looking back that we realise how far we've come. In my case, it is my wife Denise and two children Rochelle and Brandon who have provided a ride far greater than any train journey could offer, and it is fitting to think that all three were born at the nearby Mater Hospital, right here in South Brisbane.

The Red Bay Brewing Co's Silver Bullet at the Boundary Street Markets, photographed February 2016.

South Brisbane today is a far different place compared to when the Brisbane Limited arrived at the end of the line. Across the road on Melbourne Street you'll still find the Fox Hotel which traces its origins back to 1927 when it was known as the Hotel Terminus, while the Brisbane City Council offer a free heritage walking map of South Brisbane for those wishing to explore more than just South Bank Parklands. But perhaps the strangest find came at the end of the day, when we headed to the nearby Boundary Street Markets at West End and discovered an old train that had been converted into a bar. Billed as the Silver Bullet, the former QR railmotor now serves up craft beer in the vibrant atmosphere of a street market teaming with the aromas of nearby food stalls. For a lifelong train enthusiast, it is just as much an excuse to stop in for a drink as it is to photograph a train.


Having enjoyed sharing my Railway Reminiscing Adventures for the past 5 years, I do hope you'll join me soon for one last time as I share my final adventure from a place that up until this year I'd never heard of.

See also; Roma Street: Perestroika on Platform One

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