Monday, 15 September 2014

Townsville: Welcome to North Queensland

Townsville is 1,357 km from Brisbane and is the largest city in North Queensland. To put that in perspective, Sydney is almost 400 km closer to Queensland's state capital than Townsville. So its no surprise that North Queenslanders often consider themselves different to their southern cousins. When the railway line first reached Townsville from the south in 1923, there was already a railway line in North Queensland that by 1899 had reached the outback town of Winton, some 600 km to the west.

The Sunlander stopped at Townsville Railway Station which straddles Ross Creek. The old viaduct that led to the 1913 station downtown can be seen in the background, August 2014.

Townsville's original 1888 railway station was replaced in 1913 with a grand three story terminus in the heart of town. Fast forward 90 years however, and the tightly curved track that crossed Ross Creek to enter the railway station and workshops had become a bottle-neck in the age of longer trains and container traffic. A new yard was built on the southern side of Ross Creek and a new maintenance facility built in the suburb of Stuart when the North Yards Railway Workshops closed down in 1990. So in 2003, the old station was bypassed and tracks that once led downtown were cut when the present railway station was built near Reid Park.

The entrance to the olf North Yards Railway Workshops can be seen from the north end of Townsville Railway Station, but for how much longer is anyones guess, August 2014.

A 25 minute stop at Townsville on my recent trip to Cairns on The Sunlander, gave me time to step off the train and take a look at the new Townsville Railway Station. The platform is extremely long, and with 2 locomotives and 18 carriages on the northbound Sunlander, there was still leftover room at either end of the platform. As for the front of the train station? While the giant sail-like structure is designed to catch any cool breeze, the carpark entrance each July also doubles as the racetrack for Townsville's V8 Supercar Track. Trains and fast cars, what a fantastic combination!

Townsville Railway Station, August 2014.

The old 1913 railway station is heritage listed and still stands on the corner of Flinders and Blackwood Streets in Townsville. It would have been nice to have had the time to walk the short distance to see it, but the train had a timetable to keep to and was soon heading north once more towards Cairns. There's plenty of reasons for me to come back to Townsville again sometime in the future, and The Inlander train to Mount Isa is a must-do list as soon as I can afford it. But I did pack a lot of Townsville's railway history into my book Train Tripping Coastal Queensland.

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