Lowood Railway Station (1884)
Valley rail plan was five years in the making
Although the idea of a rail line up the Brisbane Valley had been discussed for many years, Government planning didn't begin until 1876. After much debate about the preferred route and the costs, plans for the first section of 'The Brisbane Valley Branch Line' were approved by Parliament in October 1881.
The lowest tender was 42,200 pounds from contractors O'Rourke and McSharry for the 30.4 kms line from Brisbane Valley Junction (at Wulkuraka) via Fernvale to its first terminus, to be completed by 31 December 1883.
O'Rourke and McSharry were experienced contractors who had constructed lines west from Rockhampton and Townsville and were currently completing the line from Bundaberg to Mt Perry.
'The Scrub' becomes Lowood
The district around the first terminus was known as The Scrub, the northern end of the Rosewood Scrub. After the opening of Cairnhill Provisional School in 1881, locals adopted the name Cairnhill for the burgeoning settlement.
Initially rail authorities simply referred to the location as '19 Miles', its distance from Ipswich, before officially naming the new terminus station Lowood. Railway records give its meaning as "Descriptive of locality", probably referring to the area's low brigalow scrub.
At the time the settlement's only other public buildings were Bethel Lutheran Church and Cairnhill Provisional School, with many scattered homes and farms and Hancock's sawmill, but no established township. When the line opened in June 1884 The Brisbane Courier lamented, "The line at present ends nowhere."
Line opens six months late
Following numerous disputes between rail authorities and O'Rourke and McSharry - many over delays in the delivery of rails by the Railway Department - Lowood station opened six months late, on Monday 16 June 1884. The line to Lowood ran via Pine Mountain, Borallon, Fairney View, Fernvale and Vernor.
The first train, carrying the official party and "500 passengers on free excursion tickets", stopped briefly at Lowood before returning to Fernvale, where the line was opened by William Kellett, MLA for Stanley, and other dignitaries.
Although extensions were granted to O'Rourke and McSharry to finish the job, the Southern and Western Railway Department eventually took over and completed the line, 12 months late, on 31 December 1884. The final cost was 69,091 pounds, including rolling stock, buildings and land.
Buildings added, telegraph connected
Worley & Whithead were engaged to build the goods shed, shelter shed and office on the platform, as well as the engineman's and guard's cottage. The engine shed was built by Henry Wyman in 1885.
The telegraph line and 30cwt (1520 kgs) capacity crane were added 1885-1887 and a 'Ladies Room' in 1888.
First Station Master
Lowood's first 'Consigning Officer', as the Station Master was known, was Gotleib Spresser. He left after two years and, to the complaints of many locals, was replaced by a non German-speaking woman!