Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.

Lowood's Story

Indigenous History

The traditional owners of Brisbane and surrounding areas are the Jagera, Yuppera and Ugarapul people who occupied the region for thousands of years prior to European settlement. 

During local settlement in the 1880s a Bora Ring, a sacred Aboriginal initiation site, was discovered at Clarendon, just west of Lowood township. 

In 1981 archaeologists recovered Aboriginal artefacts estimated to be 5300 years old from an ancient site near Fernvale, 9km from Lowood.

Aborigines fishing in Brisbane RiverAborigines fishing in Brisbane River

European Exploration 

Major Edmund Lockyer and his party were the first Europeans to navigate the upper reaches of the Brisbane River. 

From 10 September to 6 October 1825, 14 men in two boats explored the Brisbane River as far as its source, over 200km from the penal settlement at Brisbane.

On September 17th dead trees lying across the river forced the crews to pull the boats overland in the region where Lowood later developed, becoming the first Europeans to visit and explore this district. 

Nearby they discovered a significant Brisbane River tributary, later named Lockyer Creek. They encountered friendly Aborigines during their history-making explorations. 

Early European Settlement

When the embargo on settlement within 50 miles of Brisbane was lifted in 1842, European settlers began arriving in the region to take up new government leases. By 1848 18 large 'runs' had been established by the Brisbane Valley's first pastoralists, among them 'Fernie Lawn', 'Wivenhoe' and 'Tarampa', which covered the areas where future settlements would include Lowood, Vernor, Fernvale, Wivenhoe Pocket, Tarampa and others.

Royal Bank, Railway St, c1922Royal Bank, Railway St, c1922 Hauling timber to Lowood sawmillHauling timber to Lowood sawmill

In 1868 Government leases were opened up for selection and sale. The district known as "The Scrub" (and later called Lowood) was surveyed for Government-approved 'closer settlement' by Surveyor R.D. Graham in 1872, but the township itself did not start to develop until the 1880s.

Along with settlers from Britain many immigrants from Prussia and Germany settled in the region and introduced their culture, farming techniques and language to this district.

Clash of Cultures

In the 1880s there were still hundreds of Aborigines living off the abundant plants, animals and birds in the 'Rosewood Scrub' that blanketed the region's hills and valleys, and the numerous fish species in the rivers and creeks. Popular delicacies included scrub turkey and Wonga pigeon.

The early squatters regarded the dense scrub as unsuitable for sheep and cattle but Aborigines greatly valued it. Settlers cleared the scrub and bush for their crops and grazing. The 'Rosewood Scrub' was the last refuge of an ancient indigenous race diminished and displaced by imported diseases and loss of their traditional lands.

Railway Changes Everything

When Lowood became the first terminus of the Brisbane Valley Branch Line in June 1884, the area consisted of scattered farms, Hancock's sawmill and only two public buildings - Bethel Lutheran Church (1876)and Cairnhill Provisional School (1881). A Brisbane newspaper claimed the line "terminated nowhere"!

This district was then known as "The Scrub" being the northern end of the Rosewood Scrub, a dense vine forest that reportedly covered '200 square miles' (about 52,000 hectares) from Rosewood through Marburg, Glamorgan Vale, Minden, Tarampa and beyond.

Following the opening of Cairnhill Provisional School in 1881, the name Cairnhill was also used for the burgeoning settlement. During construction rail authorities referred to the line's first terminus as '19 Miles', its distance from the 'Brisbane Valley Junction' at Wulkuraka, before officially naming it 'Lowood'.

Railway records give its meaning as "descriptive of locality", probably referring to the low scrub.

Early German settlers in the Lockyer region.Early German settlers in the Lockyer region.

Clearing, Ploughing, Farming 

Timber getting and small crop and dairy farming became important local industries. With the arrival of the railway a thriving township soon developed as hotels, shops and other businesses were established.

Lowood became the distribution centre for surrounding farms and soon tonnes of local produce were being dispatched by train to Ipswich and Brisbane.

The district was remarkably productive: sheep, pigs, poultry and beef cattle were raised and Lowood became well known for its quality dairy products.

Farmers delivering produce to Lowood StationFarmers delivering produce to Lowood Station Carl & Esta Lindemann's wedding at Lowood, 1912Carl & Esta Lindemann's wedding at Lowood, 1912

Crops grown in the district included maize, lucerne, stone and citrus fruit, wine grapes, onions, potatoes, legumes, pineapples, cotton, sugar cane and coffee.

Fires and Flooding Rains

Floods in the 1880s and 1890s destroyed thousands of hectares of crops and pasture, and washed away many homes and other buildings along with large sections of the railway and hundreds of head of stock.

In February 1893 the Brisbane River rose 86 feet (26.4m) at Lowood, still a record and several metres higher than the floods of 1974 and 2011. Sections of the railway line were washed away and in places the telegraph lines were left several feet under water. Many farms in the district were totally wiped out.

Nine major fires ravaged parts of Lowood township between 1904 and 1940. The east side of Railway Street was devastated three times in eight years - remarkably the opposite side of the street escaped unscathed. 

Thanks to the heroic efforts of the volunteer "bucket brigades" no lives were lost in these fires. After each blaze new buildings soon appeared and life went on.


Railway Closed, Heritage Remains

Improvements in roads and heavy transport progressively reduced rail transport to uneconomic levels. The Brisbane Valley Railway branch line ceased operations to Lowood in 1989 after 105 years of service.

Lowood's historic railway station and rail yards now form part of a large public park in the town centre, while the rail corridor from Fernvale has become a popular section of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.

Lowood has preserved a surprising array of historic buildings and sites that are important reminders of the town's character and heritage.