THE GRANDCHESTER VICTORIA RAILWAY TUNNEL

  • Grandchester (Formerly called Bigges Camp) is an historic railway and timber town. Grandchester is in fact home to the first narrow gauge mainline railway in the world. The first track opened to traffic on 31st July 1865 from Ipswich and terminated at this small town. The charming original railway station, still exists. Built in 1866, it is the oldest railway station in Queensland. Location: Grandchester is 76 km from Brisbane, 34 km from Ipswich. The Victoria Tunnel is the oldest and longest railway tunnel in the state, built when the state was a separate colony. The tunnel is one of two built through the Little Liverpool Range on a section of narrow gauge railway from Grandchester to Gatton. The railway opened in June 1866. The tunnel has restricted clearances, which limits the size of rolling stock on the Queensland Railways network. One of two tunnels on Little Liverpool Range line, it was the longest single bore tunnel in Australia (537 m) until Sandy Hollow – Ulan in NSW opened in 1917. The tunnel was named in honour of Queen Victoria.
  • The Grandchester area was first explored by Allan Cunningham who came through the area in May 1829. Cunningham’s party camped beside what is now known as the Railway Lagoon while searching for the Brisbane River. Originally known as Bigges Camp, after the pioneering pastoralist Frederick Bigges, it was little more than a watering hole for transients until the arrival of the railway from Ipswich in 1865. This short section of railway line was the first railway built in Queensland and Governor Bowen, who thought the name Bigges Camp sounded like Big Scamp, suggested the railway terminus deserved something better. He changed “Big” to Grand, and used the Latin word for camp – “Chester” – for the second half of the name, and thus changed the siding’s name without really changing anything. That Grandchester is the name of a village outside of Cambridge in England is coincidental.
  • This 537 m long[2] tunnel (together with ‘Six Chain’) was built through the Little Liverpool Range on a section of narrow gauge railway from Grandchester to Gatton. The railway opened in June 1866, being delayed when the excavation of the tunnel revealed unexpected geological difficulties, requiring the tunnel to be lined with 3 layers of bricks. That resulted in the tunnel having restricted clearances, which limits the loading gauge (size of rolling stock) on this section of the Queensland Railways network, and the floor of the tunnel was lowered by 150mm in 1985 to improve that situation. The Victoria Tunnel was named after the English Queen of the day. Both are situated on the Main Line from Brisbane to Toowoomba, being part of the first narrow gauge main line in the world.

 

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