Info sought- Cooktown Railway in Far North Queensland

 
  vanessa Locomotive Driver

Location: Banned
Our family has an annual holiday in Far North Queensland (FNQ) during which time we tend to visit many places around Atherton and some places futher north and west.

On a recent visit to Cooktown (2008) we discovered from some locals (at the local pub mind you) of their once existing a narrow gauge railway which ran from the coast (Cooktown or close by) into the back country.

The locals asserted the railway was used during the heady gold mining years but has since been either abandoned in most parts or completed removed.

My question to the forum relates to any information available on the history of this railway.

Are there any sources out their who can fill in a few blanks at this end?

Can the users on this forum provide an overview of the railway including dates and freight/passenger services?

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  GrahamH Chief Commissioner

Location: At a terminal on the www.
The Australian Railway Historical Society (ARHS) had articles on in their 'Bulletin' around 40 years ago. Google on ARHS to contact them. A bookshop operated by the NSW branch should have any in-print book about the Cooktown - Laura Railway.
  vanessa Locomotive Driver

Location: Banned
Thankyou very much for the information.  Having the name of the railway, I have found the following useful summary of the railway which can be found at:

http://www.cook.qld.gov.au/community/railway.shtml

A summary includes:

"Hailed as Australia's most unusual railway, the creation of the Cooktown Railway, was a direct result of the discovery of gold in the Palmer River.

The road to the goldfields was extremely hazardous, the transportation of goods was expensive, difficult and time consuming. When officials refused to upgrade the road, pressure mounted for an inland railway. The Government, realising the richness of the Palmer fields and a large voting population, finally agreed to build a railway."

The information, however quite useful, does not provide a date for the closure of the railway?
  gippslander Chief Commissioner

Location: Central Gippsland, Vic
The railway extended from Cooktown to Laura (a distance of 108km) and was opened between 1885-88. It was closed in March 1962. The line used steam hauled services until 1927 and then rail motors to the end.
It lasted as long as it did because there were no all weather roads in that part of North Queensland for many years.

There was an excellent history called the 'The Cooktown Railway" written by JW Knowles in 1966. I have a copy and it would be available in some libraries.
  cnsylvester Train Controller

In todays courier fail (Brisbane) 12/2/09 p68 it refers to a film being made about the Cooktown to Laura railway.
  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
Is road access available to what is left of the railway?

It would be interesting to one day trace the route as I imagine the forest would have been quick to claim anything that is left of the infrastructure.

--Bill
  62440 Chief Commissioner

Last time I looked, the goods shed at Laura was still there. Cooktown station building had been relocated and I was told a couple of bridges could be seen elsewhere but it was a while back
WW
  cnsylvester Train Controller

I was there last weekend.

The old Cooktown Station was relocated and is in Charlotte St.  It was orginally 2 storey, now only 1 storey.

Found the tender of B12 40 (upside down), and easily followed the easement from the wharf line to the station precinct.  The only reminder or guide to where the station was, is the gutter.

Found some ballast and dog spikes and fish plates.

There is still considerable evidence of rail in town, most surprisingly at the local service station, where the sliding main door travels across a length of track.

Most interestingly "Endeavour" the first of the largest RM's on site (RM32) an AEC was sent to Normanton.  Its only a chassis, but when I photographed it earlier this year, I didn't realise its significance.

I'll have to update my website linking RM32 as Cooktown's Endeavour and the photo of RM32 on my site.  http://www.kenssectioncarshed.org/id165.htm
  Zen Dave Junior Train Controller

Location: Canberra - Q2
There was an excellent history called the 'The Cooktown Railway" written by JW Knowles in 1966.
"gippslander"

Published by ARHS (Queensland Division).

More detail from that book:
1885-11-30 Cooktown Wharf to Cooktown to Palmer Road opened
1887-06-20 Palmer Road to Sandown opened
1888-10-08 Sandown to Laura opened
1891-10-10 Laura to Laura River (including bridge) opened, but not used
1903-01-31 whole line closed
1903-09-16 line re-opened, but service operated by Cooktown Municipal Council
1904-07-01 service operated by QR again
1927-xx-xx Laura River bridge closed
1930-xx-xx Laura to Laura River closed (but a level crossing remained open until 1943-03-xx)
1957-xx-xx Cooktown to Cooktown Wharf closed
1961-12-31 whole line closed

Stations, halts etc were:
Cooktown Wharf siding
Cooktown (station number 285)
Cooktown Racecourse (421)
Two Mile Hill siding/Ballast siding/Airdrome
Asmus (367)
Marton (288)
5 Mile 45 Chains
Police Camp (300)
Jansen (289, 1229 after QR resumed operation)
Flaggy (290, 1663)
Wilton (297)
Coolah (291)
Alderbury (303)
Normanby/28 Miles 30 Chains siding/Normanby (292, 1664)
Palmer Road (286)
Sandy Creek/Battle Camp
Welcome (363)
Sandown (338)
Deighton Camp
Deighton (419, 1665)
63 Miles 14 Chains siding
Laura (418)
Laura River
Laura Bridge
(authorised extension to Palmerville)

Some station numbers changed because QR had reallocated the original numbers.  Presumably these stations didn't re-open immediately when QR resumed operation.  Here's where the original numbers went:

419 Kowguran opened 1913-12-20
289 Dawlish opened 1913-07-01
290 Urangan opened 1913-12-19
292 Worongary opened 1903-09-14 (all of the stations on the Nerang to Tweed Heads extension received recycled numbers.  Booningba/Burleigh/West Burleigh got 47, which had been Victoria (at Victoria Tunnel on the Main Line) and was later reallocated to Jurema on the Emerald to Capella line.

On the Pialba to Urangan extension, Scarness got 36 (previously Goolman on the Fassifern Branch, which later re-opened and got 1135).

This is why you should never reallocate identity numbers!
  ShaneB Locomotive Driver

Rather than create a new thread, I have mapped the route to the best I can at
OpenStreetMap and from what I see, the vast majority of the railway is either inaccessible with the bridges missing or overgrown or have been repurposed for roads. One thing I couldn't locate was the Cooktown station or where the line finished in the wharf area. If you know more feel free to update as this was mainly from belated army maps 1:50,000 and 1:100,000 issued around www2
  petan Chief Commissioner

Location: Waiting to see a zebra using a zebra crossing!
Rather than create a new thread, I have mapped the route to the best I can at
OpenStreetMap and from what I see, the vast majority of the railway is either inaccessible with the bridges missing or overgrown or have been repurposed for roads. One thing I couldn't locate was the Cooktown station or where the line finished in the wharf area. If you know more feel free to update as this was mainly from belated army maps 1:50,000 and 1:100,000 issued around www2
ShaneB
I found these two items at QLD State Archives at Runcorn

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1inE3GYjM3DZWV9bVxsKA96kR7LmvF5dc/view  

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Y3HcDjJAjgPFazxz7ZuKBt3zAzAPO23K/view
  ShaneB Locomotive Driver

Rather than create a new thread, I have mapped the route to the best I can at
OpenStreetMap and from what I see, the vast majority of the railway is either inaccessible with the bridges missing or overgrown or have been repurposed for roads. One thing I couldn't locate was the Cooktown station or where the line finished in the wharf area. If you know more feel free to update as this was mainly from belated army maps 1:50,000 and 1:100,000 issued around www2
I found these two items at QLD State Archives at Runcorn

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1inE3GYjM3DZWV9bVxsKA96kR7LmvF5dc/view  

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Y3HcDjJAjgPFazxz7ZuKBt3zAzAPO23K/view
petan
Thanks so much for that and subtly updated @petan . It will need a Cooktown-ite to improve this however it appears to now pretty close to reality with the  "stations/halts" being within about 50mtrs on this map. I would love to see this opened as a rail-trail although a number of water crossings would probably make this prohibitive. Let me know if you need a KML for Google Earth of the line.
  duttonbay Minister for Railways

Rather than create a new thread, I have mapped the route to the best I can at
OpenStreetMap and from what I see, the vast majority of the railway is either inaccessible with the bridges missing or overgrown or have been repurposed for roads. One thing I couldn't locate was the Cooktown station or where the line finished in the wharf area. If you know more feel free to update as this was mainly from belated army maps 1:50,000 and 1:100,000 issued around www2
ShaneB
Comparing the drawing in John Knowles' book with hairylegs railway overlay in Google Earth, I would saw the overlay is spot on. (Although not impossible that he used this book as his source).
The station was on Adelaide Street, the building located pretty much at the intersection with Walker Street. Google maps shows the formation of the wye pretty clearly, up from Hogg Street:

The line curved from the wye to be parallel with Adelaide Street, with the station there.
The wharf was most likely located close to the turning circle located where Webber Esplanade begins at Charlotte St, maybe going around to what is now Cooktown Waterfront.
  ShaneB Locomotive Driver

I have attached a Google Earth File (KMZ) of a number of FNQ lines including the Cooktown one and was surprised how closed this matched with hairyleg's version. This is in OpenStreetMap and any inaccuracies can be updated directly int here or post it here. Only the main lines have been updated north and west of Cairns.
  As for Cairns, OpenStreetMap requires that you should only map what is physically there, so the old station area and port areas are purposely missing historic data.

FNQ Download: https://www.railpage.com.au/downloads?mode=download.view&id=1202
  Rad Locomotive Fireman

Location: Gerringong NSW
I saw a book this afternoon called "The Cooktown Railway" by J W Knowles published by the ARHS Qld in 1966. Obviously out of print for a long time but they have a copy at the ARHS Bookshop at Central Station in the second hand book sec tion. It has 85 pages, lots of pictures, station layouts and diagrams of the line and stations etc. If anyone is interested I would give them a call on 0296994595
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Thanks for sharing they have the stock.

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