The History Of The Palmwoods To Buderim Tramway
1911 to 1935
The Palmwoods to Buderim ‘tramway’ was built as a railway, in that it did not follow roads, and it had a separate permanent way with large bridges, cuttings and embankments. It was technically significant and demonstrated an uncommon aspect of Queensland’s cultural heritage because it had a 2 foot 6 inch (0.762m) gauge as opposed to 2’0″(0.6096m) for the sugar mill trams and 3’6″(1.0668m) for the Queensland Rail mainline, and it was privately constructed. The track was 11.5km in length through country which created a varied range of engineering challenges.
Buderim and district in the early 1900s had a fast growing production of farm produce, fruit and timber. Roads were poor and transport to Woombye – the main centre of that time – relied on horses, wagons and bullocks. The shipping through rivers and creeks to Maroochy ports, with sand-bar problems, was a variable which threatened perishable produce. There was a great need for effective and reliable transport to the main Queensland Rail train line and thus access to the Brisbane markets. The alternative tramway routes considered from 1903 onwards were Buderim/Palmwoods, Buderim/Woombye, or joining the developing Moreton Sugar Mill (established 1894) tramway at Diddillibah. Buderim to Palmwoods was settled on by 1911 and the line was open and began operating on the 1st of December 1914, with the official opening later in 1915.
The tramway was financed by a government tramway loan through the Maroochy Shire. A ‘benefit area’ was proclaimed by the Shire along the track and the 130 ratepayers concerned were levied an extra rate to help service the loan.. The original estimate for costs of £28000 ($56000) was revised to £34000 ($68000) as the construction proceeded, and the loan then ran until 1971 when it amounted to £84000 ($168000). There was a significant and continuing private contribution to costs from landowners supporting this private ‘tramway’, which included the donation of 72% of the total 55acres(22.25Ha) of tramway easement land for the line to run on, support for surveying, repairs, running costs, etc..
The tram often ran two trips per day from Palmwoods to Buderim or at times the shorter Palmwoods to Forest Glen run as the freight demanded. A significant social role was also performed taking passengers to Palmwoods to join the train to Brisbane, and transporting excursion passengers to Buderim to stay in the Buderim guest houses or to travel down to the coast. One or two loads per day of up to 150 passengers were carried in the one passenger carriage and on fruit-box and plank seats on the flat-top trucks. The Palmwoods to Buderim trip took about one hour with a 5/- (50c) return fare for passengers. The freight rate was 17/6 ($1.75) per ton (1.016t).
The tram was used in the depression days to go to Palmwoods and then to Woombye to collect ‘sustenance’ (dole) payments. Pregnant ladies travelled by tram to Palmwoods and then to Nambour hospital for child-birth. Sports teams also engaged the tram for transport to sporting events.
The last regular trip was on 10th August 1935. Many factors contributed to the closure of the tram, in particular new roads had been built which developed car and truck transport, the fruit and timber industries had contracted, and the 1930s depression was a significant final factor. World War 1 had stopped any hope of the suggested tramway extension Mooloolaba / Maroochydore and the coast. Only two steam engines ever worked the line, a Krauss and a Shay. The last work for the little Krauss ‘Iron Horse’ was in 1936 to take the removed rails back to Palmwoods after they and the Krauss engine were sold. The Shay engine had been out of service since 1932 and some parts and the boiler were abandoned beside the line at Palmwoods after the removal of recyclable parts.
The remaining track formation and foundations are a valuable heritage record of the social and economic role the tram played in the history of the SunshineCoast some seventy years ago. A group of interested local people recently formed The Buderim-Palmwoods Heritage Tramway Inc, and this group is actively working towards restoring one spectacular remaining segment as a Heritage Walking Trail.
This segment runs down the side of ‘BuderimMountain’, which at only 185.9m/610ft above sea level it is not really high enough to be classified as a mountain! It runs about parallel to Mons Rd, from near the old Telko Station site at the ‘big dipper’/‘White’ Bridge location where Telco Rd leaves Mons Rd, and then proceeds through the old Mons Station site down towards Forest Glen. This segment has impressive aesthetic appeal and engineering grandeur for a horse-powered age – with high embankments, deep cuttings and sharp curves – and it features attractive natural and re-growth forest surroundings.
Recently the Krauss engine was located and purchased by the BPHT Inc. and is being restored to allow it to be put on public display. At the rear of the ‘Pioneer Cottage’ in Ballinger Cresent, Buderim, there is displayed a set of wheels and an axle from the tram. The historical materials at ‘Pioneer Cottage’ include many photos, maps and documents relating to the tram. Further information on the Palmwood to Buderim Tramway can be found at http://www.buderim.qld.au/tram/