Queensland Rail

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Queensland Rail
Industry Railway operator
Founded 31 July 1865
Headquarters Brisbane, Australia
Area served
Key people
Nick Easy
Phillip Strachan
Revenue $1,932m (2011/12)
$692m (2011/12)
$128m (2011/12)
Number of employees
7,312 (June 2012)
Parent Government of Queensland
Website queenslandrail.com.au

Queensland Rail, also known as QR, is a railway operator in Queensland, Australia. Owned by the Queensland Government, Queensland Rail operates suburban and long-distance passenger services. It also owns and maintains approximately 8,000 kilometres of track in Queensland.


2470 class at Corinda in the original diesel livery in February 1998


Queensland Railways was the first operator in the world to adopt narrow gauge (in this case 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)) for a main line,[1] and this remains the systemwide gauge within Queensland today.

The colony of Queensland separated from New South Wales in 1859, and the new government was keen to facilitate development and immigration. Improved transport to the fertile Darling Downs region situated west of Toowoomba was seen as a priority. As adequate river transport was already established between the capital Brisbane and the then separate settlement of Ipswich, the railway commenced from the latter locality and the initial section, built over relatively flat, easy country opened to Bigge's Camp, at the eastern base of the Little Liverpool Range, on 31 July 1865. Called the Main Line, the only significant engineering work on that section was the bridge over the Bremer River to North Ipswich.

Tunneling excavation through the Little Liverpool Range delayed the opening of the next section to Gatton by 10 months, but the line was opened to Toowoomba in 1867, the ascent of the Main Range being the reason for the adoption of narrow gauge.

Built by the Queensland government to the unusual (for the time) gauge of 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm), the line largely followed the alignment surveyed by a private company, the Moreton Bay Tramway Company, which had proposed to build a 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) horse-drawn tramway but had been unable to raise funds to do so beyond an initial start on earthworks.

The adoption of narrow gauge was controversial at the time, and was largely predicated by the government's desire for the fastest possible construction timeframe at least cost.[2] This resulted in adoption of sharper curves and a lower axle load than was considered possible using standard gauge, and an assessment at the time put the cost of a narrow gauge line from Ipswich to Toowoomba at 25% of the cost of a standard gauge line. In a colony with a non-indigenous population of 30,000 when the decision was made, it is understandable.

Queensland Rail went on to develop an extensive network of railways to facilitate the economic and social development of the state, totaling 10,500 km at its peak in 1932.

EMU 03 at Sunshine in October 2016

Changing transport patterns resulted in the closure of many development branch lines from 1948 onwards, but at the same time the main lines were upgraded to provide contemporary services, and from the 1970s an extensive network of new lines was developed, particularly to service export coal mines.


EMU on the first electric service in Brisbane in November 1979

Commencing in November 1979 the Brisbane suburban network was electrified.

In 1978, discussions were commenced on possible electrification of the Blackwater and Goonyella coal networks. This was due to an expected increase in coal traffic across the networks, ageing diesel-electric locomotive fleet and the increase in diesel fuel costs. By early 1983, a decision had been made to electrify the networks and by early 1984 contracts were already starting to be let for the new locomotives and other works for the project. The decision was made to electrify with the 25 kV AC railway electrification system as used on the Brisbane suburban network. This would allow future connection of the Brisbane network with the coal networks via the North Coast line.

The project was to be carried out in four stages:[3]

Stage 1: Electrification of the main line from Gladstone to Rockhampton, including parts of Rockhampton marshalling yard, then west to Blackwater and the coal mines in the area. This was a total of 720 kilometres (450 mi) of track.

Stage 2: Electrification of the coal lines south of Dalrymple Bay and Hay Point, then west through the Goonyella system, south-west to Blair Athol and south to Gregory – linking the Goonyella system to the Blackwater system. This was a total of 773 kilometres (480 mi) of track.

Stage 3: Electrification of the main western line from Burngrove to Emerald. This would allow electric freight from Rockhampton to Emerald.

Stage 4: Electrification of the line from Newlands coal mine to Collinsville and north-east to Abbott Point. This stage never went ahead. In 1986 it was decided to electrify the North Coast line between Brisbane and Gladstone instead and this became known as Stage 4.[4][5]

Interstate expansion[edit]

In September 1999 Queensland Rail was rebranded as QR.[6] In March 2002 Queensland Rail purchased Northern Rivers Railroad and rebranded it Interail, fulfilling a long held ambition of to expand beyond its state borders.[7][8]

In March 2003 Queensland Rail entered the Hunter Valley coal market when Interail commenced a contract from Duralie Colliery to Stratford Mine. Another coal contract was won in late 2003 for the haulage of coal from Newstan Colliery, Fassifern to Vales Point Power Station. In 2004 Interail began running Brisbane to Melbourne and Sydney to Melbourne intermodal services. In June 2005 Queensland Rail acquired the CRT Group.[9]

In June 2006 the Western Australian business of the Australian Railroad Group was purchased.[10][11][12]


In June 2009 the Queensland Government announced the privatisation of Queensland Rail's freight business.[13][14] This resulted in Queensland Rail's freight assets being transferred to QR National (now Aurizon) from 1 July 2010.

Redcliffe Peninsula railway line[edit]

In October 2016 the opening of a new rail line to the Redcliffe Peninsula resulted in the failure of the rail network. 100s of services were cancelled without notice due to a lack of trained drivers and staff. Passengers experienced extended delays and promised services which did not arrive.

Several weeks after the service interruptions, Queensland Rail CEO Helen Gluer announced her resignation from the company, along with chairman Michael Klug.[15]

It was announced on 27 October 2016, that the director-general of the Department of Transport and Main Roads, Neil Scales, would replace Helen Gluer.

An inquiry into Queensland Rail's train crewing conducted by Phillip Strachan was completed in February 2017. The report determined that Queensland Rail had operated for a number of years with insufficient train crews, paying overtime to cover all the scheduled services and had failed to recruit sufficient additional train crew in anticipation of the opening of the Redcliffe line, creating a severe shortfall of train crew resulting in the cancellation of many services. The report blamed Queensland Rail for having an unwieldy management structure that relied on intuition rather than accurate forecasting and a reluctance to share bad news.[16]


The Commissioners of the Queensland Railways included:


City network[edit]

Queensland Rail, in partnership with TransLink, provides Urban and Interurban rail and bus services throughout South East Queensland. These rail services operate on eleven rail lines including Beenleigh, Caboolture, Cleveland, Doomben, Exhibition, Ferny Grove, Gold Coast, Gympie North, Ipswich-Rosewood, Redcliffe Peninsula, Shorncliffe, and Springfield lines. Queensland Rail provides train services on these lines with its rolling stock of electric multiple units, which includes the Electric Multiple Units (EMU), the Suburban Multiple Units (SMU), the Interurban Multiple Units (IMU) and the InterCity Express (ICE).

Due to low patronage, lines such as the Pinkenba line have been closed and replaced by bus services known as a RailBus. During some times of the day trains on the Nambour line and Doomben line are also replaced by the RailBus.

Long-distance trains[edit]

Queensland Rail operate these long-range passenger rail services:[20]

Annual patronage for these services in 2011/12 was 795,000.[21] In 2007/08, the subsidy for the Brisbane-Cairns route was $130 million, or $900 per passenger. In 2001/02 it was $270 million.[22][23]

Queensland Rail also operate these tourist trains:[20]


Class Image Type Top speed (km/h) Built Number of units Routes operated Notes
City network fleet
EMU EMU77MTN.jpg Electric multiple unit 100 1979–1987 87 City network Remaining 87 EMUs are planned to be progressively retired alongside the ICEs between late 2017 and late 2018. They will be replaced with the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR700).[24]
ICE ICE156 Roma Street.jpg Electric multiple unit 120 1988–1989 8 City network (Sunshine Coast line only) Remaining 8 ICEs are planned to be progressively retired alongside the EMUs between mid-to-late 2017.
SMU200 SMU200.jpg Electric multiple unit 100 1994–1995 12 City network
IMU100 IMU103NTG.jpg Electric multiple unit 140 1996–1997 10 City network
SMU220 SMU228KR.jpg Electric multiple unit 100 1999–2001 30 City network
IMU120 IMU124NTG.jpg Electric multiple unit 140 2001–2002 4 City network
IMU160 Queensland Rail Interurban Multiple Unit 173 at Beenleigh for Gold Coast.JPG Electric multiple unit 130 2004–2011 28 City network
SMU260 SMU296MTN.jpg Electric multiple unit 130 2008–2011 35 City network
NGR700 NGR702.jpg Electric multiple unit 140 2015–2018 13 City network Not yet in service. Expected to initially operate on the Airport and Gold Coast lines in late 2017 in the lead-up to the 2018 Commonwealth Games, where extra capacity and improved customer service will be required to cater for the games, before operating on all lines by late 2018.[25][26]
Locomotive fleet1
DL class DL4 at Normanton, July 1991.jpg Diesel locomotive 50 1961 1 DL4 backup for the Gulflander.
1720 class Kuranda Scenic Railway Cairns.JPG Diesel locomotive 100 1966–1970 15 Kuranda Scenic Railway, Traveltrain services and infrastructure trains.
2150 class Diesel locomotive 100 1966–1970 6 Traveltrain services and infrastructure trains.
2400 class Diesel locomotive 100 1966–1970 5 Traveltrain services and infrastructure trains.
2470 class Diesel locomotive 100 1980–1983 5 Traveltrain services and infrastructure trains.
Traveltrain fleet
Electric Tilt Train TiltTrainMaryWest.jpg Tilting electric multiple unit 160 1997 2 North Coast line
Diesel Tilt Train Cairns-tilt-train.JPG Tilting diesel multiple unit 160 2003, 2014 3 North Coast line
Tourist train fleet
45 hp rail motor Railmotor60.jpg Railmotor 40 1931 1 Based at Normanton, used for charters.
102 hp rail motor Railmotor93.jpg Railmotor 50 1950 1 Gulflander
1800 class Railmotor93.jpg Railmotor (trailers) 50 1952–1954 2 Gulflander
2000 class Savannahlander.jpg Railmotor 80 1956–1971 3 Savannahlander Operated by private contractor.
Heritage fleet
A10 class A10 No.6 Workshops Rail Museum.JPG Steam locomotive 40 1865–1866 1 No. 6 operational, Australia's oldest operational steam locomotive. Usually placed on display at the Workshops Rail Museum when not required for special trains.
PB15 class PB15 732 Workshops Rail Museum.JPG Steam locomotive 65 1899–1926 1 732 being overhauled.
C17 class Steam locomotive 80 1920–1953 2 974 operational, 1000 being restored to working order.
DL class DL1 Workshops Rail Museum.JPG Diesel locomotive 50 1939 1 On display at the Workshops Rail Museum.
AC16 class Steam locomotive 80 1943 1 221A operational. (USATC S118 Class)
DD17 class DD17 1051 Workshops Rail Museum.JPG Steam locomotive 80 1948–1952 1 1051 restored to working order, currently under heavy overhaul.
Beyer-Garratt Steam locomotive 80 1950–1951 1 1009 stored pending overhaul
BB18¼ class Queensland BB18¼ class locomotive.jpg Steam locomotive 80 1950–1958 2 1079 and 1089 operational.
1150 class Diesel locomotive 80 1952 1 1159 stored pending restoration.
1400 class Diesel locomotive 80 1955 1 1407 stored pending restoration.
1170 class 1170 - Redbank - 17 August 1988.jpg Diesel locomotive 80 1956 1 1170 stored pending restoration.
1900 class QR 1900 class railmotor passing thru Darra during the opening of the electrification of the railway line.jpg Railmotor 80 1956 1 1901 operational, also used as a track inspection vehicle.
2000 class Savannahlander.jpg Railmotor 80 1956–1971 6 2034, 2036 and 2057 operational, also used as inspection vehicles.
2005, 2024 and 2031 stored.
1450 class Diesel locomotive 80 1957 3 1450, 1455 and 1459 stored pending restoration.
1250 class 1262 Workshops Rail Museum.JPG Diesel locomotive 80 1959 1 1262 on display at Workshops Rail Museum.
SX carriages Passenger car 80 1961–1962 7 Formed into one 7-car set.
1600 class Diesel locomotive 80 1962 1 1603 stored pending restoration.
1460 class Diesel locomotive 80 1964 1 1461 stored pending restoration.
1270 class 1281 Workshops Rail Museum.JPG Diesel locomotive 80 1964 2 1270 stored pending restoration, 1281 on display at Workshops Rail Museum.
DH class Diesel locomotive 50 1966 2 DH2 and DH71 stored.
1620 class Diesel locomotive 80 1967 1 1620 operational.
Special cars
Vice-Regal Car 80 1903 1 Car 445 is a special saloon retained for use by the Governor of Queensland and is still considered a working item of rollingstock in the QR fleet, however it is on permanent loan to Workshops Rail Museum.[27]
1 This table only includes locomotives owned by Queensland Rail. QR also hires locomotives from Aurizon as required.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kerr J 'Triumph of Narrow Gauge', Boolarong Publications 1990
  2. ^ "PARLIAMENT". The Brisbane Courier. National Library of Australia. 18 May 1864. p. 2. Retrieved 4 March 2014. 
  3. ^ Queensland Rail (August 1984). "Fact Sheet No.1 August 1984 Everything you should know about Australia's biggest railway project" (1): 1. 
  4. ^ RW Dunning & AM Drake (Circ 1985). "Mainline Electrification" (1): 3.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ Queensland Rail (February 1986). "Fact Sheet No. 9 Main Line Electrification Project Special Edition" (1): 1. 
  6. ^ "Queensland Rail Becomes QR and Looks Beyond its Borders" Railway Digest November 1999 page 9
  7. ^ "QR moves into NSW with Northern Rivers Railroad buy" Archived 6 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine. Rail Express 12 March 2002
  8. ^ "QR National push" WorldCargo News March 2002
  9. ^ Queensland Rail sorts logistics for acquisition The Age 25 June 2005
  10. ^ Sale of Australian Railroad Group Wesfarmers 14 February 2006
  11. ^ ARG on board Queensland Rail The Age 31 March 2006
  12. ^ QR closes national rail freight deal QR National 2 June 2006
  13. ^ Queensland asset sales to reap $15 billion Brisbane Times 2 June 2009
  14. ^ Premier announces QR Privatisation Plan Railway Gazette International 4 June 2009
  15. ^ "Queensland Rail boss, chairman resign over driver crisis". ABC News. 2016-10-27. Retrieved 2016-10-27. 
  16. ^ Caldwell, Felicity (6 February 2017). "Queensland Rail Strachan inquiry: What went wrong, who is to blame and what's next". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 12 February 2017. 
  17. ^ "THE GAZETTE". The Courier (Brisbane). XVIII, (1825). Queensland, Australia. 30 December 1863. p. 2. Retrieved 28 December 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  18. ^ "SUPREME COURT". The Brisbane Courier. XIX, (2,122). Queensland, Australia. 17 November 1864. p. 5. Retrieved 28 December 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i "RAILWAY COMMISSIONERS". The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933). Qld.: National Library of Australia. 28 July 1924. p. 37 Supplement: Queensland's Centenary. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  20. ^ a b Home Queensland Rail Travel
  21. ^ Annual Report June 2012 Archived 18 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Queensland Rail
  22. ^ Wardill, Steven (26 December 2008). "$130m subsidy for Brisbane-Cairns Traveltrain". The Courier-Mail. 
  23. ^ Patrick Lion (28 December 2008). "$900-a-ticket subsidy for tilt train to remain, says Anna Bligh". The Courier Mail. 
  24. ^ Queensland Government (6 August 2015). "Retiring Urban Rollingstock Fleet Disposal- Technical Advisor". Queensland Government. Retrieved 8 October 2017. 
  25. ^ "New trains to first service the Airport and Gold Coast". Queensland Rail. 27 June 2017. Retrieved 6 October 2017. 
  26. ^ "New Generation Rollingstock". Department of Transport & Main Roads. 24 August 2017. Retrieved 6 October 2017. 
  27. ^ "The Vice-Regal Car (Special car 445)" (PDF). Queensland Museum. 

External links[edit]