Southern railway line

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Southern railway line
Southern railway line at The Summit railway station, 2015.JPG
Southern railway line at The Summit in June 2015
Track gauge3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Route map
NSW/Qld state border
358km Wallangarra
348km Wyberba
345km Lyra
340km Ballandean
334km Fletcher
330km Glen Aplin
325km Severnlea
320km Passmore
318km Stanthorpe
313km Applethorpe
307km The Summit
304km Thulimbah
Amiens line
301km Cottonvale
296km Dalveen
295km Dalveen Tunnel (140m)
290km Temangum
284km Cherry Gully
281km Tunnel (268m)
272km Silverwood
258km Warwick Saleyards siding
South Western line
to Dirranbandi
255km Warwick
Killarney line
Maryvale line
252km Millhill
244km Toolburra
241km Massie
232km Hendon
232km Goomburra line
214km Clifton
203km Nobby
197km Greenmount
185km Cambooya
179km Millmerran line
178km Wyreema
168km Drayton
166km Harristown
161km Toowoomba
Western line
to Cunnamulla
Main line
to Brisbane

The Southern railway line serves the Darling Downs region of Queensland, Australia. The 197 kilometre long line branches from the Western line at Toowoomba, 161 kilometres west of Brisbane, and proceeds south through Warwick and Stanthorpe to the New South Wales/Queensland state border at Wallangarra.[1]


Clifton railway station in 1897
Sydney Mail circa 1910
1901 crosses the Condamine River floodplain trestles on approach to Warwick station in 1987
1901 south of Warwick in 1987

The first section of the Southern railway opened from the end of the Main Line railway at Toowoomba to Millhill, a northern suburb of Warwick, on 9 January 1871, the line terminating there to save the cost of a bridge over the Condamine River.[2]

In 1872, tin was discovered at Stanthorpe, but disagreement over the route to be taken through Warwick resulted in the approval to extend the line not being given until 1877. The difficult terrain south of Warwick required two tunnels, one through solid rock which took two years to excavate, and the line opened to Stanthorpe on 3 May 1881.[3] The Dalveen Tunnel was added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 28 July 2000.[4]

The Southern line was completed to Wallangarra on 14 February 1887. The first passenger trains between Brisbane and Sydney ran on 16 January 1888, when the New South Wales Main Northern line opened.[5][6] Trains operated via Gowrie Junction on the Western line until 1915 when the Drayton Deviation opened, shaving 30 minutes off journey times.

As all trains from Brisbane to Warwick and beyond had to travel via Toowoomba, a proposal to provide a direct line to Warwick, known as the Via Recta, was developed. That would have involved another crossing of the Main Range through Spicers Gap, involving a spiral loop with uncompensated 1 in 33 grades and 100 m (328 ft) radius curves, giving a ruling grade equivalent of 1 in 27. The Via Recta proposal would have involved very significant construction costs, and once it was agreed to extend the standard gauge line from Casino to South Brisbane, the need for the Via Recta disappeared.

In 1904, the South Western railway line was opened. It left the Southern railway just south of Warwick station to initially reach Thane and then Dirranbandi more than 400 km to the west.

Prior to the completion of the New South Wales North Coast line in 1930, the Southern line formed part of the main interstate rail link between Brisbane and Sydney via the New South Wales Main Northern line. The railway systems of the two states use different gauges, Queensland uses 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) while New South Wales uses 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm). This necessitated a break of gauge at Wallangarra with the station consisting of an island platform, with Queensland Railways using the west side and the New South Wales Government Railways the east. The state border traverses the station platform at its southern end.[6]

A triangle was located to the north of the station to allow locomotives to be turned. The last train to operate on the New South Wales line ran in January 1988.[7] There were various proposals to transfer the New South Wales line to Armidale to Queensland Rail but nothing ever eventuated. [8]

Queensland Rail ceased freight services to Wallangarra in March 2007.[9] The Australian Railway Historical Society operated a twice yearly service to Wallangarra as The Winelnder. It last ran in February 2014 before the withdrawal of the Lander carriage stock.[10]

The entire length of the line is maintained by Queensland Rail.[1]

Branch lines[edit]

  • Wyreema - Millmerran 70 km, opened to Pittsworth in 1887, extended to Millmerran 1911
  • Hendon - Goomburra 19 km, opened to Allora in 1897, extended to Goomburra 1912, latter closed in 1961, the Allora section in 1993, Allora station layout required trains to reverse when traveling to/from Goomburra
  • Warwick - Maryvale 30 km, opened 1911, closed 1960, built as the first section of the abandoned Via Recta
  • Warwick - Killarney 44 km, opened 1884-85, closed 1964, 5 km tramway was built from Tannymorel to Mount Colliery by Glengallen Shire Council to serve a coal mine using rollingstock hired from QR, It also closed in 1964
  • Cottonvale - Amiens 20 km, opened 1920, closed 1974


In January 1888, the Sydney Mail was introduced, when first class sleeping cars were added to the Wallangarra train (Second class sleeping cars were introduced in 1896). A daily service was provided, departing Brisbane at 19:00, pausing at Toowoomba at 00:30 and arriving at Wallangarra at 07:45. The return service departed Wallangarra at 17:00, pausing at Toowoomba at 00:45 and arriving in Brisbane at 06:15. At Wallangarra passengers transferred to the New South Wales Government Railways' Brisbane Limited.

A travelling post office was added to the Warwick train in 1877, and extended to Stanthorpe, and then Wallangarra as the line was extended. This was removed from the train in 1932 as a cost saving measure.

In 1908, the Sydney Mail departed Brisbane at 07:10, calling at Toowoomba at 11:10 and after changing trains at Wallangarra, passengers arrived in Sydney at 11:10 the following day. The return service departed Sydney at 17:10, arriving in Brisbane at 21:10 the following day. Carriage connections were introduced in 1908, with a Parlour Car introduced in 1923, and a Buffet Car in 1924. The Parlour Car was transferred to the Townsville Mail in 1930 following the opening of the Standard Gauge line to Brisbane.

Foot-warmers were introduced to the first class compartments of the Sydney Mail in 1911, and provided each winter until 1958.

In 1947, the four Mail Trains per week was reduced to two per week, and was withdrawn on 1 February 1972.[11]

The last passenger on the line, the Dirranbandi Mail that operated as far as Warwick, was withdrawn on 11 February 1993.[9]


The Southern Downs Steam Railway is based in Warwick and operate steam trains on the line about once a month to Wallangarra.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b QR Limited (Network Access division) (September 2005). "South Western System: Information Pack (Issue 2)" (PDF). Archived from the original on 19 August 2006.CS1 maint: Unfit url (link)
  2. ^ Keer, J. 'Triumph of Narrow Gauge' Boolarong Publications 1990
  3. ^ QR Limited. "QR Corporate - QR History - Building to the bush". Archived from the original on 22 July 2008. Retrieved 26 November 2008.
  4. ^ "Dalveen Tunnel (entry 601519)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
  5. ^ QR Limited. "QR Corporate - QR History - The common carrier". Archived from the original on 22 July 2008. Retrieved 26 November 2008.
  6. ^ a b Bozier, Rolfe. "Wallangarra Station". Retrieved 26 November 2008.
  7. ^ "To the Border or Bust" Railway Digest March 1988 page 99
  8. ^ "Glen Innes - Wallangarra may go to QR" Railway Digest April 1990 page 130
  9. ^ a b "Level Crossing Safety: Warwick to Wallangarra" Railway Digest April 2013 pages 40-43
  10. ^ "End of an era" Railway Digest May 2014 pages 34-35
  11. ^ "20 Years Ago" Railway Digest February 1992 page 81
  12. ^ Welcome aboard Southern Downs Steam Railway

External links[edit]