Grandchester, the Lockyer Valley, 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, formerly known as Bigge’s Camp, still exists. Built in 1866, is is the oldest station in Queensland.
Location: Grandchester is 76 km from Brisbane, 34 km from Ipswich.
Grandchester Sawmill: the town is the home of one of the last known surviving steam-powered flat-belt sawmills in Australia. The engine powering it was manufactured in 1908, and the mill has been in operation from 1945. It was destroyed by a fire, sometime in the early hours of 6 May 2007. Work on the long process of restoring the mill to its former glory started almost immediately in the days following the fire. The mill is operating once again with work still continuing on the restoration.
Grandchester Hotel is a rather dubious addition to the attractions of this tiny township (on the road leading down to the Railway Station) which may reasonably lay claim to being one of the most unattractive hotels in Australia. It is a characterless fibro building which looks more like a house than a hotel.
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 hamed in honour of Queen Victoria.
Best known for its Real Farmers Market and traditional country pub, Mulgowie is situated 12 km south of Laidley and 18 km south west of Grandchester. The town name derives from the aboriginal word used for Mt Mulgowie, roughly meaning ‘big round hill’. The Mulgowie Farmers Market, held at the Mulgowie Hall grounds on the first Saturday of the month has a reputation worth travelling for. The Mulgowie Hotel, affectionately known as ‘the mulga’ is a locally owned pub known for twice yearly outback bull ride events. The pub has recently undergone a huge extension and now boasts a beautiful family friendly timber outdoor eating area. Stay the night in cabin accommodation, or ask at the front bar for pet friendly camping at the community hall grounds
Grandchester: Brief history
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 Grantchester is the name of a village outside of Cambridge in England is coincidental.