Our journey begins at Gympie – 84kms northwest of where we are on the Sunshine Coast- and the historic Gympie Station.
Gympie is touted as being the town that saved Queensland – and it turns out that claim is pretty close to the mark.
Queensland had officially separated from NSW on 6 June 1859 and became a self-governing colony. The problem being there wasn’t much industry – or population – up here to support that and the colony was pretty much bankrupt.
The government of the day decided that gold was the answer (isn’t it always?) and put up a reward for anyone who found gold within 145kms of Brisbane. It was James Nash, an English prospector, who struck gold in Gympie in 1876. Because Gympie was outside the mileage limits (150kms from Brisbane) he didn’t get the whole of the reward but did pocket a cool £1000 – a lot of money at the time as the average wage was around £1-2 per week. He also started a gold rush which saved Queensland from bankruptcy.
The railway, in turn, came from gold. Materials and equipment needed to be shipped in and the gold needed to be shipped out – and the nearest port for all of this was Maryborough. Just 5 years after James Nash discovered gold the railway line from Maryborough to Gympie was completed and by 1891 there was a railway between Gympie and Brisbane.
In the meantime, all of this activity meant that the Gympie region and Mary Valley began to develop in the areas of agriculture, dairy and timber – and it all required transport which the railways provided…which brings me to the Mary Valley Rattler.
Obviously the train we boarded hasn’t been in operation since 1881.This style of steam locomotive was built up until the early 1950s. Hilariously one of the kids in our carriage upon hearing the year 1953 said ‘wow, that’s so old,’ to which the volunteer guide commented that it was her birth year.
Anyways, the journey begins at Gympie where they have an old railway museum in the station.
Also in the station is the Rusty Rails Cafe where a man was playing the piano – the sorts of tunes that would have come from the war years. The cafe had plenty of yummy things to have with a cuppa and also a full breakfast and lunch menu.
We bought a cup of tea (in real cups) to have while we waited to board the train – although the slice in the pic below is one I brought from home.
Once on board our tickets were clipped (although I was disappointed that I didn’t get a message clipped in mine like on The Polar Express) and we settled in to the sound of the steam whistle and the rhythmic chug of the train.
As we left the station everyone came out to wave us off. There was more waving at the level crossings and still more as people stopped what they were doing to wave at the train. We watched as one kid came running out of his house, closely followed by his father, just to wave at the train. Cute.
We didn’t have long to wait before the drinks trolley came around…
The countryside we chugged through was lush and green – the Mary Valley at its best.
It took an our to reach our stop – the tiny village of Amamoor just 18kms south of Gympie. There’s a general store here (where you can get ice creams and pies and sausage rolls) and a little cafe where a band was playing), and for the train a small market was set up.
We watched as the engine was released from the carriages and turned on the heritage turntable in order to be reattached to the other end of the carriages for our return journey.
The Mary Valley Rattler is run wholly by volunteers and operates between Gympie and Amamoor on Wednesdays and Saturdays, departing Gympie at 10am. The cost (at time of writing) is $62 for an adult, $32 for children and $56 concession. Family tickets are available.
On Sundays you can catch the “all stations” train where an additional stop at Dargun – where they have wine and cheese tastings and a little market – is added.
A Tasting Train – celebrating the produce of the Mary Valley – operates on Thursdays and during the summer school holidays there are also sunset services. Other themed services are scheduled throughout the year eg a “love train” is operating for Valentine’s Day.
Oh, one last thing, you can even take your well-behaved pooch with you – for an extra small charge.
For more information, check out the website.
It’s Thursday so linking up with the Lovin’ Life crew…