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Steam Train to Toowoomba

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I have always loved steam trains and a memorable trip was when I went to Toowoomba for the Carnival of Flowers in 2015. I had left early in the morning, catching a suburban train to Roma Street, where the Toowoomba train was leaving from.

On a previous trip to Toowoomba, at Helidon they had attached a second engine to the first one, to help it get up the range. This time, they attached a diesel engine instead. It was between the steam engine and the nine carriages. But there was a problem.

We went slower and slower, almost to a walking pace. The diesel was faulty. Finally, about halfway up, the train stopped altogether, the steam engine unable to pull the diesel as well as the nine carriages.

So there we sat, for 2 ½ hours, while waiting for two learner diesel engine drivers, who were practising out at Warwick, to come back and rescue us. All the food in the canteen was eaten up in the meantime, as we were supposed to have had lunch at the Railway Refreshment Rooms at Toowoomba.

Finally, they arrived and were hooked up to the front of the steam engine. I felt so sorry for photographers who had been waiting for hours at Spring Bluff Railway Station, to take pictures of the engine as it steamed round the bend. Instead, they were greeted by two huge diesels.

Spring Buff Railway Station

At Toowoomba, the kitchen staff were on the platform to greet us, cheering and clapping as we arrived – at 3.10 – and the parade had started at 3.00 Some people, who had paid extra to get front seats at the parade, were whisked away, and the rest of us were put on a bus to tour the gardens.

But because it was so late, we just drove around two parks, stopped at the 2nd prize- winner’s house to peer through the windows, and then drove to the 1st prize winner to wander around the truly beautiful garden. Then they took us to a café where we could buy some very welcome food.

Local people had paid to have a trip down the range to Helidon, while we went there by bus. At Helidon, they caught our bus back to Toowoomba, while we caught the train. Downhill was fine – they didn’t need the assistance of the diesel engines.

The only trouble was, we arrived at Helidon long before the train did – they’d had to uncouple the diesels, water the engine and so on. They got there at the same time we were supposed to have arrived back in Brisbane. We didn’t get back there till about 11.00 pm.

It was a very long day, but one I will remember for a very long time.

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Hazel Hillier
Hazel Hillier
Retired school teacher, Logan resident and local historian.
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