Grandchester is located 76
kilometres west of Brisbane and 38 kilometres from Ipswich.
Allan Cunningham first explored
the area of Grandchester in May 1829. Whilst in the area, Cunningham
made camp beside Railway Lagoon and set about searching for the Brisbane
Grandchester was originally
known as Bigges Camp, named after the pioneer Frederick Bigges. Bigges
Camp maintained an ever changing small population until the railway
arrived from Ipswich in 1865.
A private enterprise to
establish a horse drawn tramway failed and as a result the Government of
the time intervened. The Railway Bill was presented to the Queensland
Parliament in August 1863. There was much debate about the proposed line
over such concerns as the construction cost and route it was to take.
Profit was also a factor as the population at the time was small.
Owing to the rugged terrain
leading to the Darling Downs, Abram Fitzgibbon, an Irish Engineer with
overseas railway construction experience was employed. Fitzgibbon
controversially recommended a narrow gauge track in order to reduce the
cost of construction. The Queensland Railway was a world first owing to
the fact that it was a Government Railway. The first surveys for the
line from Ipswich to Bigges Camp - a distance of 21 Miles (35 kilometres)
were competed by late 1863.
The successful tender for the
construction of the track was a British company, Peto, Brassey and
Betts. The majority of materials including the locomotives came from
Britain. The equipment was delivered to Ipswich via river steam boats.
Lady Bowen, wife of the first
Governor of Queensland turned the first sod for the construction of
Queensland’s first railway from Ipswich to Grandchester on the 25th
February 1864. In her honour the Avonside loco that hauled the first
passenger train was named “Lady Bowen”. This section of line was opened
31st July of 1865. The ceremony was attended by Governor Sir
George Bowen, Lady Bowen and other officials and is said to have been
conducted at the now Lady Bowen Hill.
On the 1st January
1866 the first Cobb & Co coach in Queensland departed Brisbane for
Ipswich. Mail and passengers were then transported by rail to
Grandchester. The rest of the trip to Toowoomba was made on another
Cobb & Co coach.
Construction continued on the
railway line and the Cobb & Co coach service was gradually reduced as
the rail line was extended. The line reached Gatton in June 1866,
Toowoomba in April 1867 and Dalby in March 1868.
There are two explanations as to
how Grandchester received it’s name. The first is that Governor Bowen
thought that Bigges Camp sounded more like Big Scamp. Governor Bowen
thought that the name should reflect the importance of the new railway.
‘Big’ was changed to ‘Grand’ and the Latin word ‘chester’ was used for
The second explanation is simply
that Grandchester was named after ‘Grandchester’ a small village on the
outskirts of Cambridge, England.
In 2005 Grandchester played host
to the celebrations marking 140 years of Railway in Queensland.
Today the township is home to 500 people.
Grandchester Railway Station
The railway station was built in
1865 and is the oldest surviving in Queensland. The station can be
accessed via the Grandchester – Mount Mort Road on a track beside the
The Grandchester Sawmill is one
of the towns main attractions. Please click
for more information on the sawmill which is located in Symes Street.
Grandchester Model Live Steam
Ipswich Street, the Grandchester Model Live Steam Association Inc. is a
non profit organisation set up for the sole purpose of providing a
scenic venue for people interested in model engineering to operate and
observe their hobby. Public Running Days are held on the first Sunday
of each month. A canteen and public conveniences are available on
site. Of course considering the history of Grandchester the setting
could not be more perfect. For more information on the club please
visit their website by clicking
The railway dam was built across
a gully in 1892 for the purpose of supplying water to the steam
locomotives for their trip across the Little Liverpool Range. The dam
can be accessed by driving/walking North along Long Gully Road then
turning left onto Clancy’s Road.
Grandchester State School
The school was originally opened
in 1878. However it was destroyed by fire in 1916. The school was
rebuilt a year later and is located in School Road!
The oldest grave at the cemetery
dates back to 1896. The cemetery is located on Sippels Road.
St Peters Catholic Church
The church was designed by
Ipswich architect Henry Wyman. It was constructed in 1894 by James
Madden and was opened in November 1894 by Archbishop Dunne. It is
located in Symes Street.
Bigges Camp Park
If you are looking for a good place for a picnic then look no further
than Bigges Camp Park. The park has an electric BBQ, shelter and
toilets. The park also has the war memorial and a monument recognising
Grandchester as a campsite of explorer Allan Cunningham.