The Grandchester Sawmill was
established by Roley Gillam in 1945. He was joined in the
business later that year by his brother Des (Sam) and they started the
business by supplying all types of timber to the Rosewood Coal
Mines, and firewood to the Queensland Railways.
Steam has always been the source
of power for the sawmill: firstly by a Robey Portable engine;
then a Marshall Traction Engine; followed by the Marshall
Stationary Engine of today. This engine was purchased by the
Grandchester Sawmill in January 1962, and it had several owners
before it came to our mill.
Engine No.55389 was built by
Marshall & Sons at Gainsborough in England, and was imported to
Australia by Nestles for a power plant at the company’s
Condensed Milk factory at Toogoolawah. A metal disc attached to
the engine as required by the Inspection Act of 1908 records its
first inspection taking place on 17th October 1911.
The Nestles factory closed on 16th
July 1927, and the engine was subsequently bought and installed
by Munro Brothers at their Lowood Butter Factory where it was
inspected on 31st March 1941. During 1942 Queensland
Farmers’ Co-Op bought the Butter Factory, and in 1946 the engine
was replaced by electric power.
Hood Brothers Sawmillers of Gatton
bought the engine from the Co-Op in February 1954, and it was
again inspected in July of that year. Due to increased
production, Hood Brothers found it necessary to replace the
engine with electric power, and it was then purchased by
Grandchester Sawmill where it still is today.
The Mill was originally powered by
steam from a D 8 ˝ narrow gauge locomotive boiler which had been
used on the Innisfail cane line to cart sugar cane to Mourilyan
Harbour near Innisfail, North Queensland. The steam is presently
supplied to the engine by a C17 locomotive boiler which was
built by Walkers Limited, Maryborough in 1966. Although
classified as a C17, it is more commonly known as “The Brown
This nickname came
about because this class of locomotive featured a medium brown
colour scheme with a black smoke box and red buffer beams.
The sawmill runs completely from it's own sawdust waste.
The steam produced is enough to power the two saws and is more
environmentally friendly than diesel or electricity powered
town of Grandchester operates around the mill whistle which
sounds at 9:00a.m. for smoko, 11:30a.m. for lunch and 2:30p.m.
for afternoon tea. This has been the case since the mill
opened in 1945.
Tragically on the morning of the 6th May 2007 the mill was
destroyed by fire. The cause remains unknown. Work
on the long process of restoring the mill to it's former glory
started almost immediately in the days following the fire.
The mill is operating once again with work still continuing on
the restoration. This will ensure that this important
piece of history is preserved for the generations that follow.
Today the mill is
owned and operated by Jeffrey 'Jake' and Cathy Gillam with help