Gloucester Street Railway Station

From 1891 until 1978 Highgate Hill shared a railway station at Gloucester Street with Woolloongabba, but now it’s just a memory.

In 1884, Brisbane’s first southside railway line was built in response to the urging of West Moreton coal mine owners. They wished to be able to export coal by ship from Brisbane’s deep water river port. The new line ran from Corinda on the existing Ipswich line, through Woolloongabba and a tunnel under Vulture Street, to the South Brisbane wharves. There was a station at Woolloongabba.

south brisbane coal wharves 1889

The South Brisbane coal wharves in 1889. (State Library of Queensland)

A further railway line from South Brisbane was built to Loganlea in 1885 and was extended to Southport few years later. The Cleveland line was opened in 1888.

The resulting growth in passenger traffic caused some complaint.  The passage through Woolloongabba was slow as trains traversed five level crossings and had to be preceded by a guard with a red flag and hand bell in some locations. The increased number of trains also meant that risk of injury was higher.

Woolloongabba railway problems 1884

Telegraph (Brisbane) Friday 5 September 1884 (TROVE)

It 1890, it was decided to build a new line to South Brisbane to allow passenger traffic to bypass Woolloongabba. The original line continued in use until 1969 carrying, amongst other things, wheat and limestone for local industries.

gabba train weston langford 1966

A train passing along Stanley Street through the Woolloongabba five ways in 1966 (Weston Langford)

There was also an extensive railway depot at Woolloongabba, taking up a large amount of space on the north side of Stanley Street. These days, this area is occupied by State Government offices and a busway.

There is a fragment of the old Woolloongabba line remaining in the grounds of the Princess Alexandra Hospital near Dutton Park Station.

A small stretch of the origianl Woolloongabbba railway line near Dutton Park Station

The map below dating from 1920 shows the two lines in black, with the original line passing through Woolloongabba and the new line below it.

south brisbane train lines

This 1920 street map shows the old and new railway lines in black. (State Library of Queensland)

The new line included stations at Park Road, Gloucester Street and Melbourne Street and was opened on the 21st December, 1891.

Soon it became apparent that the Gloucester Street station was awkwardly placed and in 1891, moves were afoot to move it to Vulture Street.

Gloucester street Railway station 1891

Brisbane Courier Wednesday 13 May 1891 (TROVE)

Burke’s Hotel where this protest meeting was held was later known as the Red Brick Hotel.  According to some sources,  this was due to the bookies who used to work from there dealing largely in red ten pound notes, known as bricks.

Burkes Hotel, later known as the Red Brick, circa 1929

Burkes Hotel, later known as the Red Brick, circa 1929 (State Library of Queensland)

Vulture Street Station, now known as South Bank Station, was built in 1893 however Gloucester Street was retained.

Gloucester Street Station at Highgate Hill in Brisbane Queensland ca[1]. 1930

Gloucester Street Station ca 1930 (State Library of Queensland)

In January of 1898 Charles Yeo, a well known figure in Brisbane at the time, dropped dead at Gloucester Street station, it was thought from heat apoplexy. He’d been a chemist in Queen Street for some time and had recently taken over running the Moreton Bay Oyster Company.

Yeos balsam

Queensland Figaro and Punch, 29th September 1888.

The surrounding area was being subdivided around that time which could have been expected to increase usage of the station. Here’s one example from 1890.

Stephens Paddock Estate first section South Brisbane blog size

An 1890 subdivision adjacent to Gloucester Street station (State Library of Queensland)

However the number of passengers using Gloucester Street appears to have remained low, judging from this article from 1909. An association for the development of Woolloongabba had been formed some years earlier and was agitating for a passenger railway line via a new tunnel to the Gabba which would have necessitated the closure of Gloucester Street.

new railway to woolloongabba 1909

Brisbane Courier, 6th February 1909 (TROVE)

108548: Gloucester Street Up Suburban to Lota D17 269

Gloucester Street Station in 1966 (Weston Langford)

In 1927, it was decided to reroute the Sydney- Brisbane standard gauge line via Kyogle. This required a new tunnel at Gloucester Street.

Tunnels at Gloucester Street station

The 1928 interstate tunnel is on the left and and the original 1890 tunnel on the right.

Work place safety at that time left something to be desired.

Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), Monday 12 November 1928,

Brisbane Courier, 12th November 1928 (TROVE)

In 1937, another boy fell off the platform whilst playing into the path of an oncoming train. The driver was able to stop the train just in time. Then in 1938, another boy again was gathering flowers in Frith Street at the top of the tunnels and fell to the track below, fracturing his pelvis.

Apart from a few attempts to rob the ticket office, these are all the traces that Gloucester Street Station has left in history.

108546: Gloucester Street Down Suburban Pb15 220

Gloucester Street Station in 1966 (Weston Langford)

The death knell came in 1978 with the electrification of Brisbane’s rail network. This required a longer platform than could be accommodated without expensive work at either the tunnel or bridge end of the station. Someone who travelled via the station told me that even before electrification some trains were too long for the platform and had to edge forward after a pause to allow passengers in the rear carriage to alight.

I recall reading an article at the time that said a survey showed only one person was regularly using the station. It was closed.

Gloucester Street railway station

A railmotor at Gloucester street in 1977. (Weston Langford)

The next time you walk down Gloucester Street, have a peek over the fence at where the station stood and spare a thought for times past.

A train speeds past Gloucester street

A train speeds past Gloucester Street in 2018.

Weston Langford photos can be perused at their excellent site Weston Langford Railway Photography

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