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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 even before the opening of the line, moves were afoot to move it to Vulture Street.
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.
Vulture Street Station, now known as South Bank Station, was built in 1893 however Gloucester Street was retained.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.
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.
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.
In 1927, it was decided to reroute the Sydney- Brisbane standard gauge line via Kyogle. This required a new tunnel at Gloucester Street.
Work place safety at that time left something to be desired.
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.
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.
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.
Weston Langford photos can be perused at their excellent site Weston Langford Railway Photography