History of the Buderim-Palmwoods Tramway from 1911 to 1935
The Palmwoods to Buderim ‘tramway’ was built as a railway, in that it did not follow roads, & it had a separate permanent way with large bridges, cuttings & embankments. It was technically significant & demonstrated an uncommon aspect of Queensland’s cultural heritage because it had a 2 foot 6 inch (0.762m) gauge as opposed to 2’0"(0.6096m) for the sugar mill trams & 3’6"(1.0668m) for the Queensland Rail mainline, & it was privately constructed. The track was 11.5km in length through country which created a varied range of engineering challenges.
Buderim & district in the early 1900’s had a fast-growing industry of farm produce, fruit & timber. Roads were poor & transport to Woombye, the main centre of that time, relied on horses, wagons & bullocks. The shipping through rivers & creeks to Maroochy ports, with sandbar problems, was a variable which threatened perishable produce. There was a great need for effective & reliable transport to the main Queensland Rail train line & thus access to the Brisbane markets. The alternative tramway routes considered from 1903 onwards were Buderim/Palmwoods, Buderim/Woombye, or joining the developing Moreton Sugar Mill (established 1894) tramway at Diddillibah. Buderim to Palmwoods was settled on by 1911 & the line was open & began operating on the 1st of December 1914, with the official opening later in 1915.
The tramway was financed by a government tramway loan through the Maroochy Shire. A ‘benefit area’ was proclaimed by the Shire along the track & the 130 ratepayers concerned were levied an extra rate to help service the loan. The original estimate for costs of £28,000 ($56,000) was revised to £34,000 ($68,000) as the construction proceeded, & the loan then ran until 1971 when it amounted to £84,000 ($168,000). There was a significant & continuing private contribution to costs from landowners supporting this private ‘tramway’, which included the donation of 72% of the total 55 acres(22.25Ha) of tramway easement land for the line to run on, support for surveying, repairs, running costs, etc.
The tram often ran 2 trips per day from Palmwoods to Buderim or at times the shorter Palmwoods to Forest Glen run as the freight demanded. A significant social role was also performed taking passengers to Palmwoods to join the train to Brisbane, & transporting excursion passengers to Buderim to stay in the Buderim guest houses or to travel down to the coast. One or 2 loads per day of up to 150 passengers were carried in the one passenger carriage & on fruit-box & plank seats on the flat-top trucks. The Palmwoods to Buderim trip took about 1 hour with a 5/- (50c) return fare for passengers. The freight rate was 17/6 ($1.75) per ton (1.016t).
The tram was used in the depression days to go to Palmwoods & then to Woombye to collect ‘sustenance’ (dole) payments. Pregnant ladies travelled by tram to Palmwoods & then to Nambour hospital for childbirth. Sports teams also engaged the tram for transport to sporting events.
The last regular trip was on 10th August 1935. Many factors contributed to the closure of the tram, in particular new roads had been built which developed car & truck transport, the fruit & timber industries had contracted, & the 1930s depression was a significant final factor. World War 1 had stopped any hope of the suggested tramway extension to Mooloolaba, Maroochydore & the coast. Only 2 steam engines ever worked the line, a Krauss & a Shay. The last work for the little Krauss ‘Iron Horse’ was in 1936 to take the removed rails back to Palmwoods after they & the Krauss engine were sold. The Shay engine had been out of service since 1932 & some parts & the boiler were abandoned beside the line at Palmwoods after the removal of recyclable parts.
The remaining track formation & foundations are a valuable heritage record of the social & economic role the tram played in the history of the Sunshine Coast some 70 years ago. A group of interested local people recently formed The Buderim-Palmwoods Heritage Tramway Inc, & this group is actively working towards restoring one spectacular remaining segment as a Heritage Walking Trail.
To find out more, visit ‘Pioneer Cottage’ in Ballinger Crescent, Buderim where you can find many historical materials including a range of photos, maps & documents relating to the tram.
The Heritage Tramway Walking Track.
In 1994/5 the 11.5 km of the 1914/35 Buderim to Palmwoods tramway remains were examined in the preparation of a Conservation Plan for the entire site which resulted in Heritage Registration for all remnants. The researchers were pleased to find that a 1.6 km segment of the track formation, where the tram had negotiated the Buderim escarpment between Buderim’s Telco Rd & Forest Glen, had not been returned to private ownership but remained as Maroochy Shire Council property.
This segment features the grandeur of impressive embankments & cuttings, views to the western ranges & strong re-growth timber with birds & wildlife. Although located close to Mons Rd it is a quiet & seemingly isolated precinct because it is some distance down the escarpment. Local volunteers located &, where possible, cleared surface drainage & most of the 20 culverts in this stretch while also clearing fallen timber & weed growth. The aim was to halt the deterioration of the past 6 or 7 decades since closure while local residents & Councillors planned the establishment of a Heritage Walking Track along the tram formation.
In early 2005, Council complemented the long-term efforts of the volunteers by beginning to work on the track, first building a bridge over the washaway in an embankment near Telco Rd & then clearing obstructions & impinging trees along the first 800 metres of the track. This provides stable access for a small vehicle to the first of the 2 cuttings which have been assessed as needing attention to stabilize them for future public access. Work on a suitable entry to the track from Telco Rd is almost finished (as at the beginning of 2006). More funds have been allocated for further work during 2006. Community interest & support continues to grow as the track preparation & forward planning continues. This is illustrated by local business support for a pamphlet for a walk around Buderim visiting tramway locations of the past, & by the Martins Creek regeneration group laying sleepers & rails to support a small tram wagon on the embankment where the tram crossed the creek.
(Editorial & photos supplied courtesy of Bruce Horton, BPHTI)