Kim Thurlow's Portfolio of Queensland Steam No 13

Cunnamulla in south-west Queensland.

Photo taken in late 1958 by Ivor Thurlow on a b&w transparency. About 600 rail miles west of Brisbane, Cunnamulla terminal was reached via the "Main Line" to Toowoomba, then the "Western Line" through Roma and Charleville. The train in the image is the "Westlander", a spiffy set of air-conditioned cars that was introduced in the early 50's. Cunnamulla was a small town of perhaps 2000 souls, relying on the sheep industry, and some orange orchards, and sat on the edge of sand dune and opal country to the west. The station was quite substantial.

The train left Brisbane about 6pm, arrived in Toowoomba about 11, and breakfast could be had the next morning in the diner car as the train neared Roma. Charleville was reached about 3 in the afternoon, and on getting out of the train, the temperature difference would hit you like the opening of an oven door. Cunnamulla was reached at nightfall, almost 24 hours to the minute from Brisbane.

For an interesting picture of another outback terminus, just take a look at the image of a class PB15 at Quilpie station.

Click here for a full size image.
And here she is next morning, behind #143, a class PB15 4-6-0, ready for Brisbane. 143 will take the train to Charleville, and then double headed PB15's, or tandem PB15 and C17, will take over. Or perhaps one of the new fangled diesels such as a 1400 class. The line between Charleville and Roma was also laid with light rail which only allowed for PB15's and C17's (B18 1/4's did not work west of Roma). Usually the mail was double headed between Charleville and Roma, normally by a PB15 and C17.

The "Western Mail" or as it was later called in the days of steel coaches, "The Westlander", made a regular stop at Wyandra in both directions as well as numerous mail and safeworking stops along the way between Charleville and Cunnamulla. A crew was based at Cunnamulla who sometimes changed with a general goods train at Wyandra but they also worked through to Charleville. Other stops were somewhat probable, even if to answer the crew's call of nature.

The water tank behind the locomotive tender allowed the engine the luxury of no water stops on the run to Charleville. I would suggest a lack of water facilities for the engines along that stretch of line. Go one further, and let's say lack of WATER, period. No point in building lineside tanks if there is nowhere to fill em from!

Adrian Hurley, who has experienced life on the QR, has this to say about Cunnamulla. (Adrian also submitted some of the information about these trains, see more below)

" It hadn't changed a bit when last I was out there thirty yeas after your shot was taken (ie 1988). Nor had the ritual for the staff on the train. Charleville men always took a decent set of clothes when they worked this train to Cunnamulla. The idea was to take the dining car girls out on the town. We had a great time, in fact my fondest Christmas memories are working the Westlander to Cunnamulla on Christmas Day. "

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Train Numbers were:
Roma Street to Cunnamulla (Western Mail later called The Westlander) - 8 U
Cunnamulla to Roma Street (Western Mail later called The Westlander) - 9 Down
Charleville to Quilpie (The Flea) - 98 Up
Quilpie to Charleville (The Flea) - 99 Down