View of Roma Street train station with smoke rising from chimney

News of the day

The Brisbane Courier - Sat 3 December 1898



An alarming occurence in the shape of a locomotive explosion happened at the Roma-street Railway Station last evening. As in the case of the recent explosion in the same vicinity, there was fortunately no loss of life, nor was there serious injury done to anything except the engine. The accident happened under especially fortunate circumstances. The engine was detached, and the lines were practically clear at the time. If by any chance the conditions had been different, it is difficult to conceive how a most serious catastrophe would have been avoided. The engine in question was No 62, one of the Baldwin type, manufactured in Philidelphia. [...]

It left the engine shed preparatory to shunting up to pick up the carriages, and when within about fifty yards of the spot where the previous explosion had occurred the boiler burst with a tremendous noise [...] The greater part of the boiler was blown completely out, and pieces of iron were precipitated in various directions. The driver was thrown backward on the tender: his foot was scalded by escaping steam, and he was badly bruised about one hip [...] He was able to walk to the station, and was once driven home in a cab.

The fireman suffered no injury at all, and was able to walk home. A great mass of twisted plates blown for fully fifty or sixty yards, and precipitated on the ground in front of the good-sheds, in its descent severing the telephone and signal wires on that side of the line. [...]

The noise of the explosion quickly attracted a crowd of people, and various railway officials were soon on the spot.


The Roma Street Railway Station was constructed in 1873-5 as the first Brisbane Terminal Station prior to the construction of the Brisbane Central Railway Station and for use on the Brisbane end of the South-Western Railway Line from Toowoomba. The building was designed by FDG Stanley, the Superintendent of Public Buildings in 1873 and built over the next two years by Brisbane builder, John Petrie.

The first line between Ipswich and a small town near Ipswich, Bigge's Camp (or Grandchester as it is now known) was opened in 1865. This was the first stage of a four stage project which was to eventually to link Ipswich to Warwick in 1871, passing through Toowoomba in 1867 and Dalby in 1868. The Ipswich community was opposed to the extension of the railway toward Brisbane, which threatened to reduce valuable shipping trade to Ipswich. Despite reluctance a preliminary survey of the line between Ipswich and Brisbane was completed in November of 1865.

As part of the planning for the new line a major station was planned at the Brisbane Terminal at Roma Street. This building was originally to be an imported iron station building from Britain designed by Sir C. Fox and Son. The downturn in the state's economy in the late 1860s, resulted in a smaller station which was built to a design of FDG Stanley in 1873-5. The order for the iron building was cancelled, not, however, before certain elements were in transit from London; consequently a large iron carriage shed arrived and was dismantled for use on a number of projects.

By 1872 a report of the Royal Commission on Railway Construction was presented to Parliament which made a case for the extension of the South-West Railway into Brisbane. The case for the railway line was adopted and plans were immediately made for a survey which estimated the cost of the rail link to be £192,000, or £8000 per mile of line. Previously a decision was made to adopt a narrow gauge of 3'6", rather than the wider gauge adopted in other states and this reflects the general attitude toward the construction of railway lines and stations in Queensland in these first years, that of providing adequate facilities economically. On January 30, 1873, the first sod was turned on the extension of the line to Brisbane by the Marquis of Normanby.

The line was opened as far as Oxley Point by February of 1875, but the bridge across the Brisbane River to Indooroopilly was not constructed until later, and the trains were shunted across the river on punts. Despite its incomplete state, the line from Ipswich to Brisbane was officially opened on 14 June, 1875. At the opening, the platform at Brisbane Passenger Station was half-paved and the rooms and corridors incomplete, the roofing over the platform in progress merely and the place lit temporarily .

Roma Street Railway Station and the surrounding railyards has been dramatically altered over the years of its use. In 1911 the railyard was established at Roma Street and the entire site was replanned. The next major change occurred in the early 1940s when the Country Station was constructed between the original Terminal Station and Roma Street. The most recent, and most significant change to the Railway Station occurred in the 1980s when the transit centre, incorporating the Travelodge Hotel was constructed (now Centra).

Courtesy of the Queensland Heritage Register


Discover more