At 120 years old, South Brisbane is one of the oldest existing railway stations in Queensland and one of only eight masonry railway stations left in the State.
Built in 1891 at a cost of around 5600 pounds, the heritage-listed station has been undergoing a revamp to make it run more efficiently but also restore and highlight the building’s historical merit. The station first opened to passengers on 21 December, 1891 although because work was still being carried out, no official opening ceremony was held.
When it was built, it was actually a much grander station than the Brisbane Central Station, which at that time was essentially just a large tin shed. The present Brisbane Central Station was not completed until 1901. The South Brisbane Station was originally envisaged as a temporary terminus, but became the main Brisbane station after the city was hit by devastating floods in February 1893. Around 35 people died in the disaster and both of the city’s bridges, the Victoria Bridge and the Albert Railway Bridge at Indooroopilly, were swept away. This meant there was no link between north and south Brisbane and all trains to Ipswich and beyond departed from South Brisbane, including the Sydney Mail. It was more than two years until the Albert Bridge was rebuilt and opened to traffic in August 1895.
South Brisbane was an important commercial centre in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries and the South Brisbane station remained a major terminal in the South East Queensland regional rail network until 1986. The station underwent substantial refurbishment in the run up to Expo ’88 for which it handled record passenger numbers. It was then that the distinctive pastel pink paint went on. Those with a fondness for that era might be a bit sad to see that the pink paint has been removed as part of the current upgrade and the original red brick is being revitalised.
On both platforms of the South Brisbane Station, there are a number of early cast iron framed seats, which incorporate the Queensland Rail logo. Many of these were collected from other Brisbane stations for the Expo ‘88 refurbishment, and have remained to the present day.
The current $10 million revamp includes structural maintenance and improving access for people with a disability; restoration work on heritage furniture, fascia and awnings, as well as the façade of the building; raising the platforms to improve train access; upgrading of toilet facilities and seating; and installation of additional security cameras. The external plaza area is also getting a facelift with new landscaping, improved paving and a ‘Kiss and Ride’ facility to improve pedestrian safety at the front of the station.
The bulk of the work was completed during a six-week closure of the station late last year, however some ongoing works are occurring in 2012. The station will remain open to customers as that work is being carried out.
Words by Leah Carri | Images supplied by Queensland Rail