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Steam train magic delights Proserpine

By Mark Beale

THE usually quiet Proserpine Railway Station was a carnival of excitement and noise on Sunday as Queensland Rail’s heritage steam train pulled into the station – much to the delight of the crowds of people, young and old, who turned out to witness the event.

More than 400 people packed onto the station to welcome the steam engine which is travelling from Brisbane to Cairns as part of Queensland Rail’s 150th birthday celebrations.

Queensland Rail historian Greg Hallam said the massive crowd proved allure of the steam locomotive was as strong as ever.

“Queensland Rail is really big about connecting communities and communities connecting back to the railways,” he said.

“The ribbons of steel ran through so many parts of Queensland and we’re here today recognising 150 years of railways in Queensland.

“The actual anniversary is on July 31, but like all good birthday parties you want it to start off with a big bang – and this is our way of introducing it, running from Brisbane to Cairns and from Cairns back to Brisbane.”

The steam engine that sidled up to the station on Sunday was built in 1956 at Walkers Ltd of Maryborough and was one of the last steam locomotives to be introduced into Queensland in the late 1950s.

The carriages are even older.

“The majority of [the carriages] date back to the very early years of the 20th century and so literally, 100 years on, 110 in some cases, we’ve got Edwardian rolling stock still able to operate safely on a 21st century railway,” Mr Hallam said.

“It’s remarkable.”

At least 200 locals were able to experience the steam journey from Proserpine to Bowen, courtesy of Queensland Rail.

As part of the occasion, Whitsunday Regional Council Mayor Jennifer Whitney accepted a wooden staff from steam train driver Peter Markovic, which was historically used on the rail network prior to modern signalling systems.

A commemorative storyboard was also unveiled.

Mayor Whitney said the community was very pleased to have the historic steam train passing through the town and taking the time to stop at Proserpine station.

For the duration of the stop, the Proserpine Lions Club kept people fed with a sausage sizzle and the Proserpine Citizen’s Band entertained the crowd with a number of old favourites, such as the Chattanooga Choo Choo.

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