Queensland Government Railways

by John Hinson

Townsville is an interesting station on the North Coast line to Cairns situated in Cleveland Bay. Much could be written about the complexities of the signalling and geography of the line here, but this page simply concentrates on a level crossing between two lines, a short distance away from the station.

Disc signal protecting level crossing
Photograph from the collection of Dr J W F Scrimgeour

Here, the 3' 6" gauge North Coast line was crossed on the level by a 2' gauge sugar cane line. Protection was afforded by this interesting revolving disc signal and a single-rail trap point worked from a ground frame.

The operation of the signal was quite simple. When facing trains it indicated "stop", in the view here it faces the sugar cane line. Separate semaphore signals controlled trains on the North Coast line. The operation of a single lever places the semaphore to danger, closes the trap points (which seem to be placed perilously close to the main line!) and revolves the disc signal so that the lamp above the disc shines a "clear" indication to traffic on the sugar cane tramway.

Steven Allan, who lives in Townsville, has researched the photographs on this page to try and identify the location. The above view could be at Ingham (120km north of Townsville) - possibly the crossing near Cartwright Street. At this crossing, control is provided by QR staff at the station signal box, whereas at other 2ft/3ft 6in crossings, control of the crossing is by the cane loco crews when they want to cross. Most of these are controlled by either lever ground frames or "kangaroo" points, with similar protection as shown.

Sugar cane train crossing main line
Photograph from the collection of Dr J W F Scrimgeour

This picture shows a train on the sugar cane railway crossing the QGR line. The notes that accompany this picture suggest that this view is at the same location, although things do not look quite the same. The only disc signal visible in this view is behind the right-hand wagon.

With the train having a ComEng loco and sugar boxes, Steven believes this picture would have to have been taken somewhere around Innisfail (around 300km north of Townsville). The train shown is working on the Innisfail Tramway, which was a tramway operated by the Queensland Government Railways at the time to service two sugar mills in the area South Johnstone and Mourilyan. He believes the Innisfail Tramway ceased to exist in the 1970's, when the mills took over the railway operation.

Len Heaton has written to confirm the location - this is the old "Innisfail Tramway" crossing at Wangan, just south of Innisfail. The train is travelling east so the wagons would be loaded with sugar on the way to Mourilyan Harbour. The locomotiver is probably No19 "Korabine". The photos would have been taken from the Innisfail/South Johnstone road as the line and road parralled from Innisfail cemetary to the South Johnstone sugar millyard.

Additional notes by Steven Allan, Phil Barker and Len Heaton

Comments about this article should be addressed to John Hinson