Searching for somewhere intriguing in the area, perhaps with a little history and some mystery, I came across the Ferny Grove Rail Trail. Not only is it an abandoned trainline – which I’m always up for exploring – it’s also the site of QLD’s worst railway disaster, which occurred just two years after the end of WWII.
After driving about 30 minutes northwest of the CBD, I parked a short walk from the beginning of the trail and set off with my dog Cookie. As I soon discovered, the old line is now a paved cycle way that weaves between wooded hills. A few bike riders passed us but otherwise the trail was quiet. The hills were dry, yet atmospheric. The silence, which seemed to reverberate around the little valley in which we now stood, was pierced by the occasional bird noise and shortly after, the clopping of hooves.
This is a common spot to ride horses and Cookie sat slack-jawed, staring for the first time at what he perhaps thought were the largest, strangest dogs he’d ever seen. The girls on the horses laughed at him as they passed. Further ahead we entered a short, steep walled crevice, where cockatoos screamed in unison, sounding like a pack of prehistoric chain smokers. You can listen to that here. My first TikTok!
A little further along the rail trail I arrived at the site of Queensland’s worst rail accident, the only reminder of which is a small plaque located at the side of the path. It was on Labour Day, May 5th 1947, when 16 people met their end and 30 were injured. According to reports, the train was heading to a picnic and dance at Closeburn to celebrate the Labour Day holiday.
Most unfortunately, the driver was unfamiliar with the line and took a curve at ‘excessive speed’. Apparently, he was running late and trying to make up time. The first two carriages of the train subsequently went off the rails, sending luggage flying, shattering glass and forcing the passengers into a screaming frenzy. Original pictures (located at the Samford Museum) of the old wreck show the carnage of twisted carriages that ensued.
Living survivor Robyn Boundy, who was just three at the time, says she still remembers the day. She recalls the scream of the fireman, who was thrown into the furnace as he shovelled coal, and the steam whistle that continued for many hours after the accident. Interestingly, the original train has been restored and today sits on display in the rural town of Injune.
The end of the Ferny Grove Rail Trail
After pausing and attempting to visualise such tragedy and chaos roughly 75 years ago at the very spot I stood, I continued in a thoughtful mood. The trail soon ends, being around 1.5km in length, but there are a number of side trails going off into the hills which Cookie and I explored. It’s a quiet, yet interesting spot, despite its historical association, and if you’re a walker, horse rider or bike rider, The Ferny Grove Rail Trail is well worth a look.
The Currawong Rail Trail
After returning to the car, Cookie and I drove off in search of another section of the old line, The Currawong Rail Trail, which begins near Currawong Road. This is an enchanting little walk that’s dead straight and passes beneath long, intermittent tunnels of trees which reminds me of a landscape from Sleepy Hollow, especially during low light.
At the end of the trail lies an old railway tunnel that travels under Mount Samson Road. As a plaque tells you on the bridge above, it’s named the Yugar Railway Tunnel and its use for rail ceased in 1955 when the area’s traffic declined.
We both inspected the entrance to the tunnel closely and it’s now closed to the public, as it’s occupied by a microbat colony that’s under research from the University of Queensland. I poked my camera through the steel grate that’s protecting the bat colony from outsiders and fired off a couple of shots. It’s pretty cool, I thought, that the bats have their own exclusive home inside a 70m long tunnel that’s all but closed to the outside world. Bat parties!
A few fast facts
- In 2016, the QLD Government spent $2.1 million on upgrading the Ferny Grove Rail Trail
- The Ferny Grove Rail Trail is roughly a 3.5km return trip and is a flat, easy grade walk/ride, paved all the way. You can access the trail from the end of Lanita Road in Ferny Hills. The trail is popular with bicycle and horse riders.
- The Samford Museum contains written accounts of the survivors of QLD’s worst rail accident, as well as the original train station and more information on the line. Unfortunately, the museum was closed when I visited, so check opening times if you’re planning on a visit.
- The Currawong Rail Trail is roughly two kilometres return and can be accessed from a curve just before the end of Currawong Road.