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South Brisbane Railway Easement

  • 600293
  • 412 Stanley Street, South Brisbane


Also known as
Stanley Street Terminus; South Brisbane Wharves Extension; Dry Dock Siding
State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 October 1992
Transport—rail: Railyards
Transport—water: Wharf/dock/quay
5.3 Moving goods, people and information: Using rail
5.4 Moving goods, people and information: Using shipping
Kirk Brothers & Frew
Railways Department
Construction periods
1880, South Brisbane Railway Easement - Stanley Street Retaining Wall (1880s - 1880s)
1882–1883, South Brisbane Railway Easement - Stanley Street Branch Line Formation (1882 - 1883)
1882–1884, South Brisbane Railway Easement - Dry Dock Siding Formation (1882 - 1884)
1882–1897, South Brisbane Railway Easement (1882 - 1897)
1883–1885, South Brisbane Railway Easement - Retaining Walls, (1883 - 1885)
1896–1897, South Brisbane Railway Easement - Abutment, Sidon Street. (1896 - 1897)
1896–1897, South Brisbane Railway Easement - South Brisbane Wharves Extension Railway Formation (1896 - 1897)
Historical period
1870s–1890s Late 19th century


412 Stanley Street, South Brisbane
Brisbane City Council
-27.48194141, 153.02647391


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Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

The South Brisbane Railway Easement, constructed in 1882-84, is significant historically as a collection of remnant structures and sites associated with South Brisbane's earliest rail network, constructed in the early 1880s. The place is important for its strong association with the commercial development of South Brisbane in the 1880s and 1890s.

The South Brisbane Railway Easement is an integral element in the historic precinct centred around the South Brisbane Memorial Park, which includes the dry dock (QHR 600301), the former South Brisbane Library (QHR 600302), Cumbooquepa (Somerville House) (QHR 600305), the former South Brisbane Municipal Chambers (QHR 600306) and Ship Inn.

Criterion CThe place has potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Queensland’s history.

The South Brisbane Railway Easement has potential to reveal sub-surface archaeological evidence, contributing to a greater understanding of the early workings of Queensland’s railways, in particular their servicing of the Brisbane River wharves.


The South Brisbane Railway Easement was initially part of the Stanley Street railway station which opened 1884, providing the first railway passenger service to South Brisbane, and a direct connection from the West Moreton coal mines to a deep water port. The line ran from Woolloongabba to a station adjacent to the South Brisbane Dry Dock. It closed in 1891 but reopened in 1897 as a goods extension, serving the wharves and businesses along Stanley Street. The goods railway facilitated the trade and commerce conducted in the South Brisbane wharves until its closure in the 1960s.

Shipping played a significant role in 19th century Queensland as its primary – and sometimes only – means of trade and communication. The development of railway lines were closely associated with the development of ports, with railway lines connecting the hinterland, agricultural and mining districts with the adjacent port.[1] In 1875 a Select Committee emphasised the importance of rail-port connections, in order to export the wool, cattle, agricultural products and minerals which dominated Queensland’s economy. Until the mid-1880s, however, the export of coal from the West Moreton district was frustrated by a lack of direct access to deep water wharves for bunkering coal onto ships for export from Brisbane. Coal was carried to Brisbane by the main line from Ipswich (opened 1875), and was loaded onto drays for transport to the wharves. To facilitate the more efficient handling of coal for export, and as well as other commercial interests, various extensions to the railway system were proposed. In 1880, an extension to the Ipswich-Brisbane line, branching off at South Brisbane Junction [Corinda] between Sherwood and Oxley, and coming around to Woolloongabba and South Brisbane via Yeerongpilly, was tabled in Parliament, and approved in 1881.[2] The project included the establishment of railyards at the water reserve at Woolloongabba, with an extension running through a single-bore, 7-chain (140m) tunnel under Vulture Street to the riverbank.[3] A passenger line would continue west to terminate at a station at the South Brisbane Dry Dock [QHR 600301], just below Stanley Street.[4]

Contractors Gilliver and Wockner tendered nearly £2,000 beneath the estimated cost and were awarded the contract, beginning work in 1882.[5] The extension was to be augmented by a large coal wharf with railway sidings, constructed along the riverbank adjacent to the Dry Dock.[6] Acheson Overend & Co, responsible for the construction of the Bundaberg-Mount Perry railway, the Warwick-Stanthorpe railway, and South Brisbane Dry Dock, was engaged to construct the coal wharf and sidings in December 1882, at a cost of £11,830.[7]

Cutting work in the Dry Dock reserve began in May 1882. The earth and stone removed were purchased by the sawmill on the opposite side of the dock and laid on the site near Sidon Street.[8] The contractors for the main line, Gilliver and Wockner, became insolvent in 1883, and construction was completed by the Railways Department.[9] The department finished excavations in October 1883, and constructed a ‘strong stone retaining wall’ up to the level of Stanley Street, just below the post office on Stanley Street (later South Brisbane Library [QHR 600302]).[10]

The South Brisbane extension, coal wharf and sidings were completed in May 1884 and opened without ceremony on 2 June 1884.[11] Passenger trains departed from the Stanley Street terminus three times daily except Sundays. This number doubled within the year. However, the terminus was quickly considered vastly inadequate for both passengers and goods. Complaints about its inability to accommodate more than a single train, its inconvenient location and lack of connection with North Brisbane and the rest of South Brisbane, gave rise to demands for an extension of the line.[12] A plan to connect the station to the wharves which stretched to Victoria Bridge was proposed in 1890,[13] but was thwarted by the construction of a new line that bypassed the Woolloongabba railyards and Stanley Street station entirely. When the new line, Boggo Junction (Dutton Park) to Melbourne Street, was opened on 21 December 1891, the Stanley Street station was closed.[14]

In 1894, after pressure from local business owners, Parliament authorised a goods extension of the South Brisbane railway, commencing at the old Stanley Street station, diverting around the head of the Dry Dock and extending to the Victoria Bridge.[15] Numerous wharves and commercial enterprises along the riverbank at South Brisbane would be served by the extension, which provided a connection to the Woolloongabba railyards, and to the Southern and Western line at Dutton Park. The contract for construction was let in May 1896 to Kirk Brothers and Frew (who had just finished duplicating the line to Yeerongpilly, and who simultaneously were constructing the Mulgrave line).[16] Extensive works, including an overbridge at Sidon Street, were undertaken, and the first goods were carried on the line on 12 April 1897.[17] The passenger station at Stanley Street did not reopen.

The South Brisbane wharves dominated Queensland’s shipping industry in the late 19th and early 20th century, functioning in large part as Brisbane’s port. Large businesses, including shipping company the Adelaide Steamship Navigation Co, meat freezers and exporters Birt and Co, and flour millers the Dominion and Brisbane Milling Companies, operated wharves along the Stanley Street riverfront.[18] Coal traffic boomed, shipping 200,000 tons per annum by 1905.[19] The railway extension played a vital role in maintaining its dominance: primary produce and coal from southern and western Queensland was brought directly to the wharves for export by the railway line, and imported goods carried back along the line, making it a central focus for trade.

The prominence of the South Brisbane wharves declined in the mid-20th century as wharves with up-to-date facilities opened further downstream, and as oil fuel replaced coal, reducing the need for coal bunkering.[20] With diminished requirement for goods carriage, the South Brisbane railway extension closed beyond Glenelg Street in 1961, and the rails were taken up in 1969.[21] The extension, along with the Woolloongabba goods yard, was officially closed in December 1969, and the coal wharf was demolished in 1974.[22]

Ownership of the South Brisbane Dry Dock, including the former railway line and easement, was transferred to the Land Administration Commission in 1973. The Queensland Maritime Museum Association opened their base on the site in April 1973, opening to the public in 1979.[23] The site was gazetted as a recreation park and museum in 1976, held in trust by the Brisbane City Council.[24]

Changes to Stanley Street and the creation of Little Stanley Street for Expo88 meant that most of the railway easement was in-filled to create firstly a parking area and later, the roadway with the embankment burying the remains of the railway platform. The railway easement retaining wall remained intact.[25]

In 2018 the railway easement is collocated with the South Brisbane Dry Dock, and is part of the Queensland Maritime Museum.[26]


The former South Brisbane Railway Easement runs along the southern edges of the Queensland Maritime Museum site, bounded by Little Dock Street and Dock Street to the southeast and by Stanley Street to the southwest. The location of former railway lines and associated earthworks is indicated by a series of retaining walls, ground level changes and bitumen pathways. The easement is collocated with the South Brisbane Dry Dock [QHR 600301].

Southeast retaining wall and railway corridor (c1884)

Along the southeast boundary, a long, straight retaining wall, provides grade separation between the former South Brisbane railway station lines (1883-84) on the upper level; and the Dry Dock siding (c1884) and South Brisbane Wharf Railway extension (1896-97) on the lower level. A concrete spoon drain runs along the base of the wall. The wall is divided into two sections: of stone (eastern end) and concrete (western end); with both sections being of the same height with a slight batter:

  • Stone section: a rough-dressed Brisbane Tuff (porphyry) wall. Its squared rubble is laid in courses, and has a capping with chamfered edges.
  • Concrete section: a rendered concrete wall with concrete capping and regularly-spaced circular drainage holes. Pieces of concrete render have fallen away in places, revealing sandstone rubble aggregate in the concrete mix.

The eastern end of the wall has been enclosed by later blockwork walls and the western end is partially concealed by earth fill. The roadway between the wall and the Dry Dock buildings, where the siding railway line used to run, is covered with modern bitumen.

A second, short remnant of stone wall survives along the edge of the Dock Street pathway, approximately in line with the stone section of the lower-level retaining wall.

The site of the former railway station and lines is buried in fill and a concrete pedestrian walkway along Little Dock Street has been constructed over the top. Gardens (planted with trees and shrubs in 2016) occupy the steep slopes between the Little Dock Street footpath and the Maritime Museum fence line.

Stanley Street retaining wall (c1884)

Running along the Stanley Street boundary is a high stone retaining wall topped by an iron palisade fence that once formed the western end of the 1880s railway reserve. It is of the same material (Brisbane Tuff) and construction method as the stone section of the southeast retaining wall.  The iron fence is strengthened by bracing members to each post, which curve around the wall capping and are fixed into the stonework below. Incomplete stonework and cuts to the iron fence reveal that the wall has been shortened at the southern end. In 2016, a large fig tree is growing out of the eastern side of the wall, causing distortion to the stonework and iron fence, which has had a segment removed.

Access driveway (1880s)

An access driveway to the Dry Dock from a former entrance on Sidon Street, near the corner of Stanley Street, slopes down in a south-easterly direction towards the southern corner of the Maritime Museum grounds. The roadway is lined with bitumen in 2016 and has gardens along the steep embankments on either side. Modern fencing encloses the driveway along the southwest side, and a gate near the top is set back from the former Sidon Street alignment.  

Railway extension corridor and underpass (1896)

The former rail corridor of the South Brisbane Wharf Railway extension is indicated by a flat bitumen pathway that curves towards the northwest from a point near the southeast retaining wall (the site of a car port in 2016) and passes close to the western end of the Dry Dock. While the bitumen pathway keeps curving around the dock, the railway corridor continues heading northwest, terminating at an underpass through the Sidon Street retaining wall. It is not known if remnants of the railway tracks or sleepers survive underground. Rendered concrete abutments line the sides of the underpass, fronted by square concrete corner pillars. The rest of the underpass has been infilled and sealed off by concrete and blockwork walls. A historical recreation of a short section of track, buffer stop and an early coal cart, which occupies this location in 2016, is not of heritage significance.

Goodwill Bridge (2001)

The Goodwill Bridge, which spans the Brisbane River, passes over the site, crossing the northern corner and curving around to run parallel with the southeast side of the Maritime

Museum building. The bridge is supported by a number of steel posts and concrete anchor footings located within the museum grounds. The bridge deck at the Stanley Street entrance sits above the former Sidon Street railway underpass cutting.

Features not of State-level Heritage Significance:

Other elements and structures not of state-level heritage significance include:

  • Museum collection items.
  • Displays and signage.
  • Plantings and garden bed edgings.
  • A carport constructed adjacent to the southern retaining wall.
  • Pathways and fencing along the Little Dock Street and Dock Street footpaths.
  • Modern fencing around the Maritime Museum grounds.


[1] Ian Jempson, Review of Technical Heritage: South Brisbane Dry Dock and Stanley Street Railway Easement, 2016, p5.
[2] Brisbane Courier 21 October 1880 p3; The Week 24 September 1881 p6.
[3] Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), Legislative Council, 6 October 1881, pp132-137.
[4] Brisbane Courier 12 October 1881 p3; Queenslander 15 October 1881 p487.
[5] The Week 7 January 1882 p14; Queenslander 28 January 1882 p2.
[6] Queensland Government Gazette, Vol 31 No 82, 25 November 1882, p1354; Vol 32 No 11, 20 January 1883, p202.
[7] Kerr and Armstrong, Destination South Brisbane: an illustrated history of the Southside railways of Brisbane, 1984, p11.
[8] Queenslander 20 May 1882 p613.
[9] Queenslander 19 July 1884 p116.
[10] Brisbane Courier 10 October 1883 p4.
[11] Launceston Examiner 5 June 1884 p2.
[12] Telegraph 30 June 1886 p4.
[13] Telegraph 2 December 1890 p2.
[14] Kerr and Armstrong, Destination South Brisbane, 1984, pp12-13.
[15] Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), Legislative Assembly, 20 November 1894, pp1315-17.
[16] Daily Northern Argus 27 May 1896 p3.
[17] Brisbane Courier 13 April 1897 p4; Logan and Albert Bulletin, Sat 17 April 1897 p11.
[18] Queensland Post Office Directories, 1903 p172, 1923 p161, 1928 p198, 1933 p210, 1938 p260; Brisbane City Council, Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board Detail Plans 41-45, 1926; Kerr and Armstrong, Destination South Brisbane, 1984, p18.
[19] Buchanan Architects, Queensland Maritime Museum Site (former South Brisbane Dry Dock) Conservation Management Plan, 2005, [p25].
[20] Entry on the Queensland Heritage Register, Kangaroo Point Cliffs [QHR 602400].
[21] Kerr and Armstrong, Destination South Brisbane, 1984, p18.
[22] Kerr and Armstrong, Destination South Brisbane, 1984, pp13 & 18.
[23] Buchanan Architects, Queensland Maritime Museum Site South Brisbane Conservation Plan, 1999, p20
[24] Certificate of Title No 49012015.
[25] Jempson, Review of Technical Heritage, 2016, p83.
[26] Queensland Maritime Museum website,, accessed 9 April 2018.

Image gallery


Location of South Brisbane Railway Easement within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated
20 January 2016
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