The project was tackled in five stages, culminating in the sixteen mile section from Murphy’s Creek to Toowoomba known as the “Main Range”. The Main Range was regarded as a notoriously difficult section of rail to construct, given the steepness of the area.
To accommodate the terrain, the track had to be lengthened by 9 miles, costing the Queensland Government an extra £100,000. Approximately 1,600 men were involved in the project under the supervision of railway engineer Robert Ballard. For 100 years, the Main Range was the most significant ascent on the Queensland Railway and a principal factor influencing locomotive design.
On April 12 1867, the first train from Ipswich reached Toowoomba, a mere four years after the Railway act was passed by the Queensland Parliament. The journey from Ipswich to Helidon took three hours with the remainder taking over two hours. Highfields Station, commonly known as the Main Range Station in its early days, was the principal crossing and watering station because of its suitable gradient and abundant water supply. In February 1890, the station was renamed Spring Bluff by Railway Commissioner Gray who had a partiality for the area.
The station served as an outlet for timber, dairy and other produce for the Highfields area. It played an integral role in community life and after the construction of a dance hall in 1907 was an important centre for social activities. In 1913, the station handled more than 5500 passengers. Today, the passing of steam trains and the introduction of the centralised traffic control system has brought down the curtain on Spring Bluff as an operational station. The station was decommissioned in August 1992, and the ganger and fettler crew withdrawn in September 1993. The importance of the station was recognised by the National Trust of Queensland which listed the Main Range Railway on its Register in March 1994.
Image 3: A12 class steam locomotive on a Toowoomba bound passenger train around late 1870's. The station residence is in the background.