C17 (#802) emerges from the tunnel on the Mary Valley Line between Imbil and Kandanga, Queensland.

Selected for Google Maps and Google Earth

The Imbil Tunnel on the Mary Valley Line runs through the divide between Yabba Creek and Kandanga Creek catchments. The tunnel was built during 1914, and the 5-span high level bridge over Yabba Creek was built simultaneously. Once the tunnel and Yabba Bridge were completed the track was laid to the new terminus at The Bluff, which the Railway department named Brooloo, and the final extension (Kandanga to Brooloo) of the Mary Valley Branch Line was opened officially on April 30, 1915.

In the early years, mixed goods/passenger trains ran 6 days/week. Railmotors for passengers commenced running Brooloo to Gympie and return daily from 1928, with the goods train reduced to 3/week or to 5/week in pineapple picking period.

Once Imbil Secondary Department school was opened Imbil and Brooloo children ceased using the line, and bus services were commenced to take Kandanga children to Gympie High School, and as the ferrying of secondary students to Gympie had been the prime role of the railmotor in the 1950s and 1960s, it ceased to run in 1970.

Then only goods trains (pineapples for the Northgate Golden Circle cannery and sawn timber from Imbil, Melawondi and Amamoor mills of Hyne & Son) operated Monday, Wednesday and Friday till 1991. The last Queensland Rail train ran in 1995, and the line was then transferred to the Mary Valley Heritage Railway run by local enthusiasts, who now operate steam locomotives and diesel railmotors on the line as a tourism venture.

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Comments (16)

Rafal Ociepka on January 7, 2008

Very good photo, it looks like a toy train :-)

Ian Stehbens on January 7, 2008

Thankyou Rafal. A film crew had been here sometime before me, and a platform 5M high was built so that they could get film of the train coming through this 110M tunnel. So I was delighted to use it - and remarkably they had left the aluminium ladder behind, which was appreciated. I spent four years going to high school on this train and railmotors that ran on this line. My journey to high school took 90 mins in the morning and 90 mins each afternoon, and I travelled a total of 55000kms on this railway to go to secondary school. Today it functions only as a historical railway for tourism. Regards, Ian

zarfe on August 28, 2008


Ian Stehbens on September 4, 2008

Hello Zarife,

I appreciate your visit especially as this picture is of one of my special places where I spent my childhood a long time ago. I travelled on this train to school daily.


Ian Stehbens on November 21, 2008


Ian Stehbens on November 21, 2008

OWS POI Melawondi

Ian Stehbens on January 3, 2009

I am not sure what the history of this particular loco (802) was, but I believe that the C17 that was quite often on this line in 1960s is the one that is now used on the Zig-Zag Railway at Lithgow in New South Wales. And thus the Zig-Zag C17 is the one I actually drove from Kandanga to Imbil, as a schoolboy in 1963. My opportunity came as a result of a broken down railmotor which needed to be replaced by an available engine, to take me home from high school - there weren't many other passengers in 1963, and i could well have been the sole passenger after Kandanga, that day.

In those days (the early 1960s) the C17s were used to haul the bulk bins of pineapples from Kandanga, Amamoor, Imbil, Dagun and Melawondi (I am not sure any more whether there was a bulk loading facility for pineapples in Brooloo). During the summer peak, the pineapple harvest going to the Northgate cannery was too much for the Kandanga bank (a steep incline north of Kandanga), and so a second loco would follow the railmotor (the Rattler) to Kandanga to meet the up-train that the rattler passed there. Then, as a double-header, the goods train would haul the sweet-smelling tonnage to Gympie, on its way to Northgate cannery in Brisbane.

But then there was the time, before I was old enough to go to high school, of our "great rail disaster" on the line. A few years earlier, when pineapples were still sent away in cases, this calamity happened. How no one was killed in our "disaster" I will never comprehend. But for this dramatic event to unfold, one has to understand the subtleties of the operation of the line, even better than Mr Dabelstein! (He was the long-time station master at Kandanga and he knew the line very, very well.)

The rattler stopped not only at the designated stations but also at declared Rail Motor Stops. It was after all our rattler: the people's train. At a RM stop, a local person may alight or board from the first carriage, then the rattler would move forward so that the guard or an assisting school student could pass down from the guard's van the parcels, the baby's pram, bicycle or whatever accompanied the passenger. Then the rattler would move on to run until its requested or required next stop.

So one afternoon, the Motor left Kandanga with the 'section staff', and the Kandanga Station Master allowed a C17 loco to follow it, 10 minutes later for it was going to Imbil to become the 2nd engine on the pineapple train that afternoon. Remember the Imbil to Melawondi section also has a climb to the tunnel, and the pineapple season was in full swing.

On its merry way, the rattler stopped at a RM stop just south of Kandanga, then at Melawondi, then just up the line for the Grace children to go skipping across the paddock to their farmhouse. Next it stopped at Worth's RM at the tunnel, then at the Cherry Gully RM that gave access for farm families that lived at the western end of Ballard Road. Here at this RM, this particular afternoon, a lady and her child alighted, then the motor moved forward two carriage lengths to allow Neil Johnson, a high school student from Imbil, to take her pram down out of the guard's van. Look out! Here comes the C17 with no carriages down the track at quite a few knots when its driver and fireman caught a glimpse of the stationary rattler ahead. All brakes screamed and the whistle blasted, then the impact and the three rattler carriages were capsized and strewn down the low embankment to the eastern side of the line. Two carriages were split down the centre, opening up like a gutted mullet!

And only Neil Johnson was injured, with a broken arm!

Just a little drama for the afternoon, it was.

I presume the pineapples were over-ripe by the time the line was cleared and they arrived at Northgate cannery!

©Ian Stehbens

Grey-Eagle Ray on September 9, 2009

Hi Ian Amazing!.....thanks for the great story, this is one of my favourites Y*.

Greetings from France Ray

Ian Stehbens on September 10, 2009

You must love trains, Ray! Thanks.

This train is now an operating historical railway that is popular with tourists. Of course, such things always require promotion.

The day I decided to come here and photograph the train for display on Panoramio, I discovered that the best vantage point was somewhere beyond the embankment, in mid-air, and lo and behold a temporary platform had been built for a professional cameraman, and the long aluminium ladder required to mount the platform was still there! Perfect position.



Michael K on December 15, 2009

Great shot! Greetings from Austria, M

Ian Stehbens on December 16, 2009

Thank you Michael. And welcome to my gallery.

Warm greetings from Brisbane.


Nick Weall on December 24, 2009

A lovely couple of stories Ian and a great shot ~ A final set of good wishes to you and your's for Christmas and the New Year ~ Warmest greetings from nick

Ian Stehbens on December 27, 2009

Dear Nick,

And warmest greetings from inland Australia - where we are enjoying Christmas with our daughter. It was 36C today, light storms cooled the late afternoon, and the azure sky, cumulo clouds were brilliant all day.

I think we could call this engine, Thomas.

Thanks for your greetings and best wishes. I trust that 2010 is most fulfilling for you and we are able to share many more special images.

Happy New Year,


Anupam Mukherjee on May 26, 2010

Ahh ... those steam engines .... Nostalgic .... Most of them are now in the museums .... YS ... Greetings from India

Ian Stehbens on May 26, 2010

Dear Anupam,

This steam engine operates on a historical railway, and therefore in a sense it is in a working museum. The line runs for 40kms from Gympie on the main line to Imbil at the terminus of the Mary Valley Branch Line.

And thanks for the YS! That is great.

Greetings from Australia, Ian

Jotka23 on September 26, 2014

Witaj Google to mordercy Panoramio. Prześlij dalej. Serdecznie pozdrawiam. Jan

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on August 3, 2007
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by Ian Stehbens