DERAILED: The Mary Valley Rattler C17 engine derailed on its way back from being loaded with coal.
DERAILED: The Mary Valley Rattler C17 engine derailed on its way back from being loaded with coal. Craig Warhurst

The moment the Rattler went off the rails

ONE of Gympie's heritage icons, the Mary Valley Rattler's struggles dominated the region's news in the past decade.

Opened in 1998, the steam train's run in the region was literally derailed in 2012 when the locomotive slipped off the track twice.

The first derailment happened in the railyard in late June 2012 and in September an axle of the locomotive tender came off the track while rounding a bend.

The derailments only added to the pressure on a business already struggling, with the year's early floods leaving it unable to run for an extended period.

The Mary Valley Rattler, one of the big Gympie projects dependent on state government funding
The Mary Valley Rattler, one of the big Gympie projects dependent on state government funding Alana Denton

While the condition of the track was initially blamed, an anonymous track worker told The Gympie Times that "springs in the tender's bogie had snapped, which restricted movement as it rounded a bend, forcing it off the track”.

On November 5, 2012 The Gympie Times reported the heritage attraction was indefinitely suspended by Queensland Rail. The report supported the ex-worker's account of the incident.

"While the prime cause of the derailment was a mechanical fault on a carriage, the regulator advised that the event highlighted a number of issues which needed to be addressed before passenger operations could recommence,” the article said.

Mary Valley Rattler
Mary Valley Rattler

"This includes inspection and maintenance procedures for vehicles and track, and resources for track upgrades.”

Thus began six years of hope, frustration and controversy as the cost to bring back the Rattler soared as the years passed.

In August 2014 the Newman LNP Government pledged $2.6 million to the project, and in 2017 the Palazszcuk Labor Government provided another $4.7 million.

Unfortunately, the ratepayers' contribution to the project grew from $3.8 million to $9.85 million over the next 14 months.