ROYALTY: A prince among us, popular Royal war hero, Prince Edward leaves Memorial Park through the newly built Memorial Lane during his visit to Gympie.
ROYALTY: A prince among us, popular Royal war hero, Prince Edward leaves Memorial Park through the newly built Memorial Lane during his visit to Gympie. Renee Albrecht

Traveston disaster kills nine - and it could have been worse

Queensland's worst rail disaster was south of Gympie in 1925.

Nine people died and 26 others were injured.

And, as The Gympie Times reported at the time, it could easily have been worse, if not for the courage and decency of victims.

"What appears to be the most perilous catastrophe in the history of the Railway Department of Queensland, occurred about 2 o'clock this morning (June 9th), the paper said.

Two carriages from the Rockhampton mail train from Brisbane had jumped the line between Tandur and Traveston.

"Great as was the loss of life, there is cause for gratification that there was no panic and that from the first to the last, all did their utmost to succour those in distress," the story said.

One disaster led to another as carriages ran off the rails, dragging others with them.

It appeared the baggage wagon, next to the brake van, derailed for unknown reasons.

It travelled for "about a mile and a half before falling over the line at the bridge," and pulling other wagons and carriages with it as it fell.

"Many harrowing and distressing scenes were witnessed during the rescue work, which was organised from Gympie," the report said.

The other big disaster of the decade was the Mary Street fire of 1929.

Fires were common enough in a town of mostly timber buildings.

The Eel Creek sawmill burned down on October 9 for the third time in three years, the paper said.

New Gympie emerges

Our 'Digger Prince' and the Roaring 20s in Gympie

GYMPIE'S experience of the 'Roaring 20s' did not fit the usual nightclub-and-gangster image.

But it was a time of tumultuous change as gold gave way to farming and World War I veterans made a new life.

One famous veteran, the immensely popular Edward, Prince of Wales (acclaimed as "the Digger Prince" after his war service) visited Gympie in 1920.

He was greeted by the biggest crowd ever assembled in Mary St.

The decade also saw what was reported as Queensland's worst rail disaster, when two carriages derailed between Tandur and Traveston, killing nine and injuring 26.

Dairying eclipsed gold as the region's main earner and for the first time, in December 1920, the total amount paid to cream producers exceeded the value of gold production.

Land was sold for settlement at Eel Creek, Curra, Dagun, Kenilworth and Traveston. Amamoor emerged as a thriving agricultural centre.

Aviator Bert Hinkler, who had worked in Gympie as a teenager, dropped in a couple of times.

Street lighting was converted from gas to electricity and lower Mary St was bitumen sealed.

Pioneering public transport company Lewis and Coop bought the first bus ever built in Gympie from manufacturer JSmith and Co.

Gympie Times former editor and part-owner Jacob Stumm died in 1921, followed in 1926 by his senior partner Alfred George Ramsey.

The decade also saw the death in 1928 of former Gympie gold miner, engine driver and unionist Andrew Fisher, who represented the area in state and federal parliament, ultimately becoming Prime Minister and helping give Australia its pension system and the Commonwealth Bank.

The decade saw the first bridges over Coondoo and Glastonbury creeks.

It closed with flood (no longer considered unusual) and the biggest fire since the advent of town water.

Gympie's gift to the foodie world

INNOVATION was the key to the Gympie region's economic survival in the 1920s as the extractive industries of mining and timber getting were replaced by agriculture.

Queensland led the world in establishing state forests, protecting the land from over-harvesting.

PIONEERS: Macadamia industry pioneers Stan Henry and Norm Greber on Mr Greber's experimental macadamia orchard at Amamoor.
PIONEERS: Macadamia industry pioneers Stan Henry and Norm Greber on Mr Greber's experimental macadamia orchard at Amamoor. Courtesy Ian McConachie

But the 1920s saw one of Australia's boldest farming experiments, one that would lead many years later to the macadamia industry.

To this day, the nut that had remained hidden in the rainforests for millions of years, is our only major successfully marketed bush tucker product.

Many of the varieties now grown around the world are from Gympie district.

And the story of orchard cultivation of macadamias began with people such as Stan Henry and Norm Greber.

Mr Greber selected 40 acres (16ha) near Amamoor and, finding wild macadamias with thin shells, planted orchards that he would continue to operate through to the 1950s.

He was the first Australian to master the art of grafting macadamias and became one of the industry's great visionaries.

During World War II, Bernie Mason used Italian prisoners of war to establish his orchard at Long Flat. Others followed at Neerdie and Gilldora.

American entrepreneurs took the plant to the USA and big irrigated orchards became the norm for what is now a major export industry.

It all started here nearly 100 years ago.

Farmingmoves in as gold ends its wild rich run

PASTORALISTS were the first settlers around what is now Gympie, but gold changed everything.

The sudden boom in population around the diggings created demand for timber.

The resulting cleared land became paddocks for dairying and cropping.

The 1920s saw the re-emergence of agriculture as gold became less significant.

The South Great Eastern Gold Mine at Monkland had yielded more than 10,000 ounces of bullion from depths up to 610m. It closed down, as did the only larger mine in the area, the nearby Scottish Gympie Gold Mine, once "the richest 50 acres on Earth".

The exception was 4 North Phoenix that was still producing after 42 years. It did not last, however, because rising water - a result of other mines closing and no longer pumping out the aquifer - led to it closing too.

Butter became the new gold, as the Gympie region entered a period of crisis. The population had decreased by half and in December 1920, cream suppliers had earned more than the total value of gold produced in that month.

A rebuilt Wide Bay Butter Factory became the biggest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

Gold mining continued into the current century, but was in rapid retreat by 1923 - an end to the glory days in which Gympie mines gave 11 million pounds ($22 million) of gold.

The great leveller takes all - pioneers, newspaper owners, a Prime Minister, teachers and a man called Rama

EARLY Gympie Times editor and co-owner Jacob Stumm went to work on Saturday, January 22, 1921. The next day he died suddenly, aged 67.

His was the first of an eclectic compilation of deaths of prominent or interesting citizens, reported in the paper.

His senior partner at the Times, Alfred George Ramsay, died in 1926. It was a decade which claimed many prominent citizens.

The Very Rev Dean Matthew Horan died "with almost dramatic suddenness" on July 6, 1923, aged 81.

He had arrived in Gympie as Catholic pastor to the rowdy boom town of Gympie in 1868 and lived in a tent on the site where a rectory was built.

Gympie doctor John Ryan, who brought professional medicine to Gympie in 1874, died on July 30, 1927, after an illness.

Former Prime Minister and Gympie Labor leader Andrew Fisher, died in London in 1928, after suffering influenza with heart complications.

A Hindu named Rama, died suddenly in April that year and was traditionally cremated in Gympie, despite floods making transport of his body difficult.

Former One Mile State School teacher James "Daddy" McLeod died in Brisbane in 1929.

And snippets from a tumultuous time


"THE most disastrous fire that has been experienced in Gympie since the water service was installed many years ago, occurred in Mary Street on Saturday night (May 11th)," The Gympie Times reported in 1929.

"The Tivoli Theatre, Messrs Ashton Bros stationery and bookshop, Mr C Love's saddlery shop, Mr N. Ganley's stationery and bookshop, Mr J Glindon's boot shop and the State butcher's shop were all burnt to the ground, while other buildings were badly damaged."


THE often fatal and highly infectious disease, diiphtheria, was one of many serious health threats of the time.

In 1920, The Gympie Times reported on the release of 14 "diphtheria carriers" from Gympie Hospital.


TOWN water is one thing, but Gympie people must have wondered whether they should actually drink it.

A "scraping" of water mains yielded "two or three tons of corroded matter and muck."


THE Mary Valley was declared "eminently suitable for cane growing" in 1921.


GYMPIE City Council decided to pay a rat bounty, in an effort to stop the spread of bubonic plague.


IN 1923, the new bridge over Yabba Creek at Imbil was officially opened.


"LAST night a New Year concert was broadcast by Sydney Wireless Broadcasters Ltd, which was heard on Mr Kennedy's receiving installation on Lady Mary Terrace," the paper said.


THE new rail motor and trailer on the Mary Valley line was described as "a large glorified motor car, with a passenger car attached and a truck for carrying cream and perishables."