Beginnings of the Central Railway
The Queensland Government passed the Railway Act in 1863 which enabled the construction of the first railway in Queensland. As the bill promised an expensive railway for Southern Qld (South Eastern region), the residents of Central Qld reacted angrily, demanding their own railway which residents saw as a means for accelerating development westward. The Bill was passed by the speaker’s casting vote which saw the Government bow to the demand that the North must share in the fruits of the Railway Act, since it had to shoulder the debt.
The Archer Brothers had discovered the Fitzroy only 10 years earlier and Rockhampton was not established until 1856. It was scarcely a village until the short-lived Canoona gold rush brought an influx of population 2 year later.
By 1864, when construction first started on the railway, Rockhampton had a population of 5,000. There had been recent development of a copper field at Peak Downs to the North West and this, combined with convenient access to the pastoral properties of the inland, ensured that Rockhampton developed as a river port at the expense of the fine deep water port of Gladstone.
The Rockhampton line was opened on 19 September 1867. It was 50km in length and linked Rockhampton with the village of Westwood, where most lines diverged to the Central West. The Rockhampton terminus was a short distance from the gaol and consisted of an imported cast iron railway station which included a substantial roof that covered 3 tracks and protected rollingstock as well as passengers.