Centenary of the Railway from Cairns (Redlynch) to KurandaPrint Page Print this page

Kuranda Railway Cairn
Kuranda Railway Cairn

Photographs supplied by Peter F Williams / Ian Bevege

The cairn commemorates the centenary of the completion of the railway from Cairns (Redlynch) to Kuranda. A second plaque unveiled in 2005 recognises the construction of the railway as a National Engineering Landmark.

The Cairns - Kuranda Railway was constructed between 1882 and 1891 and even today is considered an engineering feat of tremendous magnitude. Hundreds of men were employed to build the 15 hand-made tunnels and 37 bridges that stand as a monument to the pioneers of tropical North Queensland who lost their lives while working on the railway.

The construction was a technical feat of its time due to its benching in old slide planes of decomposed rock, much of it at the natural angle of repose reaching to the bed of the river hundreds of metres below. The line provided the most important catalyst for the development of Cairns and the permanent settlement of the Atherton and Evelyn Tablelands.

Cairns Kuranda railway is of unique historic, technical, aesthetic and cultural significance to the nation. Built at the end of the 19th century it illustrates the use of railways as a development tool for the nation. It played its part in making Australia, for a time, the world's leading producer of gold and tin. The contractor, John Robb, was a man with a national reputation. His subsequent bankruptcy illustrates the catastrophic results of the depression of the nineties.

As an engineering feat, it is the only example in Australia of a narrow gauge railway constructed in an otherwise inaccessible gorge through rainforest and under tropical weather conditions. It was constructed at a time when the region was deemed too harsh an environment for Europeans to work in.


Address:Coondoo Street, Kuranda Railway Station , Kuranda, 4881
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -16.818678
Long: 145.639117
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:Government
Actual Event Start Date:15-June-1891
Actual Event End Date:15-June-1991


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Saturday 15th June, 1991
Front Inscription

Department of Transport
Queensland Railways

This plaque is to commemorate the centenary of the construction of the rail line from Redlynch to Kuranda which was opened to goods traffic on the 15th June, 1891.

Work on the line commenced in May 1886.

The construction of the line was divided into three separate contracts and using Fortitude dynamite, buckets and hands, the project was  completed in 5 years. At the height of construction 1500 workmen were employed on the project.

Unveiled by the Hon. D. J. Hamill M.L.A Minister for Transport and Minister Assisting the Premier on Economic and Trade Development on 15th June 1991

D. G. Stevenson Esq.                  V. J. O'Rourke Esq.
Director-General                          Chief Executive
Department of Transport              Queensland Railways

Left Side Inscription

Plaque :

National Engineering Landmark

The Institute of Engineers, Australia

Plaque :

Kuranda Range Railway

Queensland Government Railways Chief Engineers, Willoughby Hannam and Thomas Annett designed and supervised this railway; John Robb, the contractor, and his European migrant workforce built the line, bridges and tunnels between 1886 and 1891. The railway climbs 323m in 21.7km through the rainforest of the World Heritage Wet Tropics, across the very steep, loose sides of Barron Gorge and over some extraordinary curved iron truss bridges. It was built to develop the large mineral and agricultural area of Far North Queensland. During World War 2 it also serviced huge military camps and hospitals.

The Institution oOf Engineers Australia

Queensland Rail


Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au