William Pettigrew and the Cooloola Timber Tramway

Guest blogger: Niles Elvery, Public Access, Manager, Queensland State Archives

On 14 March 2013 the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection made an application for William Pettigrew’s Cooloola Timber Tramway Complex to be listed as a State Heritage Place in the Queensland Heritage Register.

Born in Ayrshire, Scotland, William Pettigrew came to Moreton Bay in 1849 as one of the Reverend Dr John Dunmore Lang’s Fortitude immigrants. Although trained as a surveyor, Pettigrew is more widely known in Queensland for his timber cutting and saw milling interests, ship ownership, and political representation at local and colonial levels.

In October 1872 William Pettigrew travelled to Cooloola Creek, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, where he located a suitable railway terminus and commenced surveying. By January 1873 construction of the railway had started and this private railway ran from Tin Can Bay inlet about nine miles southwards, tapping valuable Kauri pine forest.

In a letter to the Governor from William Pettigrew and Co, dated 5 August 1873, Pettigrew writes that:

The country is barren sandy ground, and the line selected is over pretty even ground, requiring no cutting or banking, at least so far as yet made. Steepest gradient about 1 in 18. Gage 3 ft 3 in. Rails are of Spotted gum 4” x 3” but are found to be rather light for weight of engine which is about 6 tons. They are now being made of 4 ½ “x 3”.

Enclosed within the correspondence is a copy of the photograph of the Mary Ann, the first locomotive engine built in Queensland:

It is now at work preparing its line of railway from Thannae to Tin Can Bay. On side of framing is seen a pulley. This is for driving a circular saw bench for cutting up the sleepers. The bench is mounted on two trucks, and is taken along the line as required. (Queensland State Archives Digital Image ID 22271)

The first locomotive engine built in Queensland, the Mary Ann. Image courtesy of Queensland State Archives

The first locomotive engine built in Queensland, the Mary Ann

Photograph of the first locomotive engine built in Queensland, the Mary Ann, within Letter to the Governor from William Pettigrew and Co with, 5 August 1873 (Queensland State Archives Digital Image ID 22271)

A number of records in the Queensland State Archives’ collection relating to William Pettigrew have been digitised and are available for viewing online. These include:

  • Letter from Mr Pettigrew to the Colonial Secretary responding to questions regarding the conservation of timber forests, the various sorts of timbers and the strength and durability of local timber, dated 11 June 1883 (Queensland State Archives Digital Image ID 2784)
  • Petition sent to the Minister for Lands requesting a wharfage reserve at the Mooloolah Rivers, 1 November 1880 (Queensland State Archives Digital Image ID 24001)
  • Special Timber Licences – William Pettigrew and Co, 3 August 1870 – 10 April 1884, (Queensland State Archives Digital Image ID 23994)
  • Selection file – William Pettigrew, 1868 – 1887, Brisbane, 1939 (Queensland State Archives Digital Image ID 23996).

 

Pettigrew's land. Image courtesy of Queensland State Archives

Pettigrew's land

Selection file – William Pettigrew, 1868 – 1887 (Queensland State Archives Digital Image ID 23996)

More records on William Pettigrew are available on Queensland State Archives’ website.