Kuranda range railway and tunnels: Some reminiscences from an old-timer
The railway line up the mountains from Cairns in Far North Queensland to Kuranda at the top of the range was a considerable engineering feat in the early days. Kuranda was something of a stamping ground for my family in the early 20th century so I like to record what I can about the history of the era. A report of a life in those times has come my way that is fairly vivid so I reproduce it below.
The language and attitudes of the old-timer who wrote it remain as they were in his youth -- so that by itself is of some interest. I therefore leave it unaltered and unexpurgated. I did however tidy up the spelling, paragraphing and punctuation. As I myself am in my 8th decade, I can personally remember when such language was normal in those parts. For reference, "boong" is an Australian slang term for an Aborigine and "murri" is a local term for a paricular Aboriginal group. I remember "boori" also being used -- for the Kuranda Aborigines. All three terms would appear to be versions of names used by Aborigines for themselves.
Without getting too inflated about it, I think the report below has some sociological as well as historical interest. I should perhaps note that -- contrary to what Leftists undoubtedly imagine -- relationships between Aborigines and whites in those days were peaceful. Each group went their own way, with both being amused by the other. I think that an amused rather than hostile attitude does come through in the report below.
There's a leisurely video of a trip on the railway line concerned here. I have myself done that trip many times over the years
Great engineering feat this line. They lost a lot of workers, mainly to disease I believe.
When I was going to high school and living at Redlynch we used to climb up to No 9 Tunnel, I think it was, just near Stony Creek falls. I could be wrong. We used to go up through the boong's camp near Kamerunga.
There is an old gold mine up behind the old camp at Redlynch but I don't know if anyone got any gold out of it. We went in to it a few times and it was full of bats and used to stink like a coon's jockstrap. The type of quartz rock in the mullock heaps around the mine looked like gold bearing stuff, not that I am an expert.
Heights never used to worry me but I have a morbid fear of high places nowadays which I think is a result of one of our treks up to No 9 tunnel. We had to climb over a pretty sheer cliff, hand over hand, and for some reason I froze halfway across despite having climbed over it a number of times. Lucky one of the high school kids I was with kept pushing me to keep moving or I might have fallen probably a good 100 feet. Been shit scared of heights ever since.
There used to be a track up from the Southern side of Stony Creek Bridge to the top of the falls where they had made a cement type weir, probably done when the line was being built, it was a pretty good swimming spot.
We used to walk across the bridge and some times had to run like shit to get off because we thought it was a train coming but nine times out of ten it was a rail gang on what I if my memory serves me correctly was called a Fairmont Motor. [See here]
I remember we were trying to get a rail pump car on the line with the intention of riding it down the line to Redlynch from Stony Creek. Good thing we got caught before we could get it on the line or we could have killed ourselves or caused a derailment.
I remember the bloke Edwards, the local ganger, was going to kick our arses if he caught us with in a bulls roar of any rail equipment. We got the message because he would have carried it out had we been caught again.
If there is gold up the back of Redlynch the murries will be in there claiming land rights. It would not be the original tribe it would be half cast blow-ins. Most of the blacks out there spent their time getting pissed, fighting among themselves and burning the caravans supplied to them by the Government of the day.
That was a joke, they gave them new caravans to live in which they pulled to bits for wood for the fires and remained camped in their humpies. The only thing that was left was the steel chassis because they couldn't burn them. I think the tyres went up as well.
My mother and the women over the road used to watch a gin planting something in the cane field along Kamerunga road about a k from Redlynch and go up to the pub get on the piss and come back and pick up the package form the cane field hours later.
Mum and old Etty Edwards from across the road decided to go up and check out what she was leaving in the cane paddock for most of the day and it turned out to be a baby.
They called the police who came out and took the child away, how it survived I will never know. If they took the child nowadays all hell would break loose: The good old days before politically correct bullshit came along.