(Warwick) - Cottonvale - Amiens
The Pikedale Soldier’s Settlement was one of the soldier resettlement schemes after World War I. It resulted in opening up a farming area on the Granite Belt in the Amiens district. From this and the necessity to transport fruit to markets, came the building of the Pikedale (Amiens) railway.
In 1919 surveys were carried out for a rail line connecting the Southern line and Amiens Settlement. Four proposals were investigated and surveyed – from Dalveen, Cottonvale, Stanthorpe and Passmore. Cottonvale was the most direct route and was therefore adopted and construction of the line using 41 lb. rails commenced in June 1919.
Through no engineering feats were required, it was a year before the 12 mile railway was opened on 7th June 1920.
In the interim a rail tractor powered by a 35 h.p. Napier petrol engine was built on a wagon frame at Ipswich Workshops. This was “Rail Motor No.26”, in fact an early attempt to build a successful internal combustion locomotive, and not a rail motor at all. It ran trials on the line shortly afterwards hauling wagons, but the grades proved too much for it and it could not therefore be regarded as a success. The rail tractor was returned to Ipswich and steam engines took over the work.
Because of the light rails and earth ballast, the maximum speed was 15 m.p.h. (24 km/h). For a few years minerals and wool were railed, but fruit was the principal freight conveyed.
Soon after this line was opened, a Royal Train conveying the Prince of Wales detoured from the main line for a short visit to Amiens. The date was the 26th July 1920 and the train was pulled by a B13 class engine, which ran out chimney first, preceded by a B13 Pilot engine tender first. For the return trip, the engines changed over, giving the Prince a chimney first trip both ways!
Many of the orchardists and farmers in the district were returned soldiers, and all the stations were named after World War I battles in which Australians fought.
Most of the sidings had a little waiting shed and a loop siding. All stations were unattended except Amiens.
This was a light railway some 12 miles (19 km) long, branching off the Southern line at Cottonvale, on which for economy the Government proposed to operate rail tractors powered by in internal combustion motors, a proposal, which almost came into being.
The line was built cheaply and run cheaply, the line was a simply a means of getting fruit to the main line for attaching to fruit trains heading to Brisbane. For several years the line was restricted to small steam engines such as the B13 class, but as time went by the C17 class engines eventually took over, and were eventually taken over themselves in 1967 by the 60 ton diesels.
Only during fruit seasons did trains run on other days. To assist loading of the fruit, porters would travel on the train and the fruit would normally be loaded direct from the farmer’s lorry to the rail wagon. The wagons would be detached on arrival at Cottonvale and be picked up within a short time by a through Brisbane bound fruit or goods train.
Before this branch line had been built, the station called The Summit (between Cottonvale and Stanthorpe) was the highest section of railway line in Queensland being 3035 feet. After the building of this branch line, the sidings of Pozieres became the highest at 3103 feet and Bapaume was second highest 3056 feet.
This line was not built for passenger services. Though several ridges are crossed, there are no significant earthworks, and the track is not ballasted. The line runs west for half its length, then turns southwest.
Signalling on the line is practically non-existent as normally there was only one train on the branch at a time. The safeworking was by Ordinary staff and ticket in one section from Cottonvale to Amiens.
The through load for a C17 in the steam days was 220 tons each way.
The Branch Line Railway from Cottonvale to Amiens was closed to public traffic on and from 28th February, 1974.