It had been eight years since the State separated from NSW, and it looked unlikely it would reach a decade. The harsh climate, along with vast distances and poor communication between settlements, had combined to cripple Queensland’s export industry and clip its economy.
But just when it looked like the State would fold, someone in Gympie struck gold. Loads of it. News travelled fast and sparked a gold rush, as prospectors flocked to the region to strike it lucky, and the injection of money saved the State from bankruptcy.
Word of this gold rush reached the ears of Victorian miner, John Walker, who had founded Ballarat’s Union Foundry four years earlier.
Walker joined the migration north, but he wasn’t interested in battling it out with other prospectors on the Gympie goldfields. He had other ideas.
Walker could foresee that all those gold mines would require machinery. So, along with three others, he headed north to open a manufacturing facility to supply machinery to the mines, as well as heavy castings required by the Queensland sugar industry.
They set up camp 100km north of Gympie in Maryborough, secured a site on Bowen Street and opened the doors to the new foundry in 1869. Those doors are still open today.
Since the first casting, the Maryborough factory has been a hub of industry in regional Queensland. From manufacturing countless sugar mills to building ships for the Royal Australian Navy, Maryborough is known for producing the equipment that keeps Australia running. Rail has always been a core capability for the site. Queensland’s first locomotive – the ‘Mary Ann’ – was constructed on the site in 1873, and the factory would go on to manufacture over 900 locomotives and 1,000 rail cars, the most recent of which was completed earlier this year.
Originally known as Walkers Limited, the site was sold to Evans Deakin in 1980, and acquired by Downer in 2001.
On 6 December, staff at Downer’s Maryborough Service Centre were joined by Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, to celebrate the facility’s 150-year anniversary.
Downer now employs over 250 people at the site and is recognised across the country as a leading manufacturer and maintainer in the rail sector. Trains that travel all over Australia have been built in the Heritage City – from the Cairns Tilt Train to the entire Transperth B-Series fleet.
“The Maryborough factory is an icon of the Fraser Coast community and Downer is proud to play a part in its 150-year history,” Downer’s Executive General Manager Rollingstock Services, Tim Young, said.
“With upgrade work on Queensland’s New Generation Rollingstock fleet well underway, and 14 apprentices starting in 2020, now is the perfect time to celebrate our proud history and bright future.
“It’s an especially important time for our 250-plus employees on site. Some of them have worked here for over 40 years and their contribution to our business is undeniable.
“And with a steady flow of work over the next few years, one thing’s for certain – Downer in Maryborough is here to stay.”
It was an odd-looking machine, even for its time.
And Queensland’s first locomotive, built in 1873 at our Maryborough Service Centre on Bowen Street, was met with mixed reviews.
Commissioned to haul timber on the new Cooloola tramway, the ‘Mary Ann’ – named after the daughters of customer William Pettigrew – was described as “very primitive”.
“Queensland’s first locally-built locomotive was a queer contraption,” one newspaper report read. “The engine was upright on a frame of iron and wood, a flywheel on the side opposite to where the driving crank was placed was used when the locomotive became a stationary engine. The engine weighed six tonnes and ran six miles an hour.”
It may have been met with some skepticism at the time, but the Mary Ann was the start of something big. Today, our Maryborough facility is regarded as a leader in rollingstock manufacturing and maintenance.
Downer has been awarded a two-year contract, valued at approximately $200 million, to provide mining and related services at the Goonyella Riverside coal mine.
Downer is a member of the NEWest Alliance, which has been selected as preferred contractor to deliver the Yanchep Rail Extension and the Thornlie-Cockburn Link for Perth’s METRONET program. The project will be delivered in a joint venture partnership with CPB Contractors, part of CIMIC Group, and under an alliance-style contract. Project funding is through