Almost 30 years ago, a proposal to demolish Queensland's only full-circle roundhouse that was used for steam locomotives was challenged by the state's Heritage Branch, with engineer Carl Doring playing a part.
The Rockhampton Railway Roundhouse was built in the early years of the 20th century, and completed in 1914. The site's history went back to 1877 when construction was commenced on the first rail workshops and a partial roundhouse to serve the local railways.
The building had a floor area of more than half a hectare, with the whole of it covering a ground area of approximately one hectare. It had a corrugated iron roof and wall cladding and round timber posts supporting a timber framed concertina roof with 52 roof ridges and 52 valley gutters, and with solid brick firewalls separating seven segments of seven or eight bays each. There were five entry and exit railway lines from outside the building, leading into and out of the centre turntable, and 52 lines radiating from the turntable leading to the 52 bays, in most of which locomotives could be stored under cover, repaired and cleaned.
The original plan was to have two roundhouses, however, the 52 bays in the one weren't being used for locomotives. Many had other purposes, like copper smithing. In the 1950's, the Beyer-Garratt locos were introduced in Queensland and by the 1960's were stored in Rockhampton, however, they could not fit on the centre turntable. These diesel-electric locomotives (DELs) had to be housed in the bays opposite one of the entry roads. As the DELs took over and the years went by the Rockhampton Roundhouse's practical uses declined and in the late 1980's a proposal for its demolition was put forth.
In the proposal, the Heritage Branch was told that "the preservation of the Roundhouse would severely restrict the modernisation of the Rockhampton Railway Workshops . . . There is no merit and no technical solution to try to incorporate parts of the features of the Roundhouse in the new construction. It is therefore earnestly requested that approval be given for the demolition of the Roundhouse". But do you know what happened next?
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