Backward Glance – Mapleton beginnings Part 2
  • Wednesday 17 October 2018

This week we follow the growth of Mapleton into the 20th century.

Citrus grew well in the Mapleton area and, by 1902, oranges and mandarins, as well as strawberries, were all being transported from the region by rail.

The Smiths certainly knew how to improvise, as did most pioneers of that era.

Thomas wasn’t a surveyor, but he built a homemade theodolite, in a length of pipe, which allowed him to take levels and surveyed the Nambour to Mapleton Road. 

Thomas was so accurate that the road follows the same route today as when it was built in 1904, with the exception of a few changed bends.  

This was a time when you did it yourself, or it just wouldn’t get done.

In 1900, John Hornibrook and Thomas Smith surveyed the original road from Obi Obi to Mapleton.

It opened a new route for the isolated Obi Obi settlers who previously had to get their supplies from Eumundi.   

Perhaps Thomas learnt a few tips as Hornibrook became a very well-known name in the construction of major roads.

A few bends were straightened on Obi Obi Road to assist with transportation.

The Governor of Queensland, Lord Chelmsford, officially opened the Obi Obi Range Road at William Smith’s Mapleton residence on October 23, 1906. 

Mapleton’s Ocean View Hotel was built for William Rosser in 1909 and officially opened in January 1910.

Today, this is where the Mapleton Tavern is located. 

In 1899, William Rosser selected land in Mapleton.

Rosser also donated land for a public hall and sports ground.

The original hall opened in 1910, but burnt down in 1915. The current hall was opened in July 1916.

The Mapleton School opened on land in Rosser’s selection with 15 children in attendance under the watchful eye of their teacher Lizzie Fitzgerald.

The first school building and its furniture were made and paid for by the community.

Between 1897 and 1912, Moreton Central Sugar Mill Co., located between Mill Lane, Mitchell Street and Bury Street in Nambour, constructed a tramway from the sugar mill in Nambour up the range to Kureelpa.

In 1905, the established tramway hauled sugar cane and transported produce and cream down the steep hillside.

In April 1912, Maroochy Shire Council was granted a loan by the State Government to construct a line from Kureelpa to Mapleton.

The council also purchased the sugar mill's locomotive, rolling stock and tram line.

By 1914, the council had acquired two locomotives, three passenger vehicles and 11 goods and livestock wagons.

In December 1915, the track extension from Kureelpa to Mapleton was officially opened.

The tramway was a transportation system for produce and residents in the region.

It also became very popular with tourists.

For 29 years the small trams named “Mapleton” and “Dulong” operated on a two-foot rail gauge doing a 34km round trip.

A spur line ran east from the main track along Obi Obi Road, stopping near the Ocean View Hotel and the general store.

Mapleton Tramway Station was located opposite the present Mapleton Hall, located on Obi Obi Road.

The trip from Nambour took an hour-and-a-half up the steep range and often men had to get off and push the carriages along the steep Dulong stretch.

The tramway was used to take residents to Nambour for Christmas Eve celebrations and Santa often used it to deliver presents to the range.

When the tram had not returned by Christmas morning, searchers feared a disaster and set off to look for it.

It was found not too far away.

The crew had celebrated Christmas Eve unwisely and forgot to fill the boilers with water before beginning the return journey.

They only had a kerosene tin to get water from the creek to refill the boilers, but it had sprung a leak.

Santa may have even been a bit late that year.

The Mapleton Tramway was quite an engineering feat, designed for sharp curves and negotiating extreme bends.

It served the North Coast hinterland well, assisting the pioneers, farmers and visitors when transportation was difficult and people lived on the edge of the range.

The busy steam engines were built by US company, Lima. 

The service made two return trips each day, except Sundays, departing Mapleton at 8.30am and arriving into Nambour by 10.30am. 

The return service left Nambour at 12.30pm and arrived in Mapleton at 2.15pm. 

A single fare in 1934 was equivalent to 25 cents, a substantial amount at that time.

Improved roads and competition from motor transport meant the Mapleton tramway became uneconomical and was closed on December 31, 1944. 

Mapleton Falls was originally known as Baroon Falls by the early European settlers, but the name was changed in 1915.

The industrious Thomas Smith created a flying-fox around 1917, which crossed the ravine on his land.

It became an exciting attraction for visiting tourists, passengers could winch themselves to and fro above the falls for better views.

The flying-fox fell into disrepair and was abandoned in the late 1920s.

Thomas had a reputation for his inventiveness and mechanical skill and became known as the “Edison of Mapleton”.

Many residents took their implements to him for repair.

Today the bullock teams and coaches are gone, with the last Mapleton bullock team owned by George Coghill disbanded in 1942.

A general carrying business in the Mapleton district was taken over by Bill Sherwell and later Jack Appleby, who operated a mail and road passenger service in the area.

Today Mapleton is a picturesque place to visit or stay with lovely waterfalls and panoramic views in many directions.

It’s hard to imagine the earlier times of hardship when the ring of the Smith brothers’ axes and the whistle of the Mapleton tram pierced the air.

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.


Image details

Hero image: Procession of progress led by the Maroochy District Band before the official Mapleton Road opening ceremony, Mapleton, 29 June 1963

Image 1: 'Dulong' locomotive on the side of the spur from the Highworth Range, Mapleton Tramway, ca 1910

Image 2: Maroochy Shire Council's Finance Committee signing the last cheque to settle the debt on the Mapleton Tramway, July 1966

Note: The tramway line opened to Mapleton in December 1915 and closed on 31 December 1944, but it was not until 1966 that the Maroochy Shire Council made the final payment of interest and redemption.

Image 3: Passengers aboard a train to Nambour at the opening of the Mapleton Tramway, 1915

Image 4: Strongarra Boarding House, Mapleton, ca 1928

Image 5: Palmwoods- Montville bus en-route to Palmwoods past a landslide which occurred on the road at Horse-shoe bend, ca 1950

Image 6: Official opening of the Nambour Mapleton Road at Mapleton by the Minister for Mines and Main Roads, Hon. E. Evans, M.L.A., on 29 June, 1963

Image 7: Street procession to celebrate the official opening of the Nambour to Mapleton Road at Mapleton on 29 June 1963