‘All aboard!’ this living history at Palmwoods

ES&A bank and residence as viewed from the station  c.1915

ES&A bank and residence as viewed from the station c.1915

The original Palmwoods railway precinct was quite something back in 1915, and the same view can be seen today stepping off the train – passengers were greeted by an elaborate mix of platform sellers, residents and a view of the newly opened ES&A bank with its elegant bank residence.

During 1915, some 11,486 passengers arrived at Palmwoods to a fanfare by locals, eager to see people and enjoy the social occasion. The train arrival generated excitement for the people of Palmwoods, and brought with it the mail in the travelling post office.

Guests to the town were invited to enjoy “a jolly good time” reported the Nambour Chronicle at the opening of the Palmwoods Hotel in 1912. The hotel itself was described as one of “a very fine appearance overlooking the railway station and most conveniently placed”.

The hotel and bank site with the remaining buildings form the original railway precinct. This was the centre of town with dirt roads meeting at the railway gate crossings to travel east-to-west of the township.

The  history of Palmwoods has been extensively researched by numerous historians, including Wendy McMullin and Trevor Robinson, and their work is being complemented by a permanent photo display in the Palmwoods Memorial Hall.

According to Wendy, the surge of building in Palmwoods in early 1900 was no coincidence.

“Palmwoods was one of the key towns on the north coast line (Sunshine Coast) for mail, freight and passengers,” Wendy shared. “With the terminus of the Palmwoods-Buderim Tram, the town’s rail expansion opened the area to both farming and tourism.

“The establishment of the bank buildings occurred the same time as the line opened for the Palmwoods-Buderim Tramway in 1915.”

The grocery store was built in 1910 by Henry Smith and has continued to trade as a grocery store since then, with a number of owners including Walter Collins who built what is known as Collins house, a magnificent Queenslander that also sits in the original heritage precinct.

“The largest building in the station precinct is the Palmwoods Hotel,” said Wendy. “Following its opening in 1912 it quickly established a wealth of patronage from all over Australia.

“With a poker room on the first floor verandah, a healthy local farming economy, and the establishment of the Sunshine Coast day tourism, the hotel walls have many stories to tell.”

Tourists often stopped off for a period at the hotel whilst waiting for the connecting journey to the Coast via the Palmwoods to Buderim tram.

Essential to the establishment of the town, and the greater Sunshine Coast was the ES&A bank and managers residence located next to the hotel.

“Highly respected, if not the most highly respected person in town was the bank manager. Townsfolk tell stories of handshake deals done over a cup of tea on the veranda of his residence.”

When Palmwoods local Trevor Robinson was building his house in Churchill Street, the bank manager had noticed Trevor building “piece by piece”, said Trevor and he stopped to chat.

c. 1916 taken in front of the hotel

c. 1916 taken in front of the hotel

“He said come on down to the bank. He took my name and that was that. I signed a paper but nothing like today. The $2000 loan at two and a half percent interest or less I paid off in no time, eighteen months or so.”

ES&A banking played an important role in all business, no less than the local ginger industry. In a report written by Joan Hogarth on Buderim Ginger, she writes, “As the only organisation legally empowered to offer the commodity ginger as security for finance, the Board obtained a £3000 loan from the English, Scottish and Australian Bank to pay the growers for the ginger they delivered to the factory”.

The Palmwoods ES&A bank sub branch was located at the Buderim tramway station and manned by Palmwoods staff that travelled on the tram a few days per week to do the Buderim banking.

Heritage advocate, Meredith Walker, renowned nationally for her work in community circles and local government says the English, Scottish and Australian bank buildings, the Palmwoods hotel and station hub were instrumental in illustrating the pattern and development of railway towns in Queensland, particularly on the north coast line.

“In small towns, accommodation was often provided for staff of the post office, police station, railway station and the bank. These buildings and those staff were very important.

“The business with the residence shows the importance of the staff.” Ms Walker said, “The managers were the elite class of the town…and their residence reflected this.”

The Palmwoods, Montville, Buderim Fruitgrowers building still remains today with ongoing restoration by owners intent to preserve of the value of heritage buildings, and the railway station was revamped in original paint colours, at the request of Palmwoods Living History Society.

The Pictorial History of Palmwoods Exhibition will be launched Sunday February 11 with viewing from 1-3 pm and the official launch at 2pm.

Palmwoods Living History Society President, Yvonne Dalziel, said, “The most difficult task was choosing which photographs to frame with the funds provided through the Sunshine Coast Council Heritage Grant Funding, but we will expand the exhibition as more photographs and funds become available.”

The book, Take a Walk Around Palmwoods, is also available for purchase. For more information email: livinghistorysociety1900@gmail.com or find us on facebook @palmwoodslivinghistorysociety