Formerly known as Bigges Camp, Grandchester is a town in the Lockyer Valley region in South East Queensland, Australia. It is located 76km west of the Brisbane CBD and is situated on the border of the Ipswich and Laidley local government areas. The name come from the village outside of Cambridge in England.
Grandchester is home to the first narrow gauge mainline railway in the world. The first track opened to traffic in 1865 between Ipswich and terminated at this small town.
Grandchester was the home of the last known surviving steam-powered flat-belt sawmill in Queensland. The engine powering it was manufactured in 1910.
The Grandchester area was first explored by Allan Cunningham who came through the area in May 1829. Cunningham’s party camped beside what is now known as the Railway Lagoon while searching for the Brisbane River.
It was little more than a watering hole for transients until the arrival of the railway from Ipswich in 1865. This short section of railway line was the first railway built in Queensland and Governor Bowen, feeling that the railway terminus deserved something better than Bigges Camp, renamed the site Grandchester.
For all the interest that the local history has – and the railway station is listed by the National Trust – it is the Grandchester Sawmill which is the town’s treasure. The sawmill began production in 1945 and today it uses a steam engine which was manufactured in 1911. In an age of environmental awareness the Grandchester Steam Sawmill is a reminder of the extraordinary economies which can be had from the use of steam. The owner actually fires the steam engine with the sawdust produced by the mill. This is a wonderfully rational and efficient use of resources. The sawdust heats the water which drives the engine which cuts the timber producing sawdust which heats the water and so on.