By Barry Clark Bribie Island Historical Society

Bribie Island History. Brisbane. Queensland. Historical.

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Tags: Bribie Island History. Brisbane. Queensland. Historical.

Back in 1924, the very first road was built on Bribie Island from Bongaree Jetty to the Ocean Beach. The one and only car on the island had been driving on beach and bush tracks for five years before that first basic road was built. People walked everywhere or went by horse and buggy for short distances on sandy tracks.

Featured Image(above): Light rail tracks & Horse and Cart

The resident population was less than 50 people in those days, but Bribie Island had been a popular holiday destination for 12 years since the Jetty had been built in 1912, and thousands of people came from Brisbane on weekends and holidays to camp along the foreshore at Bongaree. Bribie was the first real tourist resort in Queensland in those days and the “Brisbane Tug & Steamship Company” had developed this from scratch since 1902 by leasing land, building a jetty and running regular steamship from Brisbane via Redcliffe. In 1913 a narrow gauge rail was laid on the Jetty as a tramway to carry luggage and stores ashore. From here it had to be carried by hand or by horse and cart.

In 1914 the idea of extending this light rail tramway across the island for passenger transport to the Ocean Beach was proposed. It took many years for this proposal to receive Government approval, but in 1922 work commenced on clearing the right-of-way across the island, but this was further delayed by industrial disputes with the Unions. George Campbell, the Tug Company director who was funding the project, eventually decided to cancel the idea of a light rail in favour of a vehicular road which would be more cost-effective and flexible.

To construct the road through undulating and swampy ground required large quantities of rock rubble and stones to be brought by ship from a quarry at Windsor and a temporary Jetty built in 1923 beside the existing Jetty at Bongaree to unload the ships. A narrow gauge rail track was laid on the temporary jetty using tipping wagons to carry material from ship to land for stockpiling and loading on to trucks.

Temporary Jetty for road construction

Bribie Island History. Brisbane. Queensland. Historical.

Light Rail tracks on Jetty 1924

By 1924 this first road on Bribie was completed and the new township of Woorim was declared at Ocean Beach. A journalist at the time claimed that this new Campbell Avenue, as it was originally known, was the best road around Brisbane. In view of the increased commercial business and visitors to the island, a telephone cable was laid on the seabed under the Passage to establish communication with the mainland. A small fleet of the old construction trucks began a regular service across the island and all this added to the popularity of the island as a holiday destination.

In 1926 two more legs were added to the Jetty at Bongaree to cope with the thousands of regular visitors coming and going. With three access ways on the Jetty, there was room for people coming off the ships, and those getting on, with the light rail for luggage and stores running on the central arm. By 1933 one million excursion visitors had made the trip from Brisbane to Bribie Island. The resident population was still less than 100.

Bribie Island History. Brisbane. Queensland. Historical.

Jetty 3 Walkways Centre Tramway

Bribie Island History. Brisbane. Queensland. Historical.

Crowds board the Doomba


With easier access to the Ocean Beach the newly established Surf Club at Woorim became very popular and volunteer lifesavers came on weekends and holidays to patrol the crowds on the beach. The surf lifesavers had a very special friend and helper here on the island, a black retriever dog called “Ranger”. It seems that nobody in particular owned Ranger, but he was everybody’s friend when it came to being stroked and fed, and he eagerly awaited the arrival of his special lifesaver boys when they came on the steamships.

Patiently sitting on the Jetty as the ship made its three hour trip from Brisbane, crowds gathered when the smoke from the funnels was visible across the Bay. When the Surf boys boarded the transport Ranger the dog would run in front to be waiting for them when they reached the Clubhouse at Woorim. He saw himself as a key member of the team and would swim out as far as any of them, crashing through the waves he would be “on duty” all day. He was much loved by everyone for many years.

He was an active participant in all beach sports and competitions and marched with the surf patrol in their training and competitions. One day in 1936 he was not at his usual post. A search found him dead on the Passage side of the island where he may have been a victim of a poison bait or even a snake. Ranger was buried in the sand dunes near the Clubhouse and, a cross and plaque erected in his honour.

Bribie Island History. Brisbane. Queensland. Historical.

This cross and these touching words were a feature of Woorim beach from more than 25 years until it disappeared with the erosion of sand dunes.

“In memory of Ranger. Died May 8th, 1936. If there be an afterworld for such as thou –May the juiciest of bones be thy reward”

Bribie Island History. Brisbane. Queensland. Historical.

Maybe someone saved this memorial plaque in the 1960’s before it disappeared, and it sits covered in dust in the back of a shed somewhere. No photo of Ranger has come to light in all our years of collecting old photos …….until now.

An exhibition of the amazing Winston Family Heritage Collection of old photos and films from the 1920s and 30s is now on show at the Seaside Museum. At the opening event recently we noticed a black dog on the beach in a couple of these old plate glass images. Perhaps this is Ranger. You can also see the light rail tracks on the centre arm of the Jetty in some of these old photos. Go and see for yourself.

There are also a couple of old 8mm movie films being shown as part of the exhibition, which give you a wonderful feel for steamship excursions and holidays on Bribie in the 1920s. At our monthly Historical Society meetings we have had presentations on these stories by Lynne Hooper and Donna Holmes, and if you would like to read more look at our Blog Site http://bribieislandhistory.blogspot.com or contact us and ask a question on [email protected]

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A highly successful sales and leadership career working in a number of different and very competitive industries. Engaging with decision makers at all levels in business and government. Three decades employed by corporations, SME businesses in senior roles and almost twelve years operating as a freelance contractor has equipped me well for all aspects of business. Whether leading and mentoring sales teams, or in a direct sales role I enjoy the challenge to meet and exceed expectations. Making a real and tangible difference in either a team environment or as an individual is an important personal goal I have consistently achieved throughout my career. In all of my business and personal dealings over the years there is one issue that stands out above all others - communication. Excellent communication skills creates trust, helps with mutually beneficial outcomes and above all cements long lasting positive relationships. I strive everyday to communicate effectively with the people I encounter.