Backward Glance: The kindness of strangers – the troop trains at Landsborough
  • Wednesday 17 June 2015
Steam engine 843 departing Landsborough Station

Did you know there is a World War II reinforced concrete air-raid shelter situated on Landsborough Station?

This is one of the few remaining concrete air raid shelters left in Queensland.

During the war years, Landsborough was a major rail line for troops. It was a regular stopping point both for refreshments for passengers at the railway refreshment rooms and for the trains to obtain water and coal for the steam engines.

Not only did the trains transport thousands of troops to complete their training before they went to war, they also carried supplies, guns and equipment. Some soldiers started their journey on the Coast, where they were trained for the tropical jungles of New Guinea on our local terrain. After rigorous preparation they travelled northwards closer to the battlefields. Throughout these years troops were camped in the district from Caloundra through to Cooroy and into the hinterland.

A large contingent of American defence personnel were stationed in Landsborough and worked at the railway yards. During the critical years of 1942 to 1943, the building pictured was the supply depot for food rations and other supplies, which supported both American and Australian troops stationed in the Caloundra region. It was manned by Garrison soldiers, mainly men from World War I.

Trucks with Australian and American defence personnel came from the Caloundra area to pick up supplies and other requirements for the large military camps located in the Caloundra district.

The Landsborough Station holds many memories from these years. In July 1942, a troop train broke down at the station. The train was filled with American troops travelling north, and as the day was cold, the hungry young Americans handed over their cash and emptied the refreshment room of all its food. Regularly, Australian troops camped in the Landsborough area and were treated to a tea that the locals organised in the nearby Landsborough Hall. Though the war had brought with it many food restrictions, the people of the district were generous and supported the soldiers with whatever they could spare. Australian Padre Frank Hartley organised these events along with the locals while he was stationed near Landsborough.

This particular evening the Australian soldiers asked that their special tea be given to the Americans – they would forgo their supper so that the American soldiers would have something to eat. The young ladies of the district greeted the Americans at the doors of the full hall. Padre Hartley held a church service for all those who wanted to attend and many did. It was the kindness of strangers that saw the American servicemen provided with two sittings of supper at no charge that night and none left hungry. It was during Padre Hartley’s service that a bugle called them back to the train. The Padre stopped the service and the men began to assemble. They said their goodbyes and their commanding officer thanked everyone for their hospitality. It is not known where they were going or what they were going into as it was restricted information, but to be travelling north generally meant fighting in New Guinea at that stage of the war. The men marched back to the station and the train blew a long whistle into the night and rattled away.

Learn more about the Coast’s unique history by reading our Backward Glance series. There’s a new story every Wednesday.