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Mary Ann’s historic name plate reappears

Mary Ann’s priceless name plate comes home

By Jocelyn Watts

A priceless piece of Queensland’s railway history has reappeared after 127 years.

Ipswich railway enthusiast Merv Volker, who visited the Heritage City last week, has donated the name plate from the original Mary Ann locomotive to the Whistlestop museum where its replica locomotive is housed.

Mary Ann was the first steam locomotive built in Queensland by John Walker & Co. Ltd. in 1873 for William Pettigrew and William Sim.

The timber pioneers used the loco to haul logs in the Tin Can Bay area but she vanished in 1893 after a Mary River flood and fire at the Dundathu sawmill where she was stored.

In 1999, Maryborough engineer Peter Olds launched a full-size replica that he and his team at Olds Engineering built using just three historic photographs to guide its creation.  

The Mary Ann replica is now an iconic attraction in Maryborough, regularly chuffing her way through Queens Park pulling carriages filled with enthusiastic sightseers.  

Where has Mary Ann’s name plate been for 127 years?

Mr Volker, a former Granville resident and now volunteer at the Ipswich railway museum, said he bought the solid brass curved plate bearing the name ‘Mary Ann’ from a long-time friend in Gympie.  

“He had it for some years before I bought it from him 23 years ago,” Mr Volker said.

“I don’t know how he came to have it and I don’t want to say how much I paid, but it wasn’t a lot.

“Several times I’ve been going to bring it up to Maryborough but I’ve had doubts about its authenticity.

“I couldn’t give the museum something that was a reproduction. Peter can make his own reproductions – I don’t need to give them one.”

Is it the original name plate?

Mr Olds said he was thrilled to receive the “priceless” railway artifact from Mr Volker.

“It has to be the genuine plate,” he said. “You just can’t put a price on this type of history.”

Telltale signs include it having a reverse curve and no grooves on the back.

“We also got a piece of plate off an old boiler that’s three-foot six diameter and it fits exactly.

“And, the shape of lettering on the plate is identical to the lettering shown in the old photographs.”

Mr Olds said the name plate would have been attached to Mary Ann’s original boiler with two screws.

“There’d be steam pressure on those screws and they wouldn’t come out too easily. Whoever took it off would have had to do so with great care.

“It’s amazing the plate is still in such good condition, apart from being slightly bent.”

What will happen it the historic name plate?

Mr Olds said the Maryborough City Whistlestop committee was planning to fix the original name plate to the Mary Ann replica.

“It’ll be on the rear end of the engine so passengers can see the plate from the front carriage, touch it and take photographs.”

Mary Ann's historic name plate donated to Whistlestop museum

Merv Volker and Peter Olds show where the historic name plate will be placed on the rear of the replica’s engine.

Why donate it now?

When asked what prompted him to donate the plate now, Mr Volker said that being 76 years of age, the time had come to downsize his collection of railway memorabilia.

“There comes a time when you have to clean up after yourself,” he laughed.

“I have a large collection and if I was hit by a bus tomorrow, (my sister) Marilyn (Jensen) would have to clean it up.

“It’s a hell of a job. It’ll take me all year to dispose of it. We’ve been going a couple of months already and there’s still so much other stuff.

“My collection includes a lot of Queensland Railway china. I’m not letting that go, but the rest can go.

“Marilyn knows that if something happens to me, she’s to give the china to the railway museum at Ipswich because there are pieces in there they haven’t got.

“Different people who are involved in collecting railway history have different prime subjects. Some people collect tickets only. Others collect things such as lamps and uniforms.”

Call for more relics and photos

Mr Olds said the Maryborough City Whistlestop committee was keen to accept more donations of other local railway relics and photos, including the second locomotive made by John Walker & Co. Ltd, Mary Ann’s sister ‘Dundathu’.  

To contact the committee phone (07) 4121 0444 or email mborowhistlestop@bigpond.com

For more on Mary Ann’s history, visit https://maryboroughwhistlestop.org.au and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooloola_Tramway

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Whistle Stop visit to the Gympie Phoenix Hotel

What do a gold mine, mythological bird and salmon have in common?

They all co-exist in the form of the Gympie Phoenix Hotel, at 29 Red Hill Road, where I recently ate out with family on Saturday after making a day visit to Brisbane.

Well, the bit about the bird is not quite true. The ancient bird doesn’t really exist there as a living being but instead, the historic Phoenix Hotel bears its name.

In Ancient Greek folklore, a phoenix is a bird that dies and gains new life by rising from the ashes of its predecessor. Likewise, in 2014 the Phoenix Hotel was ‘reborn’ after extensive renovations.

The hotel wasn’t named after the mythological bird, however.

Built in 1887, it was named after the North Phoenix No. 2 Mine, near where gold was discovered 20 years earlier. Three tunnels are said to still exist under the hotel.

Popular Phoenix Hotel

Judging by the number of people packed onto the hotel deck when we arrived on Saturday, we could have been forgiven for thinking the chef was dishing up gold.  

We were pleased to have booked a table. The car park was full, as were the side streets, and people of all ages from young children to retirees were tucking into their meals with gusto.

Our dinner choices

One of us ordered a favourite meal – Graziers Eye Fillet 200gr with pepper sauce, salad and chips – while I again took the fish option with Crispy Skin Salmon on garlic mash with char-grilled capsicum, broccolini and a balsamic glaze.

All meals were served in good time and well presented. We chose to forego dessert this time but had we ordered, there were plenty of delicious options on offer.

To accompany our meals we chose Arrogant Frog Rosé from the South of France, a pleasant dry wine with ripe cherry and strawberry flavours.

Back in the 1970s and 80s

My family and I were surprised to discover the Phoenix Hotel on our whistle-stop visit to Gympie last weekend.

We lived in Gympie in the mid-1980s and back then we didn’t know the Phoenix Hotel existed. Today, it’s hard to miss and is highly rated on Tripadvisor.  

We recommend that if locals and visitors get the chance, they visit the Phoenix Hotel in Gympie, located 160 kilometres north of Brisbane with a population of about 22,000 people.

 For Phoenix Hotel details and bookings visit phoenixhotelgympie.com.au

 

 

Graziers Eye Fillet

Graziers Eye Fillet, Phoenix Hotel, Gympie.

Crispy Skin Salmon

Crispy Skin Salmon, Phoenix Hotel, Gympie.

 

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Bay Central Tavern

Trendy pub food at Bay Central Tavern

If you’re looking for a trendy pub meal in Hervey Bay, the Bay Central Tavern on Boat Harbour Drive is worth a visit.

My family and I have been keen to check out Hervey Bay’s eating places while visiting the city over the past year and a half. Previously we’d dinned out mainly in Maryborough because that was where I lived until November 2019.

Since then I’ve moved to Eli Waters at Hervey Bay, the other major city that makes up the Fraser Coast, so now we have many more eating places from which to choose. 

Joining my two new friends, Jane and Margaret, at the Bay Central Tavern for lunch on Thursday, I loved the Thai Fried Noodles I ordered and the ladies gave me glowing reports of their choices so I knew my family would be keen to try out the tavern.

Thai Fried Noodles

Thai Fried Noodles.

Saturday night would be somewhat busier than Thursday though.

The staffer who took my booking said that with country-rock band Eight Second Ride performing as part of their Goes Country Tour, management was expecting a full house but she could squeeze us in anyway.

After catching the tavern’s courtesy bus there, we found our booking had mistakenly been made for Sunday night. To the staff’s credit, they soon found a table for us in the bistro rather than on the deck where we were meant to be seated.

The error was a blessing in disguise.  It was much quieter in the bistro than sitting near Rocky the mechanical bull as wannabe rodeo riders tested their inner cowboys!

While one person at our table ordered a 200-gram Graziers Eye Fillet with pepper sauce, chips and salad, I ordered Macadamia Barramundi (fresh barramundi with macadamia crust) served with smashed chats, hollandaise sauce and coriander, tomato, avocado and rocket salad. See featured picture. 

Grazier Eye Fillet with Pepper Sauce, Chips and Salad.

Graziers Eye Fillet

The eye fillet was quickly devoured with the comment that it was deliciously tender and full of flavour but the pepper sauce could have been hotter.

My Macadamia Barramundi, smashed chats and salad were all delicious and well presented.

The adults each enjoyed a glass of Wirra Wirra Mrs Wigley Rosé and finished our dinner by sharing a Brandy Snap Basket served with fruit salad and whipped cream. 

 

 

 

Will we make the tavern our Local?

Are we likely to eat again at Bay Central Tavern? Definitely!

The service was spot on – everyone from the courtesy bus driver to the waitress was pleasant, helpful and welcoming.  The only improvement we can suggest is to boost the salad that goes with the Graziers Eye Fillet.  

Perhaps we would choose a quieter night to visit but that’s our preference.

It was plain to see a lot of people loved the busy atmosphere, lapping up the live music and entertainment that kept the popular venue pumping throughout the evening.

We’ve also been told the massive outdoor screen is immensely popular on State of Origin nights and when other big sports and entertainment events are playing.

Bay Central Tavern is at Stockland Hervey Bay Shopping Centre,155 Boat Harbour Drive, Pialba QLD 4655, (07) 4124 4111, www.baycentraltavern.com.au

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