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Croydon, QLD

Historic mining town in Gulf country

Croydon is the main town in a shire which covers 29,538 square kilometres. Once an important gold mining town it is now a place known for "The Gulflander", an historic train which leaves Normanton every Wednesday and makes its way 150 km east to the tiny and historic town of Croydon. The railway was built to transport gold and people from Croydon to the port at Normanton. At its peak it moved over 10,000 people each year. Today it is a relaxing journey across a flat area known for its swamps and termites. Beyond that the town has a number of significant and interesting historic buildings.

Location

Croydon is located 1,197 km north west of Brisbane via Emerald and Charters Towers and 528 km west of Cairns. It is 125 m above sea-level.

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Origin of Name

The town was named after Croydon Downs Station. It was W. C. Brown, the manager of the station, who, in November 1885, discovered the gold which led to the development of the town.

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Things to See and Do

The Incredible Croydon Walking Trail
There is a downloadable brochure titled The Incredible Croydon Walking Trail which provides details (and a map) of the 28 places worth inspecting around Croydon. Download http://www.croydon.qld.gov.au/documents/98276/6702180/Croydon%20Township%20Tourist%20Brochure.pdf.

The most interesting include:

1. The True Blue Visitor Information Centre
Located at 51-59 Samwell Street it is the sensible starting place. It has a theatrette which features the Gold For Now film. It also has restored antique Bedford cars; extensive information on the gold history of the town; examples of mining architecture; historic machinery and equipment and sculpture gardens.
The exhibits include: (a) a Five Head Stamper Mill on the verge outside the Visitor Centre. It was made in Croydon at Stuart and McKenzie's Union Foundry and carted out to Templeton by Charles Hughes and his horse team to be used to crush tin-bearing ore. (b) a huge 3m Flywheel - which was used on the main drive shaft at the Mount Morgan Mine 25 head battery stamper at Table Top (c) the original Tabletop School House on the corner.

2. The Croydon Heritage Precinct
Croydon has been developing an historic precinct comprising a number of buildings from the goldrush era. The surgeon's house has been converted to a bottle museum. The courthouse, which was built in 1887, has been listed by the National Trust. It was constructed of wood, which was easily transportable from Normanton. The building now houses a number of interesting artefacts from the town's past.
Other buildings in the precinct include the Police Sergeant's Residence (1897), the Police Station (1896) mining warden's office, the Croydon General Store, the old gaol and butcher's shop and the hospital. There is also an interesting outdoor museum in which many old pieces of mining equipment have been placed on display.

3. The Police Station
Located on the corner of Aldridge and Samwell Streets and built in 1899. New police buildings were constructed at the rear of the police reserve in 1977 and the nineteenth century buildings were vacated but not removed from the site. The National Trust of Queensland occupied the early buildings in 1982. More recently, the Croydon Shire Council has used the police station as a library and museum. For more detailed information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=601153.

4. Croydon Court House
Located in Samwell Street, the Croydon Court House was designed by the Queensland Colonial Architect's Office and built in 1887. Part of its importance is the way it used corrugated iron as wall cladding because suitable timber was scarce and voracious termites made keeping buildings in good repair a constant problem. The last court was held in 1926 and since then it deteriorated until it was purchased by the Croydon Shire Council in 1961. National Estate money helped preserve the building in 1980 and by 1999 it had become a Court House Museum, a tourist attraction. The Queensland Heritage Register notes that it is "a single storey building on low stumps and faces Samwell Street, the main street of Croydon. To one side of it are the former police buildings and on the other, former town hall. The court house has a timber frame and is clad with vertical corrugated iron. The gabled roof is also clad with corrugated iron. A verandah with a separate awning supported on posts runs around three sides of the court room. The main entrance is central and approached by low steps. Behind the court room and set at right angles to it are a series of 3 gabled sections containing offices." For more detailed information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600437.

5. Town Hall 
Known variously as the Croydon Shire Hall and the Croydon Town Hall, this charming building (completed in 1892) is now used as a picture theatre, dance hall and venue for live concerts. It is a large, single-storeyed timber and galvanised iron building with a square, bell capped tower, a tall flagpole, a clock and cast iron balustrading. The Queensland Heritage Register notes: "Although the main body of the hall is of light hardwood construction with corrugated galvanised iron external sheeting, the tower and the front verandah are lined timber, as is the floor and stage at the rear of the interior. A corrugated galvanised iron sheeted roof is supported on timber trusses and is hipped at the tower end and gabled at the rear; with a separate awning roof over the front veranda. The ceiling of the hall is unlined, although the later additions are fully lined internally with hardboard sheeting." For more detailed information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=601653.

6. Croydon Shire Council and Ten Head Stamper Mill
Located next to the new Shire Council building (it was built in 1991) is a Ten Head Stamper Battery which was brought to the town from one of the mines at the southern end of local goldfield.

8. Federation Park Sculptures
Located on the corner of Samwell Street and Alldridge Street the Federation Park has a number steel sculptures set in the gardens. The sculptures depict Croydon's heritage focusing on the role of Aboriginal culture, Chinese settlement, the Pastoral Industry, the Railway and Gold Mining. The War Memorial was commissioned from Blacksmith Artist Hans Pehl and is in the shape of an open book which depicts the names of soldiers from Croydon who fought in the First World War, Second World War, Korean and Vietnam Wars. Surrounding the memorial are a series of unusual interpretations of weapons engraved with inscriptions of the dove of peace. 

11. Chinese Temple
This is an archaeological dig site located on the road out to Lake Belmore. The Chinese were vital for the early goldfields. They provided fresh vegetables and fruit (mostly mandarins, watermelons, lemons and custard apples) and worked as cooks and carriers. At its peak, Croydon was home to around 300 Chinese and the remnants of the area include the temple (the Queensland Heritage Register records that it was "The concrete temple foundations comprise a main building with overall dimensions of 22 metres by 6 metres. The temple is orientated NE-SW with the main entrance facing SW. The building comprised: a 4 metre by 6 metre front section, possibly with a suspended roof; a 1.7 metre deep, covered porch; an internal concrete floor 6 metres wide and 10.75 metres long; a rear section, probably on low timber stumps, 6 metres wide and 7 metres long"), a caretaker's house, a meeting hall, an outdoor oven and extensive artefacts scattered around the area. For more detailed information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=602079.

17. Club Hotel
The Club Hotel has the unique distinction of being the last pub standing. In 1887 it was one of 36 hotels on the Croydon goldfields. Today it preserves this old world charm.

18. Croydon General Store
The General Store claims to be the longest continuously running general store in Queensland. It was built in 1894 and has been operating ever since. Today it is a combination of museum and shop. It houses a collection of memorabilia and artefacts as well as groceries, take-away food, fuel and souvenirs. Tel: (07) 4745 6163.

20. Mining Museum
Located on the outskirts of town (it is signposted off the road to Normanton) is the Mining Museum. It is located on the Iguana Mine Site and the display includes a restored 5 head gold mining stamper; a Miner’s hut which was the home of the Bing Chew family, descendents of original Chinese immigrants; and a range of historic mining equipment and relics. 

22. Croydon Rail Station
The original Croydon railway station was built between 1888-1891 as the eastern terminus of the line from the port at Normanton. The Queensland Heritage Register points out that "The country was flat but difficult for conventional railway tracks due to flooding, lack of suitable timber for sleepers and termite attack. In 1884 George Phillips patented a system for taking railways across such country which utilised special U-section steel sleepers laid directly on the ground. During floods the line could be submerged without washing out the ballast and embankments normally used, so that it could quickly be put back into service when the waters subsided. The steel sleepers were also impervious to termite attack, and although initially more expensive than timber sleepers, were cheaper to lay and maintain. The bridges along the line were also designed to be submersible. This system was particularly suited to the Gulf country and was specified for the Normanton to Croydon line with Phillips engaged to supervise the construction."
The station is interesting but has changed dramatically. "Croydon station is now a simple building clad in corrugated iron with a low pitched roof which does not resemble the station destroyed in 1969, but appears to have reused some of the materials. A set of Avery scales are against the outside wall at the end of the building and a cylindrical water tank is adjacent. Beyond the tank is an 1887 Saxby and Farmer lever, believed to be rare." For more detailed information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600440.

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Other Attractions in the Area

The Gulflander
The Gulflander is an historic rail link between Croydon and Normanton. The website (http://www.gulflander.com.au) explains: "From wetlands and grasslands to arid Savannah territory, the Gulflander travels through countryside that most people will never see. This nostalgic rail journey is the perfect way to discover an area steeped in pioneering history and heritage. Normanton was the port for the Croydon Gold Rush and is a terminus of the Normanton Railway Station which features preserved Victorian architecture. The railway line is a true rarity. As the Queensland Heritage Register explains: "The country was flat but difficult for conventional railway tracks due to flooding, lack of suitable timber for sleepers and termite attack. In 1884 George Phillips patented a system for taking railways across such country which utilised special U-section steel sleepers laid directly on the ground. During floods the line could be submerged without washing out the ballast and embankments normally used, so that it could quickly be put back into service when the waters subsided. The steel sleepers were also impervious to termite attack, and although initially more expensive than timber sleepers, were cheaper to lay and maintain. The bridges along the line were also designed to be submersible. This system was particularly suited to the Gulf country and was specified for the Normanton to Croydon line with Phillips engaged to supervise the construction."
The train leaves Normanton on Wednesday at 8.30 am and arrives in Croydon at 1.30 pm. It then returns leaving Croydon at 8.30 am arriving at Normanton at 1.30 pm. It is possible to complete the entire journey in a day with a coach returning to Normanton. It is equally possible to share the journey by one person taking the train to Blackbull Siding (it arrives at 11.15 am from Normanton) and the other person driving. They swap places for the remainder of the journey. For more information tel: (07) 4745 1391 or download the brochure http://www.gulflander.com.au/Documents/Gulflander%20Brochure_DL_final_0315_LR.pdf.

Lake Belmore
Located  4 km from town (take Aldridge Street and keep driving) is the earth walled Lake Belmore which was constructed in 1995. It is now the town's main water supply as well as being a place to swim, fish, ski and canoe. The fishing is particularly good with Red Claw, Barramundi and Sooty Grunter. Black Bream occur naturally. Barramundi and Sooty Grunter fingerlings are purchased and released into the lake every year. It was vital for the town as there was no reliable water.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Mayi-Kulan Aboriginal people.

* In 1867 the explorer William Landsborough chose a site on the Norman River for a port - Normanton.

* The area had been settled in the early 1880s by pastoralists.

* In 1885 W. C. Brown, the manager of Croydon Downs Station, discovered gold. 

* By late 1886 the new town's population had passed 6500 and there were, according to legend, something like 90 hotels on the diggings.

* A court house was built in 1887. 

* In 1889 construction of a railway was started and it was completed in 1891. 

* The town hall was completed around 1890.

* Alluvial gold was discovered in 1895.

* A police precinct was built between 1896-1897.

* By 1906 the field, which once had rivalled the diggings at Charters Towers, was all but exhausted. 

* The railway stopped making a profit in 1907. It still runs as the Gulflander.

* Mining continued on a small scale until about 1923.

* By the early 1980s a gold processing plant had been established at Tabletop at a cost of about $14 million.

* in 1995 Lake Belmore was constructed to provide the town with a reliable source of water.

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Visitor Information

True Blue Visitor Information Centre, 51-59 Samwell Street, tel: (07) 4748 7152.

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Useful Websites

There is an excellent downloadable brochure - http://www.croydon.qld.gov.au/documents/98276/6702180/Croydon%20Township%20Tourist%20Brochure.pdf - which covers all of the attractions in the town and the surrounding area.

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