During the 1882 wet season, desperate tin miners on the Wild River were unable to obtain supplies and were on the verge of famine. The boggy road leading to Port Douglas was proving impassable, meaning no tin went to port and no supplies came back to Herberton.
As a result, miners were raising angry voices and began agitating for a railway to the coast.
Upcoming general elections and the cold weather in the south meant that many leading politicians headed north, all promising a railway, so in March 1882, the Minister for Works and Mines Macrossan announced the search for a route from the Atherton Tablelands to the coast.
Christie Palmerston had been commissioned to find a suitable route for a railway to the coast and during 1882 marked several routes to Port Douglas, Cairns, Mourilyan and Cardwell.
In November 1882 Palmerston took 9 days to trek to Mourilyan and this seemed to be the chosen route and surveyor Monk submitted reports to the government in March 1884.
The Barron Valley route was finally chosen and this would shape the future of North Queensland, along with surveyor Amos’ plans which were drawn up and submitted to the government in February 1885. These plans were subsequently approved by cabinet on the 19th September 1885.
Construction commenced on 10th May 1886, with then Premier Samuel Griffiths turning the first sod. The line was now headed towards Herberton but there were many twists and turns on the way, contracts were terminated as this engineering feat took its toll on the contractors, until 1887 when a contractor by the name of John Robb took control and with his crew with only picks, shovels, dynamite and strength started to make progress. The rail line from Cairns to Kuranda was now completed and officially opened on 15th June 1891.
Work immediately started on the Kuranda to Mareeba section with this section being officially opened in 1883, just a short deviation from the intended Herberton line. Again, work finally proceeded towards Herberton with the easy work for the construction crew until the got to the bottom of the Herberton Range where hard rock and deep fill areas were required. Many drains had to be constructed along the way but making rock cuttings using only hand tools slowed progress to a crawl. With all work completed, a grand opening was held at the Herberton Station on 20th October 1910 with the workers travelling to Wondecla for a picnic and the official party walking up to the Herberton Town Hall for a more fancy gathering.