Next time

For almost forty years now I have driven past the Calliope River Historical Village (CRHV) on the Bruce Highway, south-west of Gladstone, always promising that I would one day find the time to stop. Eventually, I did.

Former Gladstone airport terminal photographed at the Calliope River Historical Village (Queensland) in 2021.

Long experience has taught me that the best of our cultural heritage can be found not in publicly-funded metropolitan museums and galleries but rather, in the thousands of voluntary-run regional historical museums – just like the sprawling Central Queensland village I had finally decided to visit.

Predictably the village featured collections of bottles, irons, stationary engines, tractors, agricultural implements, railabilia [not sure that is a word] and pioneer dwellings, similar to those to be found in any other historical village in any other part of the continent.

The airport was only officially opened after the terminal’s completion in 1956.

And while I didn’t recognise anything that might qualify as being nationally significant, I was captivated by one comparatively  modern weatherboard building.

Architecturally uninspiring, an interpretative sign identified this as the first airport terminal from the nearby coastal port of Gladstone.  This had been built at a cost of £2,262 in 1956, just two years after the opening of the town’s airport.

By 1966 however it was struggling to cope with the airport’s 16,658 annual passenger arrivals. It is thought to have continued in that role until 1972, eventually transferring to the Historical Village in 1984 (by which time annual airport arrivals were in excess of 84,000).

Gladstone’s terminal – bottom left – was one of only two airport structures when this photograph was taken from 12,000 feet on 1 July 1959 ( QImagery QAP0926, Frame 082)

While several metropolitan airport terminal buildings have been preserved in Australia in situ (think Archerfield and Parafield), this is thought to be the only instance of an airport terminal being relocated for preservation. Granted there are many other post-war regional terminals still in use, but it remains to be seen if any of these survive.

By accepting responsibility for preserving its first airport terminal building, CRHV volunteers have shown remarkable courage, historical prescience, and an uncommon appreciation of their region’s aerial transport heritage.

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