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Links with the Mapleton State School

   
In 1999 the Mapleton State School's centenary book contained the information that a set of wheels was believed to be hidden near the creek at the site of the old station opposite the Mapleton Hall. This initiated a search, and three complete wheelsets and two individual wheels were located near the Mapleton Creek swamp. These were placed in the Centenary Celebration Garden at the front of the school, along with a set of brakes, and a length of rail retrieved from the same area.

Mapleton State School's Centenary Celebration Garden, established in 1999

But the Mapleton State School has another tangible link with the old Tram. Back in 1922, the School Committee had lobbied the Government strongly to provide an extra classroom for their one-room school. At that time, the single classroom, only 7 metres long and 5 metres wide, had been packed with seventy children and two teachers. The Committee were successful, and an adjoining classroom was built and a Grand Opening by the Minister for Public Instruction arranged for 8th June 1923.  

Then the School Committee had a brilliant idea. They had heard that the Shire Council had removed the brass bell from the Mapleton steam locomotive that worked the tramway, believing that the whistle provided sufficient warning of its approach. The minutes of their meeting of 1st June 1923 record the Committee's resolution "that the Council be approached re procuring the Bell off the loco if the bell can be procured. Mr Watt [Head Teacher] be authorised to have same erected."  

Within days an approach to the Council was made, and the bell purchased for 30 shillings. It was mounted between two tall posts adjacent to the western end of the veranda of the new building in time for the Opening.  

The Nambour Chronicle of the following Friday, 15th June reported the events thus: 

"On Friday, June 8th, the Minister for Public Instruction (Hon. J. Huxham), accompanied by the Head Master of the Nambour Rural School (Mr R. W. M. Steele) visited Mapleton for the purpose of performing the ceremony of officially opening the new portion of the school. The visitors arrived by car about 11 a.m. and were met by the chairman and treasurer of the school committee, the head teacher of the Mapleton School, and taken for a trip to the Mapleton Falls. The party returned to the Hotel at noon when the visitors were entertained at dinner by the members of the school committee.

 

"After dinner the party were escorted to the school where the Minister made a brief inspection of the agricultural plot and witnessed with great interest a demonstration in fruit-packing given by a number of the senior pupils.

 

"The party then entered the new school-room where the children had been assembled, a large gathering of parents and friends occupying the adjacent veranda. The Chairman of the School Committee (Mr D. F. Story) in an appropriate speech welcomed the Minister and expressed the appreciation and gratitude of the parents and children for the increased accommodation provided.

 

"Mr Huxham in the course of a most interesting address to the gathering, referred to the growth and improvement of the district since his visit of some three years ago, and expressed his great pleasure in officially declaring the building open. The gathering then adjourned to the school grounds, where a fine large bell recently purchased by the committee was rung for the first time by Mr Huxham."

 

The school bell has been in continuous use since that time, and has been mounted in various locations over the years. In the 1960s it went absent without leave, but returned safely after a week. 

Today the bell may be found hanging from a roof beam in the school's covered games area, where student assemblies are held. Though the old Shay locomotive is not presently in working condition, its voice still rings out clearly every school day at Mapleton. The bell was featured in a television program 'The Blackall Range - Living on the Edge', screened by the Nine Network late in 2001. 

The Centenary Celebration Garden at the front of the school was recently demolished to make room for a new Administration Block. The fate of the time capsule buried in 1999 is not known. The whereabouts of the sets of wheels and other tramway artefacts which were displayed at the same site are also unknown. It had been hoped that the bell and the other relics would perpetuate the connection between the school and the Mapleton Tram, but it is not known if the current school administration has any interest in supporting and preserving such historical links. A recent Principal carelessly gave away to a Montville group important artefacts (fruit packing trophies) that had been won by the school in the late 1920s and 1930s.

The bell from the other Shay engine was in the care of Mr George Hadley, the last Cane Railways Supervisor of the Moreton Mill, who moved to Bundaberg after the Mill closed. Mr Hadley passed away on March 28, 2012, so the bell is probably in the care of his son.

 

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