The Grandchester Sawmill was established by Roley Gillam in 1945. He was joined in the business later that year by his brother Des (Sam) and they started the business by supplying all types of timber to the Rosewood Coal Mines, and firewood to the Queensland Railways.

Steam has always been the source of power for the sawmill: firstly by a Robey Portable engine; then a Marshall Traction Engine; followed by the Marshall Stationary Engine of today. This engine was purchased by the Grandchester Sawmill in January 1962, and it had several owners before it came to our mill.

Engine No.55389 was built by Marshall & Sons at Gainsborough in England, and was imported to Australia by Nestles for a power plant at the company’s Condensed Milk factory at Toogoolawah. A metal disc attached to the engine as required by the Inspection Act of 1908 records its first inspection taking place on 17th October 1911.

The Nestles factory closed on 16th July 1927, and the engine was subsequently bought and installed by Munro Brothers at their Lowood Butter Factory where it was inspected on 31st March 1941. During 1942 Queensland Farmers’ Co-Op bought the Butter Factory, and in 1946 the engine was replaced by electric power.

Hood Brothers Sawmillers of Gatton bought the engine from the Co-Op in February 1954, and it was again inspected in July of that year. Due to increased production, Hood Brothers found it necessary to replace the engine with electric power, and it was then purchased by Grandchester Sawmill where it still is today.

The Mill was originally powered by steam from a D 8 ½ narrow gauge locomotive boiler which had been used on the Innisfail cane line to cart sugar cane to Mourilyan Harbour near Innisfail, North Queensland. The steam is presently supplied to the engine by a C17 locomotive boiler which was built by Walkers Limited, Maryborough in 1966. Although classified as a C17, it is more commonly known as “The Brown Bomber”. This nickname came about because this class of locomotive featured a medium brown colour scheme with a black smoke box and red buffer beams.

The sawmill runs completely from it's own sawdust waste. The steam produced is enough to power the two saws and is more environmentally friendly than diesel or electricity powered mills.

The town of Grandchester operates around the mill whistle which sounds at 9:00a.m. for smoko, 11:30a.m. for lunch and 2:30p.m. for afternoon tea. This has been the case since the mill opened in 1945.

Tragically on the morning of the 6th May 2007 the mill was destroyed by fire. The cause remains unknown. Work on the long process of restoring the mill to it's former glory started almost immediately in the days following the fire. The mill is operating once again with work still continuing on the restoration. This will ensure that this important piece of history is preserved for the generations that follow.


Today the mill is owned and operated by
Jeffrey 'Jake' and Cathy Gillam with help from Roley.