The rescue of the ‘absolutely terrible’ 100-year-old Palmwoods rail shed

Great for kids

Richard Bruinsma

A century-old Palmwoods shed that was falling apart has been resurrected as a rustic home for coffee catchups, dinners, and specialised vintage retail, thanks to a handful of people determined to save the historic building.

The old rail shed on Main Street had for years suffered a leaking roof, rotting beams and floorboards, termite damage, and foundations weakened by years of stormwater flows, and was at genuine risk of demolition.

However, a painstaking restoration has converted the building into something of which all Palmwoodians are proud.
Building owner Marilyn Stokes, a qualified architect who operates a building access advisory, spearheaded the restoration project after acquiring the building in 2015.

My first thoughts were, ‘Oh my God, what have I done?’ It was in an absolutely terrible state, but it definitely had a lot of potential being where it is on Main Street,” she explained.

The floor was like walking on honeycomb – it was completely white-anted – and all of the walls, the stud work, the rafters, everything inside, had to be replaced.

Some of the actual structural items were very unusual sizes – all of the studwork was 3.6 metres long and in hardwood milled in the local area around 100 years ago, and it was a challenge getting the new rafters, which were 7 metres long.

On top of that, erosion under the building had affected the foundations, many weatherboards were damaged and needed repair, the roof needed total replacing, damaged roller doors were replaced, and colonial style windows and window hoods added.

While the massive restoration was still underway, the building caught the eye of local businessman Geoff Ryan, whose needed a new home for his growing homewares and gift store ‘The Shed’.

It was in pretty bad shape,” he said of the old railway building.

We started having some input about the work, we were telling Marilyn our plans, what we were aiming to do, so some of her renovation turned into something that suited us as well.

We didn’t want to bastardise the building’s historical look by putting in mirrors, chrome, stainless steel, marble floors – it just wouldn’t suit the building.


We wanted to give it some character… the dining room walls were timber framing and weatherboards on the outside, so we decided to put some of the salvaged corrugated tin up inside there, and it gave it a whole heap of character and changed the look.”

If you look at the outside of the building, and when you walk in, you see exactly what you thought it would look like… and people are happy.

The restoration verges on the unbelievable, and a credit to the efforts of those responsible for what really is a miracle rescue.

The historic building is today home to The Shed and the Chew Chew Bistro restaurant, both characterised by rustic tones, iron and timber, along with eclectic furnishings and furniture that give the venue a warm welcoming appeal.

Previously, we were in an industrial complex, and now we’re in shed, so the location is perfectly suited to us,” Mr Ryan explained.

“People come great distances to shop here… you can come along and have a nice meal and then meander for 20 or 30 minutes amongst all the vintage goodies in the retail area… there is no business like it within all of Queensland and half of New South Wales.

Some of the walls of the shed are not quite plumb, as you’d expect of such an old building, but it suits the character just fine – it’s also a reminder of the long and productive life this building has endured so far.

The rail shed was built by a cooperative of farmers and producers around 1919, and helped store locally-grown produce like pineapples and citrus, prior to shipping down to Brisbane. At one stage, it was one of the busiest railway yards in Queensland, hosting some 30 trains a day.

The aging building faced an unknown future after the death in 2014 of former owner Peter Crosby, whose rural supply business was a well-known tenant of the shed through the 2000s.

It was initially hoped the shed could be repaired by and utilised for the community, but the massive scale of the required restoration work and convoluted land leases made that plan problematic.

I own the buildings but everything under the buildings is land on a long-term lease to Queensland Rail, but the ultimate owners are the Department of Transport and Main Roads – so they lease it to Queensland Rail and Queensland Rail leases it to me,” Ms Stokes explained.

The sheds were in a very poor state, and there was a clause in the lease said that once the lease was terminated or expired, the buildings had to be removed from the site.

We decided to take on the restoration as a project – it was either that or the building would have fallen apart and the lease would have expired and there would have been no trace of the building anymore.

Geoff was the one who came past and saw the building and fell in love with it and decided it was what he wanted for his business.

It has been amazing… What they have done in there now, it was something that was in the back of my mind as being always the ultimate way of using this building, and it’s all just come together so well.

For an extended version of this story, visit here.


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