Chillagoe. The historic pub in this old former copper mining and smelting town on the western fringe of the Atherton Tablelands.
Outback pastoralist William Atherton took out the Chillagoe run in the early 1880s. Copper deposits were found by prospectors in 1887 working for John Moffat but it was 1893 before John Moffat and others formed Chillagoe Proprietary Limited. The company approached the Queensland government to build a railway from Cairn to Chillagoe. The government was not enthusiastic and so in 1899 the Chillagoe Railway and Mining and Railway Company was formed. The railway was extended from Mareeba to Almaden in 1899 and then to Chillagoe in 1901. The Queensland government took over this private railway line in 1919 and operated it until about 20 years ago. The Cairns to Forsayth railway, which is still operated by the government, bypasses Chillagoe. The government town of Chillagoe was declared in 1910 but an unofficial existed before that. Once established the town boomed. A side railway line from Almaden to Forsayth (1910) bought more ore into the copper and other ore smelters at Chillagoe. The Chillagoe smelters processed copper, lead, silver and gold from throughout the region. At its peak more than 1,000 men were employed in the smelters. Today Chillagoe has about 200 residents. The town relies on tourism, marble mining and a little zinc mining. Nearby are several national parks preserving the limestone karst landscape of the area. Dozens of caves can be explored beneath the karst outcrops. At the town smelter site are several old kilns, yards for separating ores and three giant chimney stacks, Most of this infrastructure was built in 1906 and 1907. The Queensland Labor government took over ownership of the smelters in 1919 and finally closed them in 1943.
The bitumen peters out before one reaches Chillagoe. This is the end of the line for most people. Next petrol and township after Chillagoe is 560 kilometre away on the Gulf of Carpentaria. .