LOCAL ICON: The Muttaburrasaurus dinosaur that was photographed by visitors from around the world survived the fire with some minor damage.
LOCAL ICON: The Muttaburrasaurus dinosaur that was photographed by visitors from around the world survived the fire with some minor damage.

Popular truckie watering hole destroyed by fire

OUTBACK Queensland's historic Grand Hotel, which was destroyed by fire on Friday night, had been a popular stop off for truck drivers.

For more than 90 years truckies would patronise the Grand Hotel in Hughenden on their trips along the 900km Flinders Highway between coastal Townsville and Mount Isa.

It had been a meeting place for others in the road transport industry - drovers, ringers, jackaroos, jillaroos, bosses and silvertails, stock agents, ringers, preachers, and many of other occupations had enjoyed a night at the Grand.

Numerous big business deals were done there over a cold beer and a genuine outback meal.

Hughenden is 388km from Townsville and some old-timers even had photos of horses and drays outside the hotel in its early years.

A Hughenden resident sent us this dramatic pic of the blaze which also damaged a neighbouring house and a business across the road.
A Hughenden resident sent us this dramatic pic of the blaze which also damaged a neighbouring house and a business across the road.

The hotel was constructed in 1910, opened two years later and closed for business in 2004.

It was purchased by the Flinders Shire Council and remained a landmark.

Outside the hotel was the replica of a Muttaburrasaurus dinosaur that was photographed by visitors from around the world.

The replica survived the fire with some minor damage.

Police issued a statement early the next day after the tragedy advising an investigation into the fire was underway.

"Emergency services were called to a hotel on Gray Street at 9.30 pm following reports that the building was on fire. On arrival, the hotel was well alight, and the building was destroyed as a result of the fire.

Damage was also sustained to a house next door to the hotel and to a business across the road.

Police have guarded the scene overnight and specialist officers will attend the site today to continue to investigate the cause of the fire,” the statement said.

I was sent several pics of the blaze by a Hughenden resident who said all nearby buildings had been evacuated.

The Grand Hotel was listed in the Queensland Heritage Register in 2007 and was a fine example of a two-storey timer watering hole once common in rural towns.

It was built in a time of growth with Hughenden being an important service centre with supplies delivered there and far beyond by railway and trucks.

"I don't think there was much our boys could do about it.”

A Queensland Fire and Emergency Services spokeswoman said the pub was abandoned and there were no reports of anyone being injured in the fire.

She said two crews were able to bring the fire under control shortly before 10.30pm, containing it to the single building. 

Late in working life the Grand became famous around Australia and even in many overseas countries for a unique "bra bar”.

Many a deal was made and story swapped in the hotel's famous bra bar.
Many a deal was made and story swapped in the hotel's famous bra bar.

Second-hand women's bras and knickers left by backpackers from around the world were auctioned for charity when it closed due to the prohibitive cost of meeting fire safety requirements.

When the pub closed its doors on July 31, 2004 the bras and knickers were auctioned.

I covered that memorable night and had more than the odd amber fluid with some truckies and others.

The reason for the closure was because of the high costs of upgrading the wooden two storey wooden structure due to meet fire safety standards.

That was a reality facing many old hotels in the outback because of the fire safety standards, which have been looked at closely by the Government since a fire, which claimed many lives at a Childers Backpackers building in June 2000.

Contributors to the bra bar over a five year period had been hundreds of female backpackers and Australian visitors.

Women from places as far away as the USA, the UK, Japan, Scandinavia, South Africa, Germany, Holland, France, South America and many other countries - as well as Australian visitors - had taken off their bras and knickers and left them hanging on the wall at one end of the public bar.

"We have had hundreds of backpackers over the years who have left their bras and pants here to be part of the collection,” co-publican Mr Coles said at the time.

The bra bar featured in articles around the world and the other co-publican Marilyn Arnett said she did many Aussie radio interviews on the day of the closure.

"I did 12 radio interviews from as far away as Perth and all around Australia. It was amazing,” she said.

Ironically funds raised from the underwear auction went to the Hughenden Fire Brigade to help fire-fighters attend the State Fire fighting Championships and several thousand dollars was raised.

Then there was a pizza-eating contest with contestants being shearers, ringers, business people and normal residents turned up to see the auction.

"All of the bras and undies were in good condition and ready to wear,” Mick said.

Another fixture at the Grand Hotel was the famous red armchair situated on the top verandah.

Many truckies will have wonderful memories of their visits to the Grand Hotel where you could enjoy country friendship and camaraderie.

It may be gone but won't be forgotten.

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