Railway Estate, a residential suburb, is two km south of central Townsville. It is separated from the town centre by Ross Creek and is on the area previously known as Ross Island.
The Great Northern railway from Townsville to Charters Towers was opened in 1880, the route starting at Flinders Street and crossing Ross Creek to Ross Island. Workshops were established between the station and the Queens Road causeway which crossed the creek to Ross Island. Railway employment and wharf employment were thus within walking distance of a housing estate which started in the 1880s on Ross Island, and known as Railway Estate.
The wharf area (now South Townsville) had a primary school (1884), churches and hotels, which delayed the building of those facilities in Railway Estate. The Railway Estate primary school was opened in 1916 on the east side of the railway line, an area which has a grid street layout and some of Townsville's oldest houses. The houses are mostly high-set and many have been well restored. In 1919 the Catholic sisters of Mercy moved a building from North Ward to Ninth Avenue, Railway Estate and opened the St Francis primary school.
North of the causeway a wetland in Railway Estate known as Monkey Island was reclaimed, and Townsville's new high school was built there in 1924. In addition, the railway goods yard was transferred to Railway Estate in 1924. Housing spread to the east of the line as well as toward the new goods yard. Pugh's Queensland Directory (1949) recorded Church of England, Presbyterian and Catholic churches in Tenth Street and the Estate Cinema (later a skating rink) at the corner of Railway Avenue and Boundary Street. There were several neighbourhood or corner stores, the last surviving one being Carter's in Tenth Avenue. St Francis school closed in 1975.
The later residential areas contain examples of postwar austerity houses, and reclamation of southern wetland areas proceeded until the 1990s. The reclaimed Monkey Island site was also used for Townsville City Council's Civic Theatre (1978). On the eastern side of Railway Estate, the shoreline of Ross River, there are the Army amphibious fleets barracks.
From being a working-class, blue-collar suburb in the 1970s, Railway Estate moved to a middle class position in the 2000s.
Railway Estate's census populations have been:
J.J. Page, Ross Island 'mud-pickers': a history of Ross Island/South Townsville State School, Townsville, Townsville State School, 1984
Ross Island entry