Tolga, a rural town, is 45 km southwest of Cairns and five km north of Atherton. It is on the western side of the Atherton Tableland, where the coach road passed from Herberton to Port Douglas. Originally named Martin Town, the name was changed to Tolga in 1903 when the railway line was extended from Mareeba. It is thought that the name was derived from an Aboriginal word describing the red volcanic soil.

Tolga is in a partial rainshadow from the Bellenden Ker Range, and the annual rainfall is suited to cropping. Early farm selectors often rented their allotments to Chinese ex-miners who grew maize, vegetables and small quantities of peanuts. With additional farms brought under soldier settlement after World War I, farmers turned to peanut growing because of low prices for maize and pig meat (fed on maize). The development of peanut growing and associated storage facilities were facilitated by the State government, and Tolga became the Atherton Tableland's peanut centre. Marketing was assisted by the construction of the Cairns to Atherton railway (1903), and with further line extensions Tolga became the junction for branch lines to Yungaburra (1910) and Millaa Millaa (1921). In 1924 Pugh's Queensland Directory recorded Tolga as having two hotels, several stores, three refreshment rooms, two blacksmiths and a saw mill. A maize storage silo was erected near the railway in 1924. Peanut processing was carried out until 2004 when the factory was converted to a warehouse.

Atherton had a hack racing course but in 1947 formed a turf club which laid out a racecourse at Morrow Park, Tolga. Optimistically, the club predicted that Morrow Park would become the Flemington of the North. The Atherton Turf Club today hosts ten meetings a year.

The branch railway line closed in 1964, but the loss scarcely dented Tolga's population growth. The town benefits from passing tourism, with the Bones Knob lookout (a former volcanic vent) a few kilometres west. The main crops grown are potatoes and maize. Tolga has local shops, a hotel, a railway museum and a State primary school (1895). Its census populations have been:

Census DatePopulation

Tall timber and golden grain, Atherton 1885-1985, Atherton, Atherton Centenary Committee, 1985


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