I am an Organiser of the Group Hiking South East Qld and More on Meetup. Visit the website at https://www.meetup.com/HikingInSEQLDandMore/ is free to join all the activities posted on the hiking group.
Published May 18th 2021
The Stinson Plane Rescue is a story of courage and survival
The search and the rescue carried out by Bernard O'Reilly and by the local community is a story of courage and survival.
The Stinson Trail track runs along Christmas Creek until Westray's Grave and then it climbs up the steep mountain to the site of the Stinson plane crash and rescue. This hike is for experienced and fit hikers.
The Group Hiking South East Qld and More hiking the Stinson Trail. Photo by Author
The Stinson Trail is classified hard: the trail is very steep, especially the first section, then the trail becomes more manageable; the trail is uncharted, remote. Consider hiking this trail if you have a reasonable amount of fitness and carry at least three litres of water in the backpack.
If you hike the Stinson Trail in summer, you need lots of water. Make sure to bring electrolytes to put in your water to compensate for the loss of minerals.
Allow 8-10 hours, about 15km return. For this hike, consider carrying a map or download a good app on your smartphone that can help you to navigate in the forest.
At the end of Christmas Creek Road there is a gate. You can open the gate to continue the hike. This sign is just after the gate. Photo by Author.
I hiked the Stinson Trail in April and the site has been disturbed by the fall of a tree. Now the sun manages to brighten up the site when in the past, it was all under the canopy of the forest. Photo by Author.
On the 19th February 1937, the Stinson Airliner took off from Archerfield, Brisbane for Sydney with five passengers and two pilots. The passengers James Roland Graham, William Fountain, John Proud, Joe Binstead and James Guthrie Westray. The pilots, Captain Rex Boyden and co-pilot Beverley Shepherd, had over 6000 hours of flying experience between them.
The Stinson plane failed to arrive at Lismore where it was supposed to pick up more passengers and a great air search was carried out. Unfortunately, the Stinson plane crashed on the McPherson Range, on the Lamington Plateau. After disappearing into the clouds over Mt Widgee, the plane was caught in a terrific down draught and smashed into the steep slope, close to the crest of the range. Bernard O'Reilly set off with his horse to search for the plane, to continue then on foot when the forest became impracticable for the horse. Nine days after the crash, Bernard found two survivors, John Proud and Joseph Binstead. It was a great rescue initiated by Bernard and the survivors were taken back to safety.
James Guthrie Westray survived the plane crashed and went in search of help following Christmas Creek. Unfortunately, he fell over a waterfall and he got severely injured. Bernard O'Reilly found him seated in the creek with a cigarette in his hand but he wasn't alive.
James Guthrie Westray was buried nearby Christmas Creek in the beautiful forest.
Today, only a few parts of the wreckage are on the site. Apparently, the engines were removed from the site, loading them on horses and bits and pieces were taken as souvenirs. Probably there are more parts of the plane scattered everywhere along the slope.
You can see remarkable memorabilia inside the Beaudesert Historical Museum. The Museum has a collection of relics and written records relating to the "Stinson crash" of 1937, including some parts of the aircraft. You can see the flask, the cigarette box and the watch.
What to bring
Hiking medium backpack, long trousers and shirt with long sleeve, light raincoat, very recommended hiking ankle supportive boots, first aid kit, insect repellent (it works as a deterrent for leeches as well; give preference to cream or roll-on that are more environmentally friendly than the spray), gloves, walking poles if you like to use them; socks protectors or gaiters; tissues, phone and a working torch.
Water 3 litres, lunch, snacks (you may consider packing sandwiches, tinned meat, dry fruit, fresh fruit, bars, small meals such as rice, boiled eggs).
Consider packing some extra clothes and leaving them in the car. Pack some clean footwear and socks.
Internet, reception and GPS: there is limited reception at the Christmas Creek Café. It may be difficult to receive and send messages, access the internet or making phone calls.
Please consider if your GPS runs on Internet you may lose the signal. Always carry with you a map of the area or download maps on your phone. Plan your trip in advance, you may make some photocopies of the directions from Google.
The address is Christmas Creek Café & Cabins 2745 Christmas Creek Road Lamington Qld 4285. From Brisbane CBD it takes about 1h 40minutes, about 120 km.
From Brisbane reach Beaudesert. Then follow National Route 13 to Christmas Creek Road in Laravale. Stay on Christmas Creek Road, the Christmas Creek Café is on the left.
From the café, keep following Christmas Creek Rd until the carpark. The bitumen road then changes into a dirt road, still driveable by conventional vehicles. From the café to the carpark it takes about 12 minutes, 6 km. The unpaved road can be a bit rough, especially after heavy rains.
Because of the limited carpark at the end of Christmas Creek Road, it is better to carpool at the Christmas Creek Café and Cabins There are also few creek crossings and they are not recommended to pass them in case of heavy rain. In good weather, the creek crossings can be easy negotiated with a 2wd car.
The hike starts at the end of Christmas Creek Road.
Leeches: leeches are worms and they are present in rainforests, especially if humid or wet. It may help to apply beforehand some insect repellent, especially on ankles and legs. Bushman cream is very good. Consider to use the bushman roll or cream. If you wear gaiters, still put on some insect repellent. Once the leeches are attached is difficult to remove them. Insect repellent, gaiters, long trousers and thick socks may help to prevent them.
The countryside along Christmas Creek Road. Photo by Author.