- The Changing Face of Chermside
- Where Gympie & Rode Roads Cross
- The occupancy of the present intersection of Rode and Gympie Roads shown on the photo
- The Original Chesney Caravan Yard by Neil Chesney
- The Chesney Caravan Story by Neil Chesney
- The Business becomes Chesney's Corner
- Move to Factory Production of Caravans at Stafford
- The First Caravan Convention
- Expansion to Lawnton 1968
- Advertising the Caravans
- Sale of the Business
- Chesney Caravans Today
The Changing Face of Chermside
Originally the site of a blacksmith's forge, a bicycle shop and a corner shop the site became the home of an Australia wide caravan firm.
Where Gympie & Rode Roads Cross
The occupancy of the present intersection of Rode and Gympie Roads shown on the photo
The north west (upper left) corner is occupied by the Chermside-Kedron Uniting Church of Australia. The white roofed complex is a combination of Church and Community Centre and it replaced the original buildings of the Chermside State School which began in 1900.
The north east (upper right) corner is occupied by Cheapies Car Sales which uses the buildings erected by Chesney's Caravans which replaced a corner store, a bicycle shop and a blacksmith.
The south west (lower left) corner is occupied by a two story financial offices which replaced a large timber and tin Queenslander.
The south east (lower right) corner is unoccupied at present but a few years ago had a couple of shops and a service station.
The Original Chesney Caravan Yard by Neil Chesney
After Alex Chesney was discharged from the air force prior to the end of the Second World War he started a motor garage at Abbotsford Road Mayne called Mayne Motors. Ron Rankin from Carapark Pty Ltd approached him to buy that premises and for Alex to take over and manage Carapark Qld Pty Ltd.
This he did for about 4 or 5 years and in 1950 he paid Grenville Plucknett 2,5 00 pounds ($5,000 or $95,000 in 2005 values) for his blacksmith and carriage building property which was the third block on Gympie Road from Rode Road. He cleared the site and using it as a sales yard he started Chesney Caravans Pty Ltd.
He began the business buying and selling used caravans and adding new caravans bought from backyard manufacturers.
Alex erected a new building on this block using iron left behind, such as old cart axles, for reinforcement in the concrete floor and traded there till about 1960.
The Chesney Caravan Story by Neil Chesney
As the business grew he bought Ron Harbottle's bicycle shop which adjoined his business on Gympie Road. It was a small building in which Ron, who was a well know competitive cyclist in the area, manufactured and sold Lancer bicycles.
Sometime later Daybell's store, which stood on the corner of Rode and Gympie Roads, was bought by Alex. It was possibly built in the 1920s and had a succession of owners including a family named Green and another named Lusk but little is known about them.
The Business becomes Chesney's Corner
The final purchase was the lot of the milkman, Charlie O'Brien, which fronted on to Rode Road and went behind the other three blocks thus completing the square shape of the Chesney property.
The Chermside business was a sales and service centre employing eleven people. Mr Arthur Doherty had another caravan building business a few doors along Pilba Street where he sold Trailer Home caravans.
The motor car, hauling a caravan, had finally displaced the corner store.
Move to Factory Production of Caravans at Stafford
In approximately 1960 Neil Chesney, son of Alex started a factory to produce their own caravans on Hayward St Stafford. The original building was 100ft by 50ft (30.5m x 15.3m) and was purchased for 5000 pounds ($108,500 in 2005 values); it was extended twice until it was 200 ft. by 50 ft. (61m x 15.3m). The first caravan took 6 weeks to complete and at the time of opening the factory on Gympie Road, Lawnton the Stafford factory was producing approximately 3 to 4 caravans per week with a maximum of 60 employees.
The Stafford factory produced domestic caravans as well as busses, horse floats and commercial caravans for the mining companies, Rothmans, Australian Army, American Oil drillers, and exported a complete accommodation camp to New Guinea. Whilst at Stafford the factory completed the largest single caravan order, then or now, for the construction workers at the Gladstone alumina refinery. This order consisted of 500 caravans some of which were 15 ft. and others 18 ft. long, delivered them to Gladstone and set them up in a new caravan park.
The First Caravan Convention
In about 1960 the first Caravan Dealers conference was held by Chesney Caravans at 29 Murray Street, Wilston, a well-known Brisbane function centre. The attendees were mostly Queensland dealers plus representatives of insurance companies and suppliers.
The aim of the conference was to release new models and to show the dealers the new factory at Hayward Street, Stafford.
Expansion to Lawnton 1968
The third move was to larger premises on Gympie Road, Lawnton where over 450 workers were employed producing up to 22 caravans a day (110 per week). There were another 100 employees around Australia at wholesale yards etc., while approximately 80 dealers in every state of Australia sold Chesney Caravans.
At Lawnton the firm produced commercial caravans as well as domestic caravans. At that time it was the largest producer of fibreglass products in Queensland and the largest employer in the Pine Rivers Shire. The largest caravan produced at Lawnton was 50 ft. long by 10 ft. wide (30.5m x 3m).
Chesney Caravans was the biggest selling caravan brand in Queensland and the 3rd largest in Australia.
Advertising the Caravans
Thousands of people would see these travelling bill boards as the trams navigated the streets at a stately pace.
Sale of the Business
In about 1972 the Lawnton factory and Chesney's of Chermside were sold to Concrete Industries (Monier) Ltd which ran it for about 4 years before closing it down.
The Chermside property was sold to Mr. J. Jeffries. Other owners were Brisbane Camperland and later, Boot's Camping. The latter put the big Boot on the roof which they obtained from a footwear factory in West End when it closed down.
Chesney Caravans Today
If the World Wide Web is any guide, Chesney caravans are still widely sought after. A recent Google survey found 1,350,000 results for Chesney Caravans on line. It seems that that there is a vintage market in the earlier models. The following links provide a lot of information about Chesney Caravans.
- Link to website Vintage Caravans - Chesney caravans. - This website is about the Chesney business before the family sold out in 1972.
- A second link Classic Caravans - Lawnton Queensland - applies to the time after 1972 when the company was known as Caravan Industries Pty Ltd, Lawnton, QLD.