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A taste of the old days at Banjo’s

When the Queensland Railway Institute (QRI) formed in Ipswich in 1894, its mission and purpose was to provide a program of social, recreational, sporting and cultural events to Ipswich’s railwaymen and their families, and the provision of a substantial midday meal for its workers.

125 years later, QRI Banjo’s Bar and Restaurant in Bell Street prides itself on giving diners a glimpse into the past, showcasing the old railway canteen’s tradition of providing hearty and nutritious lunches at an affordable price.  Banjo’s meals have been modelled on those old railway canteen meals which were served up to the railway workers for around 2.5 bob.

Workers could opt to have a daily midday meal served to them in the railyard’s large dining hall where, for a small price, men could fill their minds as well as their bellies, with concerts, lunchtime guest speakers or lectures that covered a diverse range of topics. The canteen also provided a valuable way for workers to take part in social activities and sports outside of work.

QRI Ipswich Branch continues to be a part of the fabric of Ipswich.  Originally housed in the old stores building at the Workshops Railway Museum, QRI Ipswich branch took over the western suburbs Workers’ Club when it relocated to the Trades Hall in Bell Street in 2004, opening as QRI Banjo’s Bar and Restaurant.

QRI had long had a connection with Trades Hall as many of the members were members of both the Workers Club and the union, while some worked as volunteers for both organisations.

As a community club, or not-for-profit, any surplus income generated by QRI Banjo’s is used to support community groups and charities or to assist with events such as the 2011 floods, so diners will not only enjoy a tasty meal, but their patronage provides genuine help and assistance to the Ipswich community.

In 2019, diners can enjoy generous servings and a huge choice of meals for around $10, thanks to the restaurant’s extensive menu and daily blackboard specials.

History of QRI

  • Queensland Railway Institute started in 1894 to service Railway employees and their families throughout the state.
  • The Ipswich branch is one of the oldest and has served all members in the Ipswich area.
  • QRI Members were instrumental is starting the Queensland Railways credit union
  • QRI members and their families could enjoy organised sports such as golf, darts, basketball, cricket or touch football.
  • The annual QRI golf day could attract up to 144 players
  • The Ipswich Branch started the Industrial Cup Touch which was played every August between railway and business teams for 30 years.
  • QRI Club Touch has been going for over 21 years and, in its heyday, had up to 48 teams playing in competitions.
  • Ipswich branch members were involved in many sporting teams throughout Ipswich. Members were instrumental in the forming of Clubs such as Railways Rugby league club and Musketeers baseball club and North Ipswich Bowls Club.
  • QRI families could also play in local bands or attend a number of concerts
  • QRI also had its own library which was housed above the railway workshop’s time keeper’s office
  • Family picnics would be held at Christmas for up to 500 people
  • In the 1950s and 60s, QRI had a pool hall in Brisbane Street

QRI Banjo’s is located on level 2, 4 Bell Street Ipswich. It is open to members and non-members and offers an extensive menu, regular special offers and full bar facilities with six beers on tap.

Three hours free car parking is available in the Ipswich Central car park before 5pm Monday to Friday. Parking for dinner on Friday nights is free after 5pm.

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