A piece of Far North Queensland history, Lappa railway junction and pub, is for sale and locals like to say it is haunted.

Key points:

  • Lappa Junction is on the Chillagoe Road two hours’ drive west of Cairns
  • The hotel was built in 1900 by JW Walton, it was called the Federal Hotel and it still stands, but renamed the Espanol
  • The hotel, now museum with a BYO bar, on one-acre of land is for sale 

The word town may be a bit of a stretch when describing Lappa — a former railway workers camp and railway junction.

The one-acre parcel of land, which consists of a dilapidated house and ‘Australia’s oldest BYO 24-hour pub’ has hit the market for an asking price of only $340,000.

Lappa Junction, or “Lappa” as the locals call it, is situated on the Chillagoe Road two hours’ drive west of Cairns.

The land backs onto the Lappa train station which the North Queensland Savannahlander passes through twice a week.

While Lappa Junction was never a thriving town it is an important part of the history of the railways on the Tablelands.

According to Jen Wagner from the Cairns Historical Society, Lappa Junction began as the 55-mile mark on the Mareeba-Chillagoe railway in 1900, at the top of the Featherbed Range.

It was the site of a large camp of railway workers until the railhead moved on.

The hotel was built in 1900 by JW Walton, who called it the Federal Hotel and it stands there today.

In 1908 the hotel was sold to a man named Jenkinson and the licensee was Alwyn Ernest Williams, who renamed it the Family Hotel. Unfortunately, Jenkinson had an affair with Williams’ wife and Williams gave up the hotel licence. In 1910 the hotel was sold for £350 to Ysidero Barbera who renamed the hotel the Espanol Hotel.

A timber shingle, with faded words Hotel Espanol, hangs on rusty tin roof

The Lappa Junction pub was renamed Espanol Hotel in 1910.(

ABC Far North: Phil Brandel

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The hotel changed hands a few times until Mrs Leonard came into possession of the hotel in 1923 and kept it going until her death in 1966. 

Current owner Tim Prater, who is known locally as the ‘Yappa from Lappa’, said Lappa offered a unique North Queensland lifestyle with easy access to the rapidly growing tourism market.

“When I came here 30 years ago, nobody had lived here for years,” Mr Prater said.

“All the floorboards had been ripped up and all the doors and windows had been kicked in.

A man stands behind an old wooden bar with ramshackle shelves lined with empty bottles and rocks

Tim Prater ‘The Yappa from Lapper’ behind the bar of his very own 24 hour BYO pub at Lappa Junction(

ABC Far North: Phil Brandel

)

Overwhelmed by the interest

Mr Prater said he put ‘Lappa’ on the market about 10 days ago and since then the interest had been overwhelming.

“Within 24 hours we had over 1,000 shares [on social media] and a few thousand comments, everybody wants to buy their own town with its own pub,” he said. 

“I’ve sent several contracts out to people to see how interested they are.

Lappa consists of three 120-year-old buildings including The Espanol Hotel, which is now a museum and BYO bar, due to it not having a licence.

There is also church/house that was moved from Almaden to Lappa in the 1940s. The restored Lappa Railway Station is only about 100 hundred metres away but is owned by Queensland Rail.

The asking price is $340,000 and Mr Prater said there were also a few ghosts on the historic property that he will throw in for free.

“I’ve had a couple of incidents here on the property, I’ve heard people walking around the pub when I’ve been the only person here,” he said.

“I’ve also had a few doors banging away when there is no wind.

“Another time I was in the house and it sounded like there were 40 people drinking in the pub, that stood the hairs on the back of my head on end.”

Mr Prater has even given the ghost a name.

“One day an old lady turned up and she said that she had an Uncle Bill who died here in a backroom many years ago and that he is buried not far from here in a private cemetery,” he said.

An old kitchen from the 1900's with dilapidated wood burning oven, metal chimney inside holey corrugated iron shed

Part of the original hotel kitchen is still in place at Lappa Junction(

ABC Far North: Phil Brandel

)

While the pub and grounds need a bit of work Mr Prater said the location was perfectly placed for visitors.

“This is on the way to the Chillagoe Caves and the grounds could also be used as a campground,” he said.

“We get loads of grey nomads and international drivers when the borders were open, it just has so much potential.”

A piece of Far North Queensland history for sale
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