In 1886 the Queensland government introduced the Queensland Employers’ Liability Act. This Act was intended to provide compensation to workers, in certain circumstances, who were injured in the course of their employment. The Act seemed to provide a better outcome for injured workers than common law avenues. The Act did not live up to its promise. The construction of the Cairns -Kuranda railway in the 1880s is used to highlight some factors which exacerbated the dismal performance of the Queensland Employers’ Liability Act 1886. These factors can be related to the operation of medical funds by employers, activities of unions, and the care provided by wives and families.