The 2ft gauge railway system of Moreton Mill at Nambour, just 60 miles north of Brisbane in Queensland, has been reprieved for a further 12 months. The mill was expected to close at the end of the 2002 season but an agreement between millers and growers has extended operations for a further year. The mill is said to be too small to operate economically and its tramline system serves less than half the cane growing area. A new ethanol plant on a new site is expected to commence operations in 2004 and will almost certainly be served exclusively by road transport.
The mill commenced operations in 1897 and had 75 miles of main line in 2001. A number of uneconomic lines were cut back in 2002. It is normally operated by a Clyde 0-6-0DH (named MORETON), two E M Baldwin 0-6-0DHs (BLI-BLI and PETRIE), and a Baldwin B-B DH (COOLUM). There are also two Com-Eng 0-6-0DHs (DUNETHIM & JAMAICA), two Baldwin 0-4-0DHs (VALDORA & MAROOCHY) and two small Malcolm Moore 4wDMs (JOE & JIMPY) of WWII Australian Army vintage. Preserved at the mill are another Malcolm Moore (SANDY) a John Fowler 0-6-0T (EUDLO) and a Shay (SHAY).
SANDY is the locomotive immortalised in Australian children’s literature as “Sandy the Cane Train”. In more recent times, a new series of children’s books has been produced with “LORRY LOCO” the hero, and the Mill’s COOLUM runs with this identity, complete with face!
The mill normally operates from August to December and is easily accessible from Queensland’s capital, Brisbane. Running in a very attractive area scenically, it is famous for the line that brings all the mill’s cane down the centre of a road through the town centre.
For those unable to visit in 2003, there are still another 22 sugar mills with narrow gauge railways in the 750 miles of coastline from south of Bundaberg to north of tropical Cairns. These have almost 2000 miles on main lines, about 250 diesel-hydraulic locomotives and 52,000 cane “bins”. Truly a modern Narrow Gauge Heaven.
Anyone intending to visit Queensland’s sugar cane lines is welcome to contact John Browning