New Burnett River crossing?

 
  BwG Station Staff

Location: California
The April 2013 issue of Railway Digest had an interesting article about railways in the Bundaberg area, by Rod Milne. It includes discussion of the cane railways of Bingera mill (north of the Burnett River) and Millaquin mill (south of the river). Regarding Bingera mill, it mentions “pleasing announcements in 2012 that the mill was to be upgraded and integrated with the system south of the Burnett River by a new tramway bridge.”

Can someone tell us more about what is meant by integrating the two systems? And the new tramway bridge? Where exactly will the new bridge be located? In which direction will cane move across the bridge? When will the new bridge be built? How will the operations of the two mills be impacted?

I’m interested in any level of detail about this, having grown up in Bundaberg, knowing the river well (great fishing in those days), and being familiar with the tramway systems on both sides of the river.

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  Expost Deputy Commissioner

Presumably, it would be to replace the cane truck ferry and associated infrastructure that was lost in the floods earlier this year. Downstream of the city.
  SignalSparky Station Master

Presumably, it would be to replace the cane truck ferry and associated infrastructure that was lost in the floods earlier this year. Downstream of the city.
Expost
That is partly true, but I think the planning for a bridge to replace the cable ferry was already underway before the 2013 flood. See below link.
http://wojo12.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/new-bridge-for-bundaberg.html

This is not my blog, but it does show a barge adjacent to the Strathdee's Cable Ferry (before it was swept out to sea) testing the ground for a possible bridge.

The intergration of the Millaquin & Bingera cane railway systems would allow for easier transfer of cane either way across the new bridge (if it is built). In later years the Cable ferry was hardly used to transfer cane and was only used to balance out the crop between the two growing areas late in the crushing season as a result of lost time at either mill. In all truth it was a fairly labour intensive operation, usually needing at least 2 trucks capable of handling three 6 ton bins each as well as the Ferry operator. There was also the safety aspect of marine vessels colliding with the cable ferry or the cables themselves whilst in operation. (Bundy Sugar would heavily advertise on radio when the ferry was in operation)

In relation to which direction the cane will go, well both ways depending on operational requirements (ie. shutdowns/breakdowns/balancing the crop between the 2 mills). If the upgrades that were done at Millaquin in the past 2 slack seasons had actually been successful and increased its crushing throughput. Then I think the true purpose of the bridge would have been to allow cane from the north side to be hauled by rail to Millaquin, thus not requiring Bingera Mill to crush at all.

I'm not sure if the bridge project has proceeded any further since the soil testing. I'm guessing that alot of money would of been spent on repairs to the cane rail network as well as some mill infrastructure due to this years flood. Time will tell I suppose.
  Graham4405 Minister for Railways

Location: Dalby Qld
Was that the ferry near the defunct Fairymead Mill?
  SignalSparky Station Master

Was that the ferry near the defunct Fairymead Mill?
Graham4405
Yep, that's the one.
  BwG Station Staff

Location: California
Thanks, especially to SignalSparky, for all that information. I’m way out of date, and hadn’t known that the cable ferry was most recently used to move cane by road between the mill systems. When I lived there, it was for moving raw sugar from Fairymead mill to the port. Actually, when I was rather young (dare I mention the late 1950s), prior to bulk sugar, an earlier (smaller) version of the cable ferry brought loaded tram trucks across to Fairymead from their plantation at Strathdees. On numerous occasions I rode in the loco (the ex-Burrinjuck Kraus “Archie”) down to the ferry when it hauled cane from the ferry back to the mill. (No doubt modern regulations have curtailed those kinds of rides today.)

Yes, I can imagine a lot of expense needed for repairs to the cane rail network after the flood, so who knows when or if we’ll see a cane rail bridge across the river.

However, the following occurred to me while I was writing this message: If the bridge does happen, the cable-ferry location seems an odd choice, unless it’s specifically to take cane from the northern part of the Fairymead cane area to Millaquin. This conclusion is based on the map in the April 2013 Railway Digest article. Millaquin's new Strathdee line, mentioned in the article, and shown in the map, looks like it may specifically fit that scenario. It's not clear why else a new line would be constructed along that route, i.e. a direct line from the mill to the location of the cable ferry. If this reasoning is correct, then the plan for a bridge may still be alive, albeit delayed.
  rusty Junior Train Controller

Location: Bundaberg
The ferry is now gone for good it got washed away in 2013 flood and has never being found. The ramp on the Fairymead side was damage and is now being looked at for a new boat ramp, I think?
  awsgc24 Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney
The tram ferry sounds interesting.
  EMBaldwin Chief Commissioner

Location: Amongst the Cane Fields
The ferry in use...



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kB2je6_leFM
  BrianBS Locomotive Driver

The ferry in use...



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kB2je6_leFM
EMBaldwin
Interesting piece of film, thanks for posting that. They didn't waste any time getting the truck both on and off the ferry, no tie-ups, just hit the bank and drive straight on and off !

However, when the clip finishes, there is a very pleasant little surprise - if you look a couple of clips into the 'what's next' section, you'll find a fantastic 10 minute clip of the sugar cane trains in Nambour, including operation of the steam locos between Howard Street Yard and the Mill. The scenes of the steam loco taking a run at the grade, then slowing down and slipping are good, then the diesel banker pushes over the slow spot and the train runs into the mill grounds. Good photography, as I said, a very nice little surprise !

PS - I've just found another clip of Nambour called "Moreton Mill Critters 1991", but it only shows diesel traction, no steam !



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7RIAyDEQfg
  johnbrowning Beginner

Location: Brisbane
Actually, when I was rather young (dare I mention the late 1950s), prior to bulk sugar, an earlier (smaller) version of the cable ferry brought loaded tram trucks across to Fairymead from their plantation at Strathdees. On numerous occasions I rode in the loco (the ex-Burrinjuck Kraus “Archie”) down to the ferry when it hauled cane from the ferry back to the mill.
BwG


Dear BwG
Thanks for this first-hand information about operations in the 1950s.
Fairymead's Spring Hill plantation supplied cane to Qunaba from the later 1950s, in exchange for cane from Milllaquin assignments north of the river at Morelands and Gooburrum.

Is there any chance of you knowing what Fairymead used on the other side of the river to bring cane from the plantation to the ferry?

Do you know by any chance Ted Flint who lived on the Fairymead plantation as a boy in the 1950s?
He has privately published a book on Fairymead locomotives.
With thanks and best wishes
John Browning
  Graham4405 Minister for Railways

Location: Dalby Qld
Is there any chance of you knowing what Fairymead used on the other side of the river to bring cane from the plantation to the ferry?
johnbrowning

John: I know someone who may be able to answer your question. I'll see if I can get any info from him.
  Graham4405 Minister for Railways

Location: Dalby Qld
My contact advises:

The (then) Fairymead Sugar Co owned Springhill, Grange and Rubyanna Plantations on the south side of the Burnett River as well as two in the Isis area. Before the re-zoning of cane assignments circa 1959, all sent their cane to Fairymead Mill. QR was used initially but become more self-reliant, the company built a tramway and cable ferry to transport cane from Springhill, Grange and Rubyanna to the mill. I don’t know what was used to haul the trucks on the southern side but suspect it would have been either horses or ex-WWII Blitz trucks (a lot of those were used for that sort of work prior to laying heavier lines in later years).

When the three plantations were transferred to Qunaba, the ferry was then used to carry lorries hauling bulk raw sugar from Fairymead Mill to the Bundaberg Port. A bridge across the river was considered as part of the plans for closure of Qunaba in 1985; however it did not proceed (a daft decision in my book considering the cost of a contractor hauling the bins onto/off the ferry and its limitations). Initially the rail infrastructure was set up for cane only to go northwards but in 2005 it was altered to enable traffic both ways. Even so, its capacity was still limited to about 360 bins per day.

A bridge was reconsidered again in the late 90’s as part of the ‘B2K’ project which involved building a ‘super mill’ to replace the existing ones. The scheme was ambitious and included several parties but eventually fizzled out. The proposed bridge was to carry a QR line (to the port) as well as a cane railway.

The ‘new Strathdee’s Line’ at Millaquin mentioned by one poster was principally intended to reduce the distance from the ferry to the mill. The old circuitous route over existing lines built to service Qunaba and Millaquin Mills was more than 22 km long and had several steep grades together with numerous busy road crossings. The new line is only about 8 km in length devoid of any serious grades and has only two level crossings over relatively minor roads.
My Contact
  johnbrowning Beginner

Location: Brisbane
Thank you very much, Graham
I was intrigued in researching at the Bundaberg Foundry to find a record of a repair order that seemed to relate to a Malcolm Moore locomotive at Spring Hill but haven't discovered anything more.
John
  BwG Station Staff

Location: California
Thanks everyone for the extremely interesting information about this subject.

I can’t add anything to the data provided by Graham4405's contact. I can confirm that Fairymead had a large fleet of ex-WWII Blitz trucks, some of which were used in places for moving tram trucks. I’m fairly sure that I recall horses being used to unload loaded tram trucks from the cable ferry on the northern side of the river in the early 1950s, but I don’t know about the southern side of the river. The mill had a significant number of draft horses at the time, large stables right beside the mill, and a major sadlery workshop.

John, No, I do not recall Ted Flint, but he must have been at Fairymead when I was there. Somehow the name Flint rings a bell as I knew most of the families living there, but those recollections aren’t as reliable as they might be. Presumably Ted’s book is no longer available?

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