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Urban rail news in brief - July 2015
Inland rail a trifecta for Toowoomba region: mayor
Mackay Sugar crushed the last of its cane for the 2015 season last night, signalling the end of a typically frenetic six-month period at the company's three mills.
Among those on the seasonal workforce who go flat out during the crushing season are the cane train drivers and assistants who cart harvested cane from the farms to the mills.
Driver's assistant Rose Ware said working on the cane trains was a dream job.
"You get to work outdoors, you get to drive around in a train, you get the sunsets, the sunrises... it's awesome," she said.
In the final days of this season's crush, Rose and driver Steve Bailey took ABC Rural on board for a trip into the countryside.
They started with 70 empty bins at Racecourse Mill and hauled them out to be dropped at three different locations where harvest teams needed them.
Leaving the empties behind, they then began collecting bins the harvesters had already filled with cane and hauled them back to the mill.
Cane train teams work in teams of two. The driver does the job his name suggests, while the driver's assistant steps on and off the slowly moving engine to 'throw the points', which is the action of flipping over the large lever at an intersection to switch the tracks from one direction to another.
The driver's assistant, or DA, also connects and disconnects the bins, and keeps track of the orders coming in from a central control station.
To the untrained eye, the first skills required appear to be organisation and communication.
"I actually like being a DA [rather than a driver,]" Rose said. "I like getting on and off, I like the physical side, I like walking the bins and throwing the points.
"Yeah, I couldn't sit still."
There are 200 drivers and DAs on Mackay Sugar's cane train engines, which in a regional town like Mackay represents a significant source of employment.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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