Sugar cane railways – 2

Back to Australia and North Queensland for this post.  A day exploring inland, more or less at random, discovered the sugar cane processing plant at Tully (well, actually, I worked out where it was, and found it by ‘accident’).  The company website describes the rail system and process as follows:

To enable Tully Sugar Mill to crush sugar cane at a constant rate of around 700t/hr, a consistent supply of freshly harvested cane is required. To achieve this aim reliably and efficiently, a well-constructed and maintained rail network is exclusively used. Where the cane growing area has expanded well beyond the existing rail network, semi-tippers are used to transport the cane from the farm to the nearest delivery siding, where it is then brought to the mill on the rail network.

The entire rail network consists of over 200km of mostly 60lb rail for the main line, as well as approximately 80km of track for delivery sidings and loops.

The rail network meanders throughout the picturesque Tully district to encompass the cane growing areas, and is in a continual state of upgrade and expansion.

The rolling stock used to carry the harvested cane to the mill are called “Bins”. They have a nominal capacity of 4 tonnes. In the Tully district, these “Bins” are all paired up to form one “Unit” of 8 tonne capacity. They are only separated for maintenance or repair. This increases efficiency and assists in maintaining high mill crush rates. There is also a growing fleet of 10 tonne bins being introduced into the system to replace the 4 tonne bins. There are approximately 1650 “Units” in service and these usually manage to carry an average of 8.3 – 8.5 tonnes each. In each day the Mill requires approximately 2100 loaded Units, so some Units are loaded twice in a day.

To haul the rolling stock Tully Sugar Mill currently has a fleet of 15 Locomotives.

Of these there are six 40 tonne DH (Diesel Hydraulic) locomotives and six 18 tonne Com-Eng locos which are usually paired up as three “double-headers” and two 18 tonne Com-Eng locos that are not paired up.The double-headers are used to greatly improve tractive power and increase hauling capacity.In addition to this there are three 8 tonne Baldwin locomotives used for maintenance and repair work to the rail network.

On dayshift during the season there are 9 locomotives in service. During the night there are between 5 and 7 operating

For the rail enthusiast, there is plenty to see, even from the plant boundary, with a constant movement of cane and empties – needed to maintain that flow of 700 tonnes/hour of cane for processing.  They are using 4-wheels trucks here, rather the larger bogie ones shown in my earlier post on cane railways.  As usual, my photographs are not the best, but give an impression of the size and activity of the whole operation.

P1000463 P1000468 P1000477 P1000464 P1000465 P1000478 P1000466 P1000467

Tully Sugar also have some larger diesel hydraulic Bo-Bo’s. I only saw one at the back of the shed (can you spot it above), but here’s a picture from a web-site.


Tully is one of, if not the, wettest place in Australia.  We also visited it just a few months before Tully was very badly damaged by Cyclone Yasi on 3 February 2011.   That fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia tells us that:

According to residents, Tully was “…a scene of mass devastation”. An unknown number of homes were completely destroyed as intense winds, estimated at 300 km/h (190 mph), battered the area. Many other homes not destroyed sustained severe façade and or roof damage.  As daybreak came, reports from the town stated that about 90 per cent of the structures along the main avenue sustained extensive damage.

I have sat out a number of severe typhoons in Hong Kong, but living in well designed modern high-rise buildings, they are more a matter of interest than danger (but don’t walk through water in the street, in case you drop down a manhole where the lid has blown off).  I can’t imagine sitting out the storm in a tin-roofed bungalow.

068144-tully-after-yasi 853529-tully-cyclone-yassi

About snitchthebudgie

Secretary of the East Surrey N Gauge railway club
This entry was posted in Out and about, Prototype and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Sugar cane railways – 2

  1. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    YEAH!!!! SWEET TRAINS!!!! WHOO-HOOO!!!!!! 😀


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