Isis Central Sugar Mill

The Isis Central Sugar Mill
Isis Central Sugar Mill was built towards the end of the 1890s between Apple Tree Creek and Cordalba, an area roughly to the northwest of the Childers township.

At that time there were a number of sugar mills operating around Childers including Goodwood Mill, Knockroe Mill, Huxley Mill ( owned by CSR) Doolbi Mill, South Isis Mill and the Good Hope Mill so there was plenty of competition for the new mill and the co-op of local growers who it.

Within 35 years all the competition was gone leaving the cane fields to the Isis Mill.

Transferring cane bins from road transport to rail

Bringing in the cane
The mill’s rail system collects the harvested cane in two ways:

  • Cane bins are dropped off at numerous sidings throughout the network as the cane is being harvested in that area. Tractor-hauled Loadouts transport the cane straight from the harvester to the waiting can bins and when a rake is full a loco comes back to haul them away.
  • In other places there are small yards where road trucks bring loaded cane bins in from areas that have no sidings. The loaded bins are exchanged for empty bins that are then hauled back to where the harvesters are working. Locos from the mill bring in more empties and haul the loaded bins back to the Mill.

A part of the Mills network of lines is built on the formation of an abandoned Queensland Railways branch line that ran through Childers and the Mill is currently planning on using more of that abandoned formation to extend it’s network 20km to the west.

Locomotives
The Isis Central Sugar Mill’s locomotives currently consist of a small fleet of 9 diesel hydraulic locos to bring the cane in from the fields.

6 of the locos … numbered D1 to D6 … are rebuilds of Queensland Railways DH class diesel hydraulic locos. The rebuilds were carried out by Isis Mill (D1, D5 and D6) and Walkers Engineering (D2. D3 and D4).

The first 4 were rebuilt in 1994 while D5 was rebuilt in 1999 and D6 was rebuilt in 2002.

The remaining 3 locos are:

  • D9 – an 0-6-0 diesel hydraulic built by Clyde Queensland in 1975
  • D10 – a B-B diesel hydraulic built by EMB in 1977 and
  • D11 – a B-B diesel hydraulic built by EMB in 1982

Currently all locos with the exception of D9 are in use hauling cane throughout the crushing season. In recent years D9 has only seen use on navvy trains.

Harvesting times
This year cane harvesting began in July and in previous years the season has ended in late November or early December.

Isis Mill's D11 on a string of empties bound for the Goodwood line

Isis Mill’s D11 has run through Childers with a rake of empty bins and is now headed down towards the site of the old Doolbi Mill.

The brake van that is permanently paired with D5

Cane bins have no brakes and so the only braking force is whatever can be provided by the loco … and the brake van.

Isis locomotives are paired with a brake van that carries the same number as the parent loco. 

The brake van is usually the frame and bogies from a scrapped loco. Extra weight is added to the brake van’s frame along with a small generator and radio control equipment that is linked to the locomotive.

In the above image D5’s brake van is bringing up the end of a train of empty bins heading out from the Mill.

Bibliography
All photos are from my collection

Zelmer, Lynn, 2007, ‘Isis Central Sugar Mill, Cordalba Queensland’, NGDU25: 2007, no. 497, pp. 16-19

Light Railways Research Society of Australia Inc website: http://www.lrrsa.org.au , Australian Sugar Industry Locomotives – February 2000

Facebook. Australian Sugar Cane Trains / Navvy Pics 2ft