Posted by: travelrat | December 20, 2010

The Cane Train

You see a lot of little railways like this in and around the canefields of northern Queensland. They’re used for hauling the sugar cane from the fields to the mills. The video here isn’t my best ever; we were in a coach that was overtaking the train when I took it.

But, there’s links to other YouTube videos that show the locos to much better advantage.

These 2-foot gauge railways had a strange origin. They started life in the trenches of France, in the First World War. They were used to transport men and materiel around the trenches and, when the war was over, the tracks were taken up, to be shipped piecemeal to the canefields of Queensland.

A few of the steam locomotives used on the trench railways survived too. In Wales, the Ffestiniog Railway’s ‘Mountaineer’ is one example that’s still running. Another one eventually finished up in Queensland, having got there by way of the now-defunct Penrhyn Railway. I last heard of it being used as a climbing frame in a children’s playground in Lion Park, Bundaberg.

If anyone has any up to date information on this, or any other former trench railway steam locomotive, I’d love to have it … and, if anyone has a photograph of the Bundaberg loco, which once carried the nameplate ‘Felin Hen’, and would like to give me permission to use it, I’d be delighted to post it here.

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Responses

  1. This reminds me of a trip I took to Cairns in the late 70s. We saw the cane trains back then and didn’t realise what they were until we passed by the plantation. Quite an incredible sight!

  2. Hi Keith,
    The old cane trains seem to go forever don’t they. They are just so long, nothing worse than waiting for one to pass if you are at a crossing in the car.
    Sorry I can’t help you out about the ‘Felin Hen’ but there is an old photo in Wikipedia of some troops in one of these trains if anyone is interested to have a look.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trench_railways

    • That’s a good site! There’s a picture of ‘Mountaineer’ on it. also some Baldwins like ‘Felin Hen’ … there’s one preserved at Leighton Buzzard.

      Still not heard of the fate of ‘Felin Hen’; I last head of it in Lion Park, but there was a rumour it had since been removed from there for restoration??

  3. Although World War I equipment was certainly used in Queensland, the narrow gauge lines started back in the early 1880s. You can see one of the original locos in the Australian Sugar Industry Museum at Mourilyan http://qldrailheritage.com/qrh/asim/lz_locos.jpg
    As for ‘Felin-Hen’ it is now in working condition at ‘Tacot des Lacs’ near Nemours in France

    • Thanks very much for the info, John! Would the original railways maybe have been horse-drawn, or were they worked by steam locos throughout.

      I will pass the info on Felin Hen along to my friend; his father drove it when it worked on the Penryn Railway in the 1930s, and was asking where it is now.

      • There were 2ft gauge steam locomotives at work in Queensland hauling sugar cane from 1882. The one shown (on the left) at the Mourilyan Museum was built in Leeds in 1883. Of course, draught animals and tractors have also hauled sugar cane trains from time to time at various locations. More details here: http://www.lrrsa.org.au/LRR_SGRb.htm
        John


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