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Moreton Mill's steam locomotives

The first steam locomotive purchased by the Moreton Central Sugar Mill was a small 0-6-0T side tank steam engine from the agent O. Granowski. Local rumour said it had come secondhand from a line in German New Guinea, but it is much more likely that it was ordered for the Proserpine Mill, and stored in new condition for a period after that order was cancelled due to lack of funds (Proserpine was also a struggling 'guarantee mill' under Government control), before being acquired by Moreton Central.

Built in 1901 by Krauss in Germany (B/N 4687), this engine had 9.25 inch x 12 inch cylinders, and 24 inch diameter wheels. It used Stephenson's outside link motion valve gear, the connecting rod and eccentrics of which were mounted on the third drivers. It was commissioned in July 1904 and named Moreton. This little locomotive proved very successful on the flat lands around the Mill, but could not negotiate the steep route up the Highworth Range which continued to be worked, together with some hilly sections of the Image Flat, Coe's Creek, Perwillowen and Paynter's Creek lines, by a roster of forty horses. The Moreton was fitted with a four-wheeled tender in the early 1920s to increase its coal and water capacity. This was needed as the routes over the tramway network were lengthening and additional operating range was required. The Whyte notation for the wheel arrangement of this loco was therefore changed from 0-6-0T to 0-6-0T+T.

To ascend the Highworth Range, the Mill purchased a small Shay geared locomotive. It was one of the second smallest Shays that the Lima Locomotive and Machine Company had in its catalogue, a type A, class 13-2 loco. The class number '13-2' simply means that the machine weighed 13 tons in working order and had two trucks or bogies. The class code was 'Abe' and its tractive effort was 6050 lbs. The loco was ordered with a gear ratio of 2.467 to 1, giving a hauling capacity on the level of 643 tons. The engine supplied was builder's number 2091 of 1908 and was commissioned in August of that year, whereupon it was named Dulong.

The Mill gradually increased its fleet of small locomotives over the years, the engines being named after the various settlements served by the network. Nambour, an 0-4-2T, was purchased from Hudswell Clarke in 1914. Its name was changed to Maroochy sometime before 1922. In January 1924 an 0-6-0T locomotive arrived from John Fowler's works in Leeds. This was named Coolum. In July 1925 an identical 0-6-0T arrived from Fowler's Works and was named Eudlo. A small 0-4-0T built by Dick Kerr was purchased second-hand from Racecourse Mill near Mackay in 1937 and named Valdora.

In 1960(or 1954 or 1959 - accounts differ) a used Fowler 0-4-2T loco was purchased from Babinda Mill and named Petrie. Although some diesel locos had been purchased in the past (the Vanguard oil-engined locomotive was purchased as early as August 1922), in 1960 the Mill purchased its last steam engine, to replace Shay, which had been condemned by the Machinery Inspector that March. It also was bought second-hand from Babinda Mill, which like many mills was selling off its steam locomotive fleet and converting to diesel traction. The loco was a Fowler 0-4-2T fitted with a turbo-generator and electric lighting, and upon its arrival was named Bli Bli. All of the locomotives weighed less than 20 tons in working order.

Of all the conventional locos, Maroochy was the most powerful, but Clive Plater says that it was more prone to derailment than the others. Mike Loveday stated that at one time a trial was conducted to see if Maroochy, with its short fixed wheelbase, could make the climb up the Highworth Range. As it inched its way very carefully around the problematic horseshoe curve, the leading wheel flange occasionally tried to climb the rail. One source states that Maroochy actually derailed more than once at the curve during this experiment, but Mike claimed that it eventually reached Mapleton. The trial was not regarded as a success, so henceforth the horseshoe curve and the rest of the line to Mapleton were left solely in the hands of the two Shays, which handled the hills and curves with ease.

All of these locomotives performed sterling service at the Mill, until they were replaced by small diesel hydraulic locomotives in the 1960s. As each steam loco was retired, its name was transferred to the replacement diesel. By 1970 steam traction had disappeared in Nambour.

Railway historian John Browning has assembled a collection of photographs of the little steam locomotives in action. These now form a rare archive of scenes that will never be repeated. Click here to access a selection of 32 photographs taken in and around the Moreton Central Sugar Mill. Click here to access more photographs from Mr Browning's collection, covering locomotives from other Queensland sugar mills.


Where are the locomotives now ?


All of these engines are still in existence, although none is in working order. An exception of sorts is the Moreton, which still hauls trains on a daily basis, though not in steam (see below).

Bli Bli (John Fowler & Co. Ltd, Leeds, England, Builder's No. 14418 of 1916), 0-4-2T, purchased from Babinda Mill in 1960, decommissioned in October 1967. Plinthed at Muller Park, Bli Bli, Queensland from 1968 to June 2011. Redevelopment of Muller Park necessitated removal of the locomotive. Now on display alongside Valdora at the Nambour Historical Museum at the Bury Street entrance, adjacent to the entrance of the new Nambour Mill Village shopping precinct. Reasonable condition, new shotgun chimney fitted, possible candidate for cosmetic completion in the future. Click here for Fowler's general arrangement drawing of this locomotive, and here for the drawing of a locomotive of a similar type, but with a saddle water tank (drawings contributed by Anthony Sims). 

Coolum (John Fowler & Co. Ltd, Leeds, England, BN 16036 of 1923), 0-6-0T, ordered from the builder in 1923 but not delivered until January 1924, decommissioned in 1968, used as a stationary boiler for work at the Mill, repainted in 1970, and parts removed in 1972 to keep its twin Eudlo operational in case of emergencies. Sold to the late Edgar Plater for $220. Cosmetic restoration, now privately owned by Edgar's son Clive Plater, Robinson Road, Eudlo, Queensland. Good condition, though not steamable. Click here for Fowler's general arrangement drawing of a locomotive of this type (drawing contributed by Anthony Sims).   

Eudlo (John Fowler & Co. Ltd, Leeds, EnglandBN 16207 of 1925), 0-6-0T, purchased new in July 1925, set aside in 1968 but kept operational, used as a stationary boiler for work at the Mill, repainted in 1970, finally decommissioned in 1975 as the Mill's last remaining steam locomotive when the boiler failed inspection, then put on display at the Mill. Cosmetically restored for the Mill's centenary in 1997, when it was placed on a low-loader and took part in a parade through Nambour. After the Mill's closure, it was donated to the Nambour Historical Museum, Mitchell Street, Nambour, Queensland, adjacent to the Moreton Mill site, where it is now on display. Restored cosmetically for display, not steamable, twin to Coolum above. Click here for Fowler's general arrangement drawing of a locomotive of this type (drawing contributed by Anthony Sims).   

Petrie (John Fowler & Co. Ltd, Leeds, England, BN 19930 of 1933), 0-4-2T,  purchased from Babinda Mill either in 1954 or 1959 - sources differ. Set aside in December 1962, but reported running in 1963. Finally decommissioned in October 1967. Now owned by Timbertown Heritage Railway at Wauchope, N.S.W..     

Maroochy (Hudswell Clarke & Co. Ltd, Leeds, England, BN 1078 of 1914), 0-4-2T, purchased new in 1914 and named Nambour for the first < eight years. Set aside in December 1962 (as 'a disaster waiting to happen'), but reported running during the 1963 crush. Was privately owned in very poor condition at Murrumba Downs, Brisbane, Queensland, and offered for sale at auction, December 2006. Its present whereabouts are unknown. 

Valdora (Dick Kerr & Co. Ltd, Kilmarnock, Scotland, BN possibly 191 of 1893), 0-4-0WT, purchased second-hand from Racecourse Mill near Mackay in 1937. Used on the then lightly-laid Valdora branch. Decommissioned in September 1964. Until 2013, Valdora was plinthed at the Sunshine Coast Railway Modellers Society's outdoor live-steam track, Florence Street, Nambour, Queensland. Now on display alongside Bli Bli at the Nambour Historical Museum at the Bury Street entrance, adjacent to the entrance of the new Nambour Mill Village shopping precinct. Reasonable condition, new chimney with diamond-pattern spark arrester fitted, some rods on left-hand side, slide-bars and cylinder covers missing, possible candidate for cosmetic completion in the future.

Krauss (Locomotivfabrik Krauss & Co. Munich, Germany, BN 6854 of 1914), 0-6-2T, ex-Buderim Tramway. This is the largest Krauss to operate in Australia. Cosmetically restored and presently located on private property at Wise's Road, Maroochydore, awaiting Council funding for a shelter to be built near Buderim Swimming Pool, Queensland (close to the site of the Buderim Station).

Shay (Lima Locomotive Corporation, Ohio U.S.A., previously Mapleton BN 2800 of 1914 with some parts of Dulong BN 2091 of 1908 attached in 1948). Decommissioned in March 1960. Fair condition. Owned by the Sunshine Coast Regional Council, and presently located at Nambour Historical Museum with Eudlo, Bli Bli and Valdora. The two unwanted bogies were acquired by the Illawarra Light Rail Museum Society and are presently under a new fabricated Shay frame at their facility at Albion Park, New South Wales (see below).

Moreton (Locomotivfabrik Krauss & Co. Munich, Germany) BN 4687 of 1901, 0-6-0T+T. Purchased in 1904, fitted with a tender in the early 1920s, decommissioned in July, 1967. Now at Yandina Ginger Factory, Queensland. Operates daily with hydraulic drive, not in steam (see below).

Click here for photographs of Bli Bli, Eudlo and Valdora taken in February 2007.

Click here for photographs of Eudlo taken on 17th May 2008, on the occasion of its official unveiling after cosmetic restoration at the Nambour Historical Museum.

Click here for photographs of Shay and Bli Bli under their new shelters at the Nambour Historical Museum in 2011.

There were three tiny Malcolm Moore locos with Ford V8 petrol engines - Sandy, Jimpy and Joe. All three were ex-War Disposals stock. The first two came to the Moreton Mill straight out of military service in World War II, but Joe worked at the Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) plant at Dry Creek in South Australia until purchased by the Moreton Mill in 1956. Sandy is presently at the Nambour and District Historical Museum.

Diesel-engined locomotives were purchased by the Moreton Mill from 1963 on, and by 1965 four were in use. The steam locomotives were gradually withdrawn, and the new diesel locos assumed the names of the locomotives they replaced (more or less). The 1967 crush was the last for Nambour's steamers, and at its conclusion all were set aside, although Eudlo and Coolum were kept operational and available for work if required. In 1969 the diesel Bli Bli was damaged in a fall from a bridge, and while it was being repaired, the steamer Eudlo took over its duties.

Clive Plater, whose father Edgar worked at the Mill for 51 years, has advised that in 1970 Coolum and Eudlo were given a full repaint and passed for work if required. They were used as stationary boilers to provide steam for maintenance and cleaning work at the mill at the end of season, up until their boilers failed to pass the annual inspection. This was probably about 1971 for Coolum and 1975 for Eudlo. On November 30, 2013, Her Excellency Ms Penelope Wensley AO, Governor of Queensland, launched Mr Plater's book Locomotives of the Moreton Central Sugar Mill, which contains information on all of the locos used by the Mill, both steam and diesel, as well as the numerous small rail tractors. The book describes the origin, details and working information of each one in turn, and is lavishly illustrated, the later pictures being in colour. Copies are available from the Nambour Historical Museum.


The  'Moreton' is still at work   

The small locomotive Moreton was the first steam engine used by the Moreton Central Sugar Mill and worked for 64 years until being decommissioned in 1969. It now may be found at the Yandina Ginger Factory, a local theme park. It hauls tourists and local visitors around a short length of track circling the park.

This old 0-6-0T built by Krauss of Germany has been cosmetically restored and, though its builder's plates are missing, the year of construction '1901' is painted on its smokebox door. The name 'Moreton' emblazons both side tanks. Some boiler cladding and the dome casing are missing. Its boiler and cylinders do not work, yet it still hauls its train.

While under Mill ownership the locomotive was fitted with a small four-wheeled tender for carrying extra fuel. That tender is now in private hands at Eudlo, but a similar tender has been built to carry a diesel-driven hydraulic pump and fuel tank. Fluid under pressure is pumped across to the locomotive through flexible hoses. A small hydraulic transmission is housed under the floor of the engine's cab, the drive being taken to one axle of the loco by means of twin roller chains. These can be observed passing through the firebox if the firehole door is opened.

The coupling rods of the engine connect all six wheels to the driven axle, to drive the locomotive along. A small air compressor and reservoir provide air to operate the whistle. The original outside Stephenson's valve gear still exists in more-or-less working condition, the Johnson bar being left permanently in the full forward gear notch. Whereas the external running gear appears to be well lubricated and in good order, the condition of the valves, steam chests, pistons and cylinders is not known.

This form of operation was chosen as it did as little damage as possible to the locomotive. There is at present a tentative plan to run the engine under steam power in the future. This could be done by fitting an oil-fired steam generator in the tender, and piping the steam across to the locomotive cylinders. This would obviate the expense of fitting a new firebox and boiler, yet the loco would still make the sounds of a steam engine. To enhance the effect, a grate could be restored to the firebox, and a small amount of coal burned there, purely to provide a little smoke and the smell of an operating steam locomotive. Maybe in the future Moreton can be fully restored to its original working condition.

Click here for photographs of the Moreton at work, taken in February 2007.


The Buderim Tramway

An informative book describing this local line has been published by the Buderim-Palmwoods Heritage Tramway Incorporated (BPHTI) in 2010. Written by Neil McGarvie and S. Garth Fraser, it is in two parts. The first covers Buderim and its tramway, and the second records the restoration of the Krauss locomotive. Unfortunately, the book has sold out and is unlikely to be reprinted in the foreseeable future. All is not lost, however, as it remains available as a Portable Document Format (PDF) file of 104 pages on a CD-ROM, obtainable from the BPHTI .


The Hampton Shays

The two Shay locomotives at Munro's Hampton timber mill line near Toowoomba wore out and were written off, and all salvageable parts were removed. Explosives were used to break the cylinders off the boilers. The hulks deteriorated badly over the years, but parts of both locomotives eventually found their way to the Illawarra Light Rail Museum Society's track at Albion Park, south of Wollongong, NSW. Here, it was hoped to use the components of the two Shays (Lima Class A No. 906 of 1904 and Class A No. 2097 of 1907) to construct a single locomotive, which would hopefully one day be returned to steam.

Unfortunately, neither of the boilers could be utilised, and both engine units were unusable. In fact, very little of the Hampton Shays was found to be of any practical use in this project. Luckily, the ILRMS have a suitable Davenport boiler which they intend to fit to a restored frame, but a new engine unit will have to be completely fabricated from scratch. The crankshaft has recently been completed. The resulting Shay locomotive will therefore not be authentic, but hopefully will at least be operational. This will be a very long-term project.

As the Hampton Shays were built to a gauge of 2 feet 6 inches, the ILRMS has acquired the two spare bogies left over from when the Dulong was cannibalised to repair the Mapleton in 1948 prior to the former being scrapped. These are now placed under the frame of the new Shay, to enable it to run on the Society's 2 feet gauge track, so the two unused bogies from the Mapleton Tramway locos will be running on rails once more.

The following information has been found on the website of "Australian Steam - Preserved Steam Locomotives Down Under", and the reader may obtain additional information at the bottom of this page on that site.

It would appear that the remaining parts of the Hampton Shays consist of two boilers with no fittings (front, rear, possibly the second boiler), the bunker, a frame and at least two bogies. Having no use for the parts it held, the ILRMS apparently has sold them to the owner of Sketches Mountain Resort at Ravensbourne, Queensland, near where Munro's timber tramway used to be located. It seems that the resort may be planning a static display of a Shay locomotive in a replica engine shed.  The components departed the ILRMS at Albion Park on 14 February 2006. It is further reported that the new owner has examined Shay at the Ipswich Railway Workshops, and is having castings made of various fittings.

Home Page of the Illawarra Light Railway Museum Society

(Click on 'Locomotives Steam' and then on 'Shay')




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