Sugar Cane Railway work steams ahead

Ross Driver and Ron Stitt
Ross Driver and Ron Stitt with the old rail sleepers at the Australian Sugar Cane Railway in Bundaberg.

The Sugar Cane Railway at the Botanic Gardens is one of the region’s most popular attractions with more than 630,000 passengers travelling on the train since 1978.

With such a high volume of traffic, a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to keep the rail tracks maintained.

Ross Driver, who has been part of the Australian Sugar Cane Railway since the start, has always been involved in the sugar industry and is currently the secretary and a locomotive driver

“I love the history, especially the sugar industry right from a little kid when we were out on my grandfather’s farm on Hummock Road,” Ross said.

“It’s important to have this Sugar Cane Railway here to remind people of the sugar industry.”

Sugar Cane Railway
The Australian Sugar Cane Railway at Bundaberg Botanic Gardens.

Sugar Cane Railway shaping up for record year

Ross believes it could be one of their busiest years ever.

“We are up to over 31,000 visitors already this year and we will probably make the 40,000 passengers. It could be a record year,” he said.

Ross loves seeing the faces, young and old, when the train pulls into the station.

“It’s a great thrill,  especially when they see the steam and hear the whistle.”

Vice-president and railway engineer for the organisation, Ron Stitt, has had more than 30 years working in railways and loves the company and the people.

“It keeps us active and keeps us fit. We suffer the heat; we complain but we still come back and do it the next day,” Ron said.

With nearly 2km of track around the Botanic Gardens and 3000 wooden sleepers the Sugar Cane Railway takes a lot of maintenance.

“We have a commitment to maintain our track in good condition because we  come under the auspices of the National Rail.”

Ron Stitt maintaining the railway
Ron Stitt inspects the new railway sleepers at the Australian Sugar Cane Railway in Bundaberg.

Ongoing maintenance program

With the wooden sleepers weighing 30kg and the concrete sleepers weighing in at 70kg it’s not light work.

“We replaced 31 sleepers on Monday, which is a big days’ work in the heat and with the ground so hard we had to hire some additional machinery”.

Their goal is to replace all the wooden sleepers and the team have replaced 25 per cent.

“We have a minimum number we strive to achieve each year.

“We’ve more than doubled that to achieve our goal to replace the 3000 sleepers within 10 years.” 

With the Christmas School Holidays now on, the Australian Sugar Cane Railway will be running every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

It will be closed Christmas Day but will run on Boxing Day instead.