Isis Central Sugar Mill at Childers is making 70,000 sleepers on site to deliver a major expansion to its cane rail network.
The mill is currently engaged in laying 39km of new line to give rail access to cane farms as far afield as Wallaville and Gin Gin.
Through the utilisation of a workforce experienced in cane rail building and the talent diversification of its staff, the Mill is undertaking the work within a $15 million construction budget.
Chief Cane Officer Paul Nicol said the mill had been innovative in its approach to the expansion sourcing quality second hand bridge building materials, used railway line and producing concrete reinforced sleepers in-house.
“Our workshop produces 300 sleepers every day and we have a significant stockpile available. Mill staff producing 300 sleepers per day
“Staff working in our sleeper manufacturing facility have been tasked at producing on site the estimated 70,000 concrete reinforced sleepers required in laying the new line. This work provides the Childers concrete supply company with the delivery of two loads of premix every day.
“The sleepers are one aspect of the mill’s ability to produce materials for the project. Having a diverse workforce that includes electricians, welders and carpenters means our staff are the major contributors to the labour component of the project.
“One of the very exciting aspects of this project is the use we are making of the existing infrastructure which remained following the closure of the old rail corridor.
“There are nine bridges required across the project and we have been delighted to be able to use some of the bridge infrastructure originally built over 100 years ago.
Mr Nicol said engineers had inspected the bridges and identified material that needed replacement.
“As luck would have it we were able to source a significant amount of material recovered from steel bridges within the former Hughenden to Winton rail line.
“Our tradesmen are converting them for use on at least four of the bridges we require. We have also purchased a significant amount of second-hand rail line.”
Bundaberg Region Mayor Jack Dempsey said the project was one of tremendous regional importance.
“In addition to the efficiencies it will produce for the mill, the impact it will have on road safety will be significant,” he said.
“Once completed, the tramline will eliminate an estimated 6000 heavy vehicle movements and reduce an estimated 21,000 heavy vehicle movements currently incurred in transporting cane from these locations to the mill each year.
“Rail transport will also cut an 80km round road trip in half, which is a significant economic benefit.”
Woco Creek bridge replacement a major project
The largest bridge currently under refurbishment is a 21-span monster located across Woco Creek.
Mr Nicol said work was progressing well and he was amazed at the durability and longevity of the timber used in the original construction.
“The historic Roman numeral marks on pylons showing the depth they are buried is a link with the origins of this rail corridor and the construction techniques really do increase your appreciation for the engineers who designed and built these bridge crossings,” he said.
Further down the new line at the Sandy Creek crossing another bridge faces repair. At this site there is more evidence of the historic nature of this former rail corridor.
Paul explains that it was the site of Thynne, one of the scheduled stops along the original line which ran from Childers to Dallarnil.
He points to an old railway sign with the ghosted impression of the name Thynne – although the original metal letters have been removed.
A short distance from this stop is a dam site on Sandy Creek with a barrage wall still in existence and in remarkable order.
Decades ago, the impounded water was pumped to the nearby rail line providing water to service the original steam trains.
Work on the 39km of new track is expected to be completed by the commencement of the 2020 crushing season.
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