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Cane trolley restored

(top)Simplex loco towing cane trolleys on Harwood Island. (bottom) Ken Woods with his restored cane trolley. Images: Contributed

Lawrence Museum volunteer, Ken Woods has been busy restoring a wooden cane trolley.
These particular types of wooden cane trucks (as they were known locally) were used to convey whole stalk hand cut cane to the C.S.R. Sugar Mill at Harwood from the early 1900’s until 1974 when the modern cane harvesters replaced the manual cane cutters, thus making the tramline haulage obsolete.
This particular cane trolley was found derelict at a farm in Kings Creek Road, Lawrence. It was previously used to take milk from the dairy to the calves and pigs. The farmer would have used a portable train track for the trolley.
British built Simplex locos were used to haul the cane trucks along the main lines of Harwood Island. These main lines went from the mill to the western end, eastern end and northern ends of the island and serviced the central sector of the island; the outer areas were serviced by tugs and barges.
A short main line also serviced a small area of Palmers Island, but these trucks were hauled to the riverbank derricks by a converted Fordson tractor. Each cane truck carried between 1 ½ and 2 tons of cane, depending on the variety and age of the cane.
The original cane trucks were built of steel in England and imported to NSW and as the steel units sustained quite a bit of damage over a period of years, instead of refurbishing them from steel, the rolling stock was utilised under wooden frames. These were cheaper and easier to maintain in the longer term.
This cane truck would have been constructed at the Harwood Mill workshops during the late 1950’s to mid 1960’s.
The tramlines used with this system were 19 inch gauge, whereas the Queensland system used a 24 inch narrow gauge line. Early records show the small gauge line in use in early 1900 in the Tweed and Richmond sugar areas.
As a child, Ken was brought up on Harwood Island, and has fond memories of riding on the cane trucks, “ It was quite a common past time for us kids on a Sunday afternoon, the sugar mill rarely worked at weekends in those days. Of course, it would never be allowed today.”
Ken has meticulously restored this trolley, and would particularly like to thank Notaras & Sons, Grafton, for donating the timber for this project.
Roz Jones

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