The sugar industry being such a diverse
industry there was not a great deal of
conformity amongst the mills and their rolling
stock due to their being owned by different
Hence, every mill had its own bin fleet although
reasonably similar in size the bins had
different dimensions, different couplings,
different wheel sizes, different wheel spacing
and different capacities.
There were six mills in the Pioneer Valley of
Mackay up until 1988 when industry
rationalisation forced the closure of two mills.
The remaining four mills shared the locomotives
and rolling stock of the two mills that closed,
giving the new owner of the four mills, Mackay
Sugar a varied bin fleet to operate.
Today Mackay Sugar operates bins of four
capacities, 4 tonne, 5 tonne, 6 tonne and 15
tonne. However the 4t fleets of Marian and
Farleigh can not be mixed due to different cage
dimensions, wheel spacing and coupling heights.
All mills have a mixed bin fleet except
Racecourse who are the only mill with 5 tonne
bins. This is due to the rotary coupling on
these bins that allows them to be emptied in a
rotary tippler at the mill without uncoupling
the bins. All other mills uncouple their bins
prior to tipping and re-couple immediately
Mills and bin fleets
are as follows:
Farleigh – 4t and 6t bins
Marian – 4t and 6t bins
Pleystowe – 6t and 15t bins
Racecourse – 5t bins.
Pleystowe is the only mill which can tip all bin
Farleigh can not tip Marian 4t bins or 5t bins
but can tip 15t bins in an emergency however the
full bin yard can not handle the bins
automatically and they must be fed into the
tippler by a locomotive on the rear of the
Marian can not tip Farleigh 4t bins, 5t bins or
Racecourse can only tip 5t bins.
Bin numbers are as follows:
4t – 2507 (1468 Marian and 1039 Farleigh)
5t – 2423
6t – 5798
15t – 203
Total - 10,931 bins.
The 15t bins are fewest in number as they have
only just started to be introduced into service
with the intent of phasing out the 4t bin fleets
by placing 15t bins at Pleystowe and pushing 6t
bins from Pleystowe into Farleigh and Marian.
All bins are of fixed 4 wheel design except for
the 15t bins which are of a bogey design.
Bins are very basic in design with the chassis
and cage frames being constructed of box section
The floor and sides are either sheet iron or
steel mesh or a mixture of both. No bins have
brakes fitted so the only braking in the train
comes from the locomotive at the head of the
train or a brake van if attached to the rear of
Empty bins are very light with the 4t and 5t
bins weighing 1.2t empty, 6t bin weighing 1.5t
empty and the 15t bin weighing 3t empty.
Bins cost approximately $1000 per tonne carrying
capacity to construct. I.e. a 6t bin costs
approximately $6000 AUD to construct. Simple,
cheap and effective.
This shows the Dumbbell couplings still coupled while the tippler
5t bins coupled in the Racecourse tippler before being tipped.
This shot shows how the dumbbells are coupled. First step it to drop
one of the dumbbells into the opposing coupling.
Secondly, the second dumbbell is dropped into place to lock the
first dumbbell into place so that it can not fall out when the bins
are inverted in the tippler.
This shot probably should come first in the coupling series. Before
bringing the bins together for coupling, both dumbbells are retired
out of the way.
older and cruder link and pin coupling on the 4t bins. Very taxing
on shunters fingers and drivers nerves. No one will be sorry to see
the last of these.
shot shows a Farleigh 4t bin coupling. Although all 4t bins have
link and pin couplings, the Farleigh coupling is different to the
Marian coupling as each coupling has a link and a pin. The Marian
bins have a pin at one end of the bin and a link at the other end of
the bin and because of this can not be turned around as you would
end up with two bins facing each other with either 2 links or 2 pins
and would not be able to couple them. The Farleigh bins were built
like this because the Farleigh yard is a large balloon loop. Every
time the bins come in to the yard they go out facing the same way.
For example they come in link end leading go around the balloon loop
to be emptied and go out link end first. Upon their return they
would come in pin end first. Before long chaos would ensure as some
of your fleet would be facing one way and some would be facing the
other. How to solve the problem? Put a link and pin on every end. In
the Marian yard, all bins are run around an angle and turned before
backing them into the yard. Hence, no requirement for two pins and
example of a coupling designed to couple Willison automatic couplers
to pin and link couplers (6 or 15t to 4t).
Willison automatic coupler fitted to 6t bins. This version is called
a Half Willison and is a smaller version of those fitted to
locomotives and the 15t bins. As long as the coupling lever is
cocked the shunter does not need to go near these couplings.
The half Willisons between the 6t bins
bigger version of the Willison automatic couplers. Known as ¾
Willisons these are fitted to the 15t bins and locomotives. You can
see compared to the ½ Willison that these allow for a lot more
is unique at Mackay Sugar as at most tipplers the bins are pushed
into position by the axles or the bin headstocks. Goliath when in
position lowers to arms between the bins and pushes on the bin cage
to move the bins forward.
full 6t bins waiting to be tipped in the Pleystowe tippler.
bins being tipped dumping 12 tonnes of cane into the conveyer.
bins are completely inverted and are now empty. This process occurs
approximately every 80 seconds at Pleystowe and is completely
automated, even the uncoupling of the bins. The bins are weighed on
the tippler when full, then again when empty. The tare of the bin is
deducted from the gross weight to determine how much cane was in the
bin. The juice extracted from the cane is tested to determine how
much sugar was in the cane and the grower is paid accordingly for
weight and sugar content.
road transport unloading station
at the North Eton depot, once
the site of North Eton Mill.
North Eton was the first mill
closed in the Mackay district
due to rationalisation in 1988.
The cane unloaded here is
harvested over the Clarke range
where rail transport is just not
viable. So it is loaded into
trucks and transported by road
to North Eton where it is
transloaded into 15t bins.
“B Double” truck climbing the
ramp onto the transloader. The
Clarke range can be seen in the
truck positioned above the rail
bins on the transloader. The “B
Double” truck can haul 45t of
sugar cane, 15t in each
photo shows one of the
containers tipping into a 15t
is also hauled in railway bins
to rail sidings by truck from
isolated areas where rail is not
a feasible transport option. The
truck will take empty bins from
the rail siding to the road
transport siding, unload them
and return with full bins to
unload at the rail siding. Here
we see a road transport truck
about to unload 3 x 6t bins in
the Marian network. The truck
will then take 3 empty bins back
to the isolated road transport
siding and unload them and so
we see the full bins rolling off
the truck simply by means of the
small incline where the truck is
parked. Empty bins are then
winched back onto the truck.