In October 2015 I spent just over a week in far North Queensland to film the various sugar cane train networks that can be found between Mossman and Tully. I spent about a day and a half in Mossman and experienced mostly difficult weather conditions: overcast and very windy. The former takes away the brightness that sunny shots provide and the latter plays havoc with audio recordings, even with a ‘dead cat’ on the microphone. Certainly not the best conditions but having travelled so far you have to work with what you get.
Mossman is located north of Cairns and sits in the shadow of Great Dividing Range (hence the propensity for wet weather). It is the last town of any significance prior to Cooktown and one of the last before entering the Cape York area. The townscape still has that ‘undeveloped’ look about it, notwithstanding a relatively new supermarket complex south of the main business district, and the skyline is dominated by the sugar mill which, during the season, also scents the air with that rich, sweet aroma that is so prevalent around the mills.
One of Mossman’s most famous streets is Mill Street, which runs from the mill towards the centre of town and then out to the cane fields to the north and west. Trains trundle along the street regularly during the season (and this will be a feature of a future film). Out in the cane fields, the relatively small network (65 km) runs north, south and west of the town. Some of the runs are very short (e.g. to nearby Shannonvale, where there is a large loading point). One feature of this network is the use of bogie wagons (or ‘bins’ as they are known in the industry). Many networks only use four wheel bins or a limited number of bogie wagons but Mossman has embraced the larger bogie variety.
I saw a decent number of trains on this day, but the weather was daunting, which took the edge off the experience. Ironically, on the drive back to Cairns in the late afternoon, I was clear of the cloud cover and enjoyed brilliant sunshine – well away from any railway lines!