Re: Nerang Central Sugar Mill


This a test to see if all the 1564 words in this research document will fit onto a Yahoo group post. The image link is in the files section as previously noted.

Nerang Central Sugar Mill [Benowa QLD]

Peter Cokley 2013 www something petan missing net

The Nerang Central Sugar Mill was supplied by sugar farmers along both sides of the lower reaches of the Nerang River. By 1910 sugar from other area such as Helensvale and Stapylton was transferred from Queensland Rail wagons to the mill's tramway at Molendinar Station.

The mill itself was located near the present day Marbella Drive, Benowa, which is south of Ashmore Road and west of Benowa Road. The Nerang Central Sugar Mill Paddock extended from Benowa Road to Rosser Park which is now the Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens, with the mill on the western end of the paddock. The Nerang Central Sugar Mill closed at the end of the 1917 season. [Browning 2010 P.18] [Armstrong P.88/90]

The Nerang Central Sugar Mill operated a 2 foot / 610 mm gauge steam locomotive powered sugar tramway which eventually extended from the western end at Molendinar Railway station to the eastern end along the Nerang River near the present day area of Isle of Capri. [Arundell P.56] [Webber P.114 and map P.87] [Armstrong P.88/90]

The 0-4-0T tank steam locomotive was Hunslet locomotive B/N 1199 of 1915 built new for the Nerang Central Sugar Mill. Following the closure of the Benowa Mill at the end of the 1917 season, it was sent to Proserpine Mill and then to Gin Gin Mill in 1919. In 1924 it returned to the Nerang River area for the tramway involved in the road building between Main Beach and Burleigh Head. The locomotive was later used on the Proserpine Mill as #7 and scrapped in 1956 [McKillop (et al) P.277]. [Australian Sugar Journal 8/11/1917 quoted in Browning 2010 P.18]

Details of the Benowa Hunslet locomotive, including a technical drawing, can be in found in John Browning's "The Southport-Burleigh road construction tramway", in Light Railways, journal of The Light Railway Research Society of Australia Inc., issue 213 June 2010. This is available for purchase as a downloadable PDF from

The tramway was horse powered before the arrival of the steam locomotive with a horse shown in the c1897 image of a tramway cane wagon on the Carrara Ferry. That also shows a tramway system, at least horse powered, existed on the south side of the Nerang River. Further research is required to indicate if the southside used permanent or temporary tramway tracks. That c1897 image also shows the Carrara Ferry was human powered.

The mill wharf was located slightly upstream of the Carrara Ferry. The mill wharf was used to load processed sugar for transport to Brisbane on boats such as the "Maid of Sker" and farmers' suppliers from Brisbane were unloaded at the wharf on return. That side paddle steam boat is now preserved in a park beside the river at Nerang.

The Carrara Ferry, which closes in 1949, was at the river end of Benowa Road and was part of a major traffic route linking Southport, Benowa, Carrara, Merrimac and Mudgeeraba through the central areas of the South Coast. The route was sometimes known as "The Carrara Road". The present day site of the former southern terminal of the Carrara Ferry is now the Carrara Road boat ramp. This is in a major residential area, as is the northern side of the former ferry site. We recently did a site inspection of the Carrara Ferry's southern side, with views across to the northern side. No historical relics were seen as we walked around the southern site. [Armstrong P.93]

I traced the tramway route from the 1900s cadastral map onto the 1966 topographical map which I created by the merge of the relevant portions of the 1966 Burleigh and Southport survey maps.

The Nerang Southport Rd on the 1966 topographical around QR's Molendinar Railway Station dates from 1950 when the level crossing on the northern end of the station was replaced by the road over rail bridge just to the south of the station. The changes are shown pencilled in on the QGR Working Plan and Section [WPS] SCL B-N&S s14 Molendinar

The WPS also shows the QGR line from the Nerang River climbed at 1/50 so the tramway climb to the transfer facility at Molendinar Railway Station could be expected to not be steeper than that. The load uphill would be empties.

The Nerang Central Sugar Mill site was previously occupied by Robert Muir's sugar mill. Robert Muir and his eldest son Peter drowned in flood waters near Yatala on Monday 24 January 1887 [The Queenslander, Brisbane, 29 January 1887 P.167] [Armstrong P.88/90]
The administrators of the estate of Robert Muir advertised the sale of the Benowa Estate and Plantation in The Queenslander newspaper, Saturday 24 September 1887 Page 504 The auction was at the Benowa Estate And Plantation Monday 17th October 1887. In that era the area east of the mill was termed "Township of Muirlands" as noted on the sale brochure.

Following the closure of the Nerang Central Sugar Mill, sections of the Benowa Estate were subdivided with the sale at the Southport School of Arts, Southport on Saturday, October 21, 1922. This was advertised in The Brisbane Courier Saturday 12 August 1922 P.10

The 1922 sale literature noted the land was to be subdivided in 23 dairying and agricultural farms from 10 to 95 acres with the estate situated 3 miles from Southport, 3 miles from Nerang Railway Station and Nestle's condenser and 2 miles from Merrimac Cheese Factory. The land was noted as consisting mostly of rich alluvial river flats and well grassed ridges and was said to be eminently suitable for dairying and the growing of Lucerne or any crops.

The 1922 sale map shows two crown land easements of interest to this discussion. The first is the approximate route of the line to the mill wharf and the second is a close match to the cane truck holding area.

Further research is required on the matter on any other river crossings between Carrara Ferry and Meyers Ferry, either publically or privately owned. Meyers Ferry was at present day Surfers Paradises. Press reports note the existence of a Rushton's bridge as well as a Ruston Jetty or Landing place between Carrara Ferry to Meyer's. That shows the location of Ruston was well enough known at that time that the newspaper did not need to explain its location. The bridge would be across a minor water course not the river, as the existence of a cross river bridge would have been well recorded in historical literature.

Cost of building and operating a private commercial ferry is unknown. Photographic evidence shows the 1897 Carrara Ferry was manually operated with a single cable, so any other ferry across the river could have been of a similar style. I also suspect any additional cross river ferry would have been recorded in Gold Coast historical documents. But, a river crossing around the present day Bundall Road would certainly have been convenient, especially considering the travel times of horse drawn transport.

I have some thoughts on the financial aspects of the mill's operation and its closure in 1917. The mill was government controlled as mortgagee in possession from 1904 following the farmers' cooperative having financial difficulties. Photographic evidence shows the Nerang Central Sugar Mill was of a reasonable size which indicates the initial capital cost would have been high. The 1915 steam locomotive purchase and associated track upgrade, along with World War One, would have imposed considerable financial strains on both the farmers as well as the government as mortgagee.

The climate would not have been the main cause of the closure as several other sugar mills in a similar river and climate arrangement survive. These include the Rocky Point Sugar Mill as well as the NSW mills down to the Clarence River Valley. Aerial images from the 1960s show only low level residential development along the Nerang River flats, although the area was starting to be developed in that era and the mill would have been forced to close.

The Nerang Central Sugar Mill may have had a short life but it certainly helped the economic development of the lower reaches of the Nerang River.

Armstrong, E. I. "Benowa as it was" Self-Published, Grenfell, N.S.W., [1996?]

Arundell, Alan "The South Coast railway", Water Street Productions, Brisbane, 2011

Australian Sugar Journal 8/11/1917. quoted in; Browning, John, "The Southport-Burleigh road construction tramway", in Light Railways, journal of Light Railway Research Society of Australia Inc., 213 June 2010. John has also supplied personal support and cartographic material.

Local Studies Library, Gold Coast City Council

McKillop, Robert F, "Hunslet Locomotives in Australia", Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin December 1982 (Vol 33 No. 542). Ellis, RF, Browning, J, Henderson. WW, Pearman, RJ, Neve, P

Webber, Brian "Exploring Queensland's Railways - South from Brisbane", ARHS [Q] 2007

Rushton notes; [A] On September 4 1912 the Southport Shire Council discussed the cost of effecting repairs to the Esplanade road and attend to Rushton's bridge. [The Brisbane Courier 6 September 1912 P.3]

[B] The breaking-up picnic of the Benowa State School took the form of a river picnic from Carrara Ferry to Meyer's, a distance of about eight miles. The trip down the river included a call at Rushton to pick up a party. The Brisbane Courier Thursday 16 December 1915 P.9

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