— A trip down memory lane—
The steam train was originally owned and operated by the Mossman Sugar Mill. Initially, about eight miles (almost 13km) of two foot (60cm) gauge track was laid for the purpose of cane haulage. One of the more significant early sections to be laid, around 1896, was from a jetty on the Mossman River to the site of the Mossman Sugar Mill. New equipment just arrived from Glasgow on board the SS Westfield, was therefore able to be transported to the Mill site.
From then on, the extent of the ‘tramway’, as it was called, expanded at a steady rate, accommodating the difficulty of transporting cane from the fields to the Mossman Mill on essentially non-existent roads.
Bally Hooley was the name given to the end of the railway line, having followed the river up the Mowbray Valley to where the track terminated at the beginning of the old Bump Road. Why it was so named Bally Hooley remains a mystery, but a common presumption is that one of the founders originated from the same named village in County Cork, Ireland, “Bally Hooley” meaning Party Town.
The first steam locomotive to operate on the line was the Mossman built and supplied by John Fowler & Co. of Leeds in England. This proved to be a highly successful venture, so that the Mill management decided to standardise the use of these locomotives. Consequently, a second train, the Pioneer came in to operation soon after.
The line from Mossman to Port Douglas, with the branch up the Mowbray River Valley, was completed and officially opened in 1900. Prior, in 1899, after repeated requests from the residents of South Mossman, Mill management commenced operating a train service for passengers. This service was later extended to travel to Port Douglas.
The Bally Hooley has operated periodically as a tourist railway since the early 1980’s, when rail trips from Port Douglas to the Mossman Mill were offered as a service. In early 2000, the steam locomotives Speedy and Bundy were relocated to Port Douglas from Mossman. Over time the distance of the train trip was shortened to approximately 4kms within the Port Douglas area, and for a number of years the service was run on Sundays only, by a group of enthusiastic volunteers.
Since 2016 the privately owned Bally Hooley has been manned by employees who are just as enthusiastic!
Bally Hooley is the little train that runs in Port Douglas for the benefit of visitors and locals of all ages, who enjoy the magic of traditional locomotion, with its sounds and smells of a more gentle and tolerant era.