LAUGHING BOY: Cecil Russell was a cane train driver for fifty three years before retiring from Bundaberg Sugar. Photo: Mike Knott / NewsMail
LAUGHING BOY: Cecil Russell was a cane train driver for fifty three years before retiring from Bundaberg Sugar. Photo: Mike Knott / NewsMail Mike Knott

Steamed up over trains

AS CECIL Russell sits back on his veranda and starts to flick through old photos and memorabilia, his eyes light up with excitement and a big grin stretches across his face.

The former Bundaberg Sugar employee is approaching 69 years of age and is reflecting on the 53 years he has spent with the company.

"My first ever job was tinning syrup at Millaquin Mill, before it was Bundaberg Sugar, when I was 14 years old," he said.

"I then went into the raw store where I would start the elevator for the workers who were loading the 160 pound bags of sugar.

"After that, I worked in the pre-pack sheds where I would help to package the sugar so it could be sent to Coles and Woolworths."

At the age of 21, Mr Russell was able to get his steam train driver's licence and he continued to work as a fulltime driver for Bundaberg Sugar until retiring at 65.

But that wasn't the end of his time on cane trains.

The company asked him back during the crushing season where he was contracted for work until finally retiring properly at age 68.

"It has been a long, long career but I have loved every minute of it," he said.

"I enjoyed driving the trains at all hours of the day, seeing the sun rise in the morning and watching the many different native wildlife at night."

"I would transport sugar cane from all around the region including Clayton, Elliott Heads, German Town and Dr Mays Crossing."

Mr Russell said some days on the track would prove to be a lot harder than others.

"Quite often the weather would be against us and we would have to work hard to shovel more coal into the train," he said.

"We would always have to keep the steam going, clean the tubes and ash pan and polish the train every week.

"It could be pretty tough work."

Over the 53 years of employment with Bundaberg Sugar, Mr Russell made many friends and said the camaraderie was some- thing he would cherish forever.

"We all gave each other nicknames. Everyone called me Laughing Boy because I was always laughing and singing," he said.

"The mateship was wonderful. We were all quite close and used to look after each other. To this day I am still good friends with my former co-workers."

The old trains that Mr Russell used to drive, including "No3" Bundaberg Foundry 1952 and "No 1" Bundaberg Foundry 1950, can today be found at the Botanic Gardens on Mount Perry Rd.

To some, spending more than half a century at the same workplace could be monotonous but Mr Russell said it was anything but.

"I never got bored. I looked forward to going to work every day," he said.

"I loved driving steam trains, it was such a big part of my life and I sometimes think I might like to go back for one last drive."



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