Letter to the Editor / On The Demise of the Bally Hooley

Noel Weare

Dear Editor, I refer to an article published on the Newsport website yesterday referring to “Third steam train arrives at marina for Bally Hooley display”.

Credit / @awanderingwidowsolotravel 

While I applaud John Morris and his family for taking responsibility for the Bally Hooley operation for almost 20 years, I am much saddened by these rolling stock items (including three vintage steam locomotives) being ‘mothballed’ in a similar way to our recent air industry’s aeroplanes during COVID-19.

The major difference to that industry which is rebounding back, is that here in Port Douglas John has now ‘quit’ the operation after his unsuccessful attempts to find a successor, including our own Douglas Shire Council, to accept his offer of gifting.

I am conversant with trackwork maintenance costs being high after being largely neglected over many years, a factor which is no doubt at play in the gifting process.

Much might be said of this visionary and successful tourist attraction started 40 years ago by the Mossman Central Mill directors but is now just to be a relic of past glories. Of course steam motive power is not new here. The 1900 built loco “Faugh-a-Ballagh” commenced pulling loads to the wharf in 1901. During the year 1925 almost 157,000 local passengers were also carried! This loco is proudly owned and displayed in Grant Street at considerable cost for its upkeep to the not-for-profit Douglas Shire Historical Society and Council has plans for re-display and for the refurbishment of its weather protection at a new location.

I personally find now that John’s present actions regarding the retirement of Bally Hooley to be very short-sighted and a quote from him to “be able to view this fascinating piece of history forever” is perhaps overstated since who will take over responsibility from here on?


Being able to somehow revive this tourist operation at a future time has now received a major stumbling block with John’s agreement for the rails to be ripped up and transferred back to the mill.

Why has our local (and nationwide tourism industry) operators NOT stood up to prevent the loss of this important and unique service whilst other towns and cities are going gangbusters with similar attractions?

Credit / @nickmitchell94 


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Hugh Spencer
1 year ago

It would be such a shame to relegate these engines to sitting under a shelter. I am assuming that they run on cane waste – so their carbon footprint would be minimal. Sure, the line from Port to Mossman is pretty boring, but it would be great to have some examples of steam technology operating. It’d be a tourist draw, especially with some good explanations of the history. Such a shame that the mill tours seem to have stopped – a real descent into Dante’s inferno!