Relic on scrap heap

A CHERISHED relic of Latrobe Valley’s coal transportation rail network, a 60 tonne electric locomotive, has been sent to the scrap heap in secret, despite attempts by local heritage groups to save it.

The locomotive had been cut in two, awaiting recycling in a Morwell scrap yard last Friday afternoon, after the PowerWorks board, which includes the Valley’s power station owners, decided to scrap the locomotive.

Two matching coal carriages, also set aside for preservation by the State Electricity Commission of Victoria, had already been recycled.

However the Valley’s historical and tourism stakeholders were not alerted to the scrapping until Wednesday night, at a community meeting regarding PowerWorks visitor centre’s upcoming closure.

President of Yallourn North and District Historical Society, which operates the Old Brown Coal Mine Museum, David Roberts, said he was “absolutely shocked” to learn of the locomotive’s fate.

Mr Roberts said he had delivered a letter to the PowerWorks board expressing the historical society’s wish to retain the locomotive soon after PowerWorks visitor centre had announced its closure.

“We didn’t want the train and coal carriages taken to scrap; if that was going to be their destination, we would have had room for them at Yallourn North,” Mr Roberts said.

“When you consider the significance of the train, the few dollars they are going to get for that metal isn’t going into the picture.”

He said he followed up his letter with a phone call to the PowerWorks general manager Marcus Fraser in the past fortnight, who was allegedly told the PowerWorks board, had looked at his letter “very favourably”, however received no further correspondence.

According to a statement from PowerWorks, the board decided to remove the train after it was found to pose a serious public safety risk, “after receiving confirmation that the train was of no heritage significance”.

The statement added there was another example of the train on display at the Australian Railway Historical Society in North Williamstown.

Latrobe City Central Ward councillor Graeme Middlemiss said he was “sickened” by the news, equating it to “historic vandalism”.

“It is obvious the power companies have no regard for our history or any civic responsibility to the Valley community, as can be seen by their closure of PowerWorks,” Cr Middlemiss said.

“The use of the risk assessment process to justify demolition of… this train indicates the boardrooms in Hong Kong, Paris and Sydney don’t give a stuff about the Valley.” It is understood the caretakers of the iconic bucket wheel dredger on Commercial Road, Friends of No 21 Dredger, was also interested in hosting the locomotive.