Rich restoration

Work for Latrobe Valley tradespeople and an increase of 15,000 visitors to Walhalla is expected after a State Government announcement last week to rebuild Walhalla Goldfields Railway tram ‘461’.

The $300,000 announcement comes as part of a $103 million regional tourism and infrastructure fund to boost tourism opportunities in regional areas.

The rebuild will include a complete restoration of the former 1926 Melbourne tram, transforming it from electric to a diesel self-propelled rail motor.

An additional shed will also be constructed at Walhalla to store the carriage.

Walhalla Goldfields Railway president Michael Leaney the restoration work would be undertaken by local businesses and volunteer groups across the Latrobe Valley.

“There’s two major parts of the restoration. The first part is the restoration of the 1926 body shell and the second is the conversion of the tram to become to be a self-propelled diesel-hydraulic rail motor,” Mr Leaney said.

“In terms of the restoration of the body and the roof we’re talking to Traralgon’s Men’s Shed to potentially undertake the work.

“Then for the external body steel work, that will probably be done by the volunteers of the Walhalla Goldfields Railway. It’s a very time consuming and fiddly job.”

Mr Leaney said even though the railway had been based in Walhalla for more than 25 years, all of the engineering, restoration and heavy maintenance had occurred in the Latrobe Valley.

“The interior seating that we have to install will come from a museum in Adelaide but it requires complete reupholstering which will be done again in the Latrobe Valley and to finish the restoration the paint will be done by a business based in Moe,” he said.

Mr Leaney said the group would enlist a local glazier to remove all of the existing glass from the tram and replace with modern safety glass.

The State Government commitment will go towards the $450,000 project which is part-funded by Walhalla Goldfields Railway. The project is expected to be completed by mid-2019.

Tram ‘461’ was built in 1926 and is one of only 10 X1 models built in Melbourne and serviced on the Footscray network.

“There’s still nine (trams) surviving. Two of them are operational in Auckland, New Zealand, one of them is over in Bendigo and there are some owned privately,” Mr Leaney said.

“This is the first time a tram has been converted to operate on a train line so it’s a very exciting time.”

Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing said the commitment to fund the project would have long lasting benefits for the region.

“It’s important to make sure the Walhalla Goldfields Railway is part of the itinerary when people are thinking about the very best parts of Gippsland they want to explore and enjoy,” Ms Shing said.

“This project will generate more than $1 million dollars in extra revenue to Walhalla each year and it’s great for the overall prosperity of the region.

“This is also about taking advantage of the vast experience and expertise on restoration and railway by involving the community at every step along way.”

The funding for the railway project is a separate pool of funding to the Hazelwood transition money.