All aboard for Noojee: The Baw Baw Shire Council has motioned that Warragul's historic locomotive be restored by the Noojee Historical Society.
The Baw Baw Shire Council has motioned to retain ownership of Warragul’s historic J550 locomotive and hand its management to the Noojee and District Historical Society.
The motion, moved by Councillor Mel Neil at last night’s council meeting, asks that the council retain ownership of the locomotive and “enter into an agreement with the Noojee Historical Society for the handover of the locomotive… to manage and restore.”
The motion also states the council will not fund the locomotive’s relocation from Rotary Park, maintenance, or restoration, and should the Noojee Historical Society not fulfil these requirements the council will consider selling the locomotive.
Cr Neil said it is important the locomotive stay in Baw Baw and not be handed to Steamrail Victoria or the Yarra Valley Railway Inc., who also entered a bid for the locomotive.
“Our responsibility is to our shire and to our constituents… and this decision tonight is not only going to benefit [us] now, but also into the future,” Cr Neil said.
The motion is contrary to that recommended to councillors by council officers, who suggested selling the asset to Steamrail Victoria with the understanding that it then be handed to Yarra Valley Railway.
Under a 1986 agreement with the Rotary Club of Warragul, if the council were to transfer ownership of the locomotive it should first be offered to Steamrail Victoria for one dollar.
Five submissions were received by the council, but it has emerged only two relocation options were presented. Submissions from Yarra Valley Railway, the Rotary Club, Steamrail Victoria and the Department of Transport supported Yarra Valley Railway’s bid for the locomotive.
The motion was supported by three of the five councillors in attendance at the meeting, Councillors Neil, David Balfour and Diane Blackwood. Those against were Councillors Julie Grant and Bill Harrington.
Cr Grant said the locomotive’s restoration would be better handled by Yarra Valley Railway, a position echoed by Cr Harrington.
“We’ve also had a [weighty] group of submissions supporting Yarra Valley Railway’s [bid,]” Cr Grant said.
“I am of the view that Yarra Valley have the expertise [to restore the locomotive.]”
Cr Grant also said should Yarra Valley Railway win the bid, the Noojee Historical Society would be able to refocus on its other projects.
Warragul Rotary member John Cheeseman told the council the club, which was donated to the council by Rotary, believe Yarra Valley Railway has the money and expertise required to relocate and restore the train.
“We find that the financial ability of Yarra Valley Railway to move the train almost immediately [good,]” Mr Cheeseman said.
“[Yarra Valley Railway have] indicated [the cost would] be close to $2 million to move it and then restore it.”
Will Langoor of the Noojee Historical Society told The Warragul Citizen in March the train would cost between $35,000 and $45,000 to move, and Narracan MLA Gary Blackwood would lobby for state funding to cover the cost.
Speaking to the council, President of the Noojee Historical Society Lindsay Handsford said restoration would begin immediately and the locomotive would improve tourism in the area.
“We would like to restore the locomotive immediately to save its… further [deteoriation,]” Mr Handsford said.
“The restoration of the locomotive to fully functional (sic) is our long-term aim.”
“I would like to see that out there to create the tourism the little town of Noojee deserves.”
Cr Balfour said the project is well placed to boost the area’s tourism, being situated on the road to Mount Baw Baw.
“It would have to be the biggest tourist road we have in this shire,” Cr Balfour said.
FOR MORE on the restoration of J550 by the Noojee and District Historical Society, click here to read The Warragul Citizen’s report on the project from March.
The two relocation proposals as outlined in the Late Agenda item from last night’s meeting are as follows:
Noojee and District Historical Society
• The locomotive would, initially, be a static display at the heritage centre that is proposed at the site of the Noojee Railway Station (Crown land). The Society ultimately plans a full restoration of the old railway line from a rebuilt station on the heritage centre site to the Noojee Trestle Bridge, from which it plans to operate a tourist/visitor service to and from the heritage centre.
• The Society is currently raising funds for a staged development of the heritage centre. They have recently been appointed as the Management Committee for the Crown land by the Department of Sustainability and Environment. They hope to obtain State Government funds to facilitate the project, and plan to maintain the locomotive in its present location until it is relocated next year.
• The Society states that they have the necessary expertise within their membership to undertake the removal and relocation. They will prepare a risk management plan for the locomotive remaining at Rotary Park and for the removal, transport and relocation process. A list of members and their relevant qualifications in relation to this project was supplied.
Yarra Valley Railway Inc (YVR)
• YVR plan to restore J550 to operate on its Healesville to Yarra Glen railway line. J550 would supplement J541(which will commence operating in 2012) and J516 (which is planned to be restored in conjunction with J550). They state that there will be economies of scale that can be achieved as, once parts are tooled, it costs little more to produce items for a second and third locomotive.
• The locomotive would be removed as soon as all agreements are finalised. YVR have already prepared a relocation plan and risk management plan and that has been submitted.
• YVR advise that their members have already been involved in the restoration of J541 and are currently working on the restoration of J516. They have a purpose built workshop at Healesville, and a full set of original Victorian Railways J class drawings that can be used for reference during restoration. Copies of YVR bank statements were supplied to demonstrate their financial capability to undertake the project.
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