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Heritage train enthusiasts have gathered in Canberra for the naming of one of Australia's largest steam trains and to celebrate the nostalgia of a bygone era.
The restored steam locomotive Beyer Garratt 6029 was used to haul coal in the Hunter Valley, but is now set to power passenger services around the eastern seaboard.
Enthusiasts packed the Kingston platform of the Canberra Railway Museum to witness the naming of the old engine, built in Britain in 1953.
The City of Canberra is set to deliver its first sold-out passenger load this weekend from Canberra to a steam train festival at Thirlmere, near Picton, in New South Wales.
Australian Railway Historical Society ACT branch president Peter Anderson was among the passionate train enthusiasts to see the train.
It has been a childhood dream. I grew up watching Thomas the Tank Engine, so this is where it leads.
City of Canberra fireman Carl Linkenbagh
"Once you have been bitten, you never lose it," he said.
"Some people get it worse than others. My poor wife. She tolerates it."
Canberra Railway Museum chief executive Alan Gardner said the theatre of steam trains attracted both young and old.
"The kids love it," he said.
"It is extreme up in the cab, it is very hot, very dusty, but back in the carriages the kids just come to life.
"It is something that is almost alive and we say it is the closest thing that man has ever made to a human being."
Carl Linkenbagh is the volunteer fireman for the City of Canberra.
His job involves overseeing the coal firing of the engine to power the locomotive, including an automatic stoker that pulverises coal into smaller pieces which is then jet-fired with steam into a firebox the size of a grand piano.
"It has been a childhood dream," he said.
"I grew up watching Thomas the Tank Engine, so this is where it leads."
Freight rail side business to help fund locomotive restorationsMr Anderson said the revenue from City of Canberra ticket sales was part of a much bigger plan to fund the restoration of many other locomotives.
He said he hoped to save many other carriages from the scraper's blow torch and store them at the Canberra Railway Museum.
PHOTO: Territory and Municipal Services Minister Shane Rattenbury at the naming of the City of Canberra.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)
The City of Canberra engine consumes 18 tonnes of coal and some 40,000 litres of water on average each day, costing around $10,000 a day to operate.
"Ticket sales are of importance to pay for the general operation of the railway but the commercial work that we are undertaking is underpinning the restoration of our heritage fleet," Mr Anderson said.
"Ticket sales to the general public just do not cover the cost of restoration."
Mr Anderson said there was still plenty of more work ahead for the passionate volunteers involved with the museum.
He said it costed about $3 million every year just to maintain the status quo at the museum.
To bring in more revenue the heritage railway charity has formed a separate commercial rail business.
This commercial rail business has now formed a partnership with a Fyshwick recycling plant to freight scrap metal to Port Botany for overseas exports.
Mr Anderson said it was the first time Canberra had exported rail freight.
"Canberra never exported anything other than hot air, [but] it imported everything," he said.
Mr Anderson said the new commercial rail freight service would probably deliver about 1,000 tonnes of scrap metal a week under the partnership.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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