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THE dollar value might be in the hundreds of thousands, but to members of the Queensland Pioneer Steam Railway, a recent Queensland Rail donation of six heritage carriages is priceless.
QPSR events manager Robert Shearer said the donation was vital if the not-for-profit community group's mission to boost tourism in Ipswich was to be successful.
"Each carriage is worth about $100,000 but as far as our society is concerned, it's our salvation," he said.
"The six carriages each have a different story. We have one with an outback feel, an art deco bar car, an American style dining car, a comfortable sleeping car, a power car and a rail history themed car which we are calling the Spirit of Ipswich.
The 1950s carriages, donated as part of the QR150 Project celebrating 150 years of rail in Queensland, previously travelled 10,000km each month from Brisbane to Cairns for 60 years before being decommissioned 12 months ago.
SALVATION: In one of the QR donated carriages are (from left) Patrick Hughes and Miriam Slattery along with Sam and Donald Behan.INGA WILLIAMS
Mr Shearer said the carriages would be restored by QPSR volunteers and would then be put to use from June as part of the Queensland Pioneer Dinner Train tourism initiative.
"People can experience silver service transport as it used to be or relive the golden age of falling asleep to the rattle of a moving train," he said.
"Up to now we've only had 100-year-old timber carriages. They have served us well for 37 years but the trouble is you can't walk between then and they can't be air conditioned.
"The donation offers the capability on onboard dining which is something no one else in Queensland does.
"There are very few places you can have a moving restaurant."
The 27-year-old said the much-needed donation came at the perfect time.
"Last year our numbers skyrocketed. We have more than doubled our passenger numbers so we needed more carriages," he said.
"Overall the new carriages give us much more to offer and with electricity we can have live bands on board, host corporate groups and operate the dinner trains."
Mr Shearer said he was looking for local tradespeople and businesses to lend a helping hand in restoring the heritage memorabilia, which was more than 60 years old.
"The next stage for us is the little jobs. We're seeking electricians, someone who can help with R22 gas replacement for the air conditioning and a company to help paint the outside of the carriages which we know will look stunning," he said.
"We are working towards the mayor's 2020 tourism plan. We want to get people to stay overnight in Ipswich and that's what this project will do.
This article first appeared on www.qt.com.au
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