Push Gathers Steam to Restore a Historic Loco
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Two businessmen have launched a bid to save Canberra's failed rail museum, with plans to make it a home for all kinds of historic vehicles.
The museum's historic collection will go under the hammer next week after the company behind it collapsed, leaving behind $700,000 of debt.
This led to fears its precious assets - including carriages that took men off to two world wars - would be lost.
But Ian Oliver and Dallas Dogger say they've offered a "substantial" sum to buy the museum's steam engines and carriages and keep some of the history in the nation's capital.
Historic artifacts from Canberra's railway museum will be auctioned off to pay off creditors of the ACT division of the Australian Railway Historical Society. Concerned citizins (from left) Paul Gillespie, Gavin Young, and John Davenport believe Canberra is going to lose a significant amount of heritage and history in the fire sale. Photo: Jamila ToderasThe former owners of Capital Self Storage dream of opening a transport museum at the Kingston site with historic motor vehicles and even fire engines on display, as well as working train exhibits.
"I've got a bit of railway in the blood," Mr Dogger said.
"My grandfather and cousins were stations masters. When I was growing up in the 60s everyone wanted to be a steam train driver, but it was a really hard job to get but one of the most revered jobs in town."
Mr Oliver said a national transport museum was former prime minister Gough Whitlam's vision and he reckoned it was a "correct one".
"Canberra is the natural place for a transport museum," Mr Oliver said.
"I've been in Canberra businesses all my life, done quite well and now a time to give a bit back to the Canberra community."
Nicholas Overall, 7, dressed as Harry Potter at the Railway Museum in July 2005. Photo: Melissa StilesThe pair met with heritage minister Mick Gentleman last week about their plans and have secured support from the National Trust.
Eric Martin from the National Trust said there were opportunities to expand the museum to take in more types of transport, including old buses stored by government, but the priority for now had to be the trains.
"There would be nothing worse than seeing our heritage sold off for scrap or sold interstate," Mr Martin said.
A spokesman for Mr Gentleman said he was in preliminary talks about the museum but government could not pay off commercial debts.
He said the liquidator now had a formal role to fulfil in managing the affairs of the organisation "and we need to allow that process to proceed".
Mr Oliver said with the help of the liquidator, he was confident the museum could be restructured so it didn't run into the same problems again.
"It's not an easy task but with Eddie's help we think it's possible," Mr Oliver said.
But Deloitte Financial Advisory restructuring services partner Eddie Senator said restructuring the society would be "complex".
He said Mr Oliver and Mr Dogger were one of a number of interested parties Deloitte was in discussion with.
"We need to balance creditors interests and the return they are entitled to expect, together with preserving and protecting items of historical and heritage significance. These interests compete. Employees for example are owed over $100,000," Mr Senator said.
This article first appeared on www.canberratimes.com.au
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