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A 19th century rail system
They used to be a regular sight on railway tracks between Sydney and Melbourne more than 50 years ago.
After spending many years as an exhibition at the former Canberra Railway Museum, a team of railway enthusiasts has helped to restore carriages of the Southern Aurora to their former glory, as the train gets ready to ride the rails once more.
Seven carriages of the former sleeper train were purchased at an auction last year of former exhibits of the railway museum, following its liquidation.
Work has been under way since November to painstakingly restore all the carriages to replicate their original 1960s grandeur.
The Southern Aurora carried out Sydney to Melbourne trips during the 1960s. Photo: SuppliedOnce completed, the restored carriages will be used for multi-day trips from Sydney from later this year, journeying to locations such as the Blue Mountains and Wollongong.
Canberra resident Rodney Clancy has been one of the people behind the project and is the director of G'Day Rail, the company operating the future train trips.
He said the restoration work, carried out in Lithgow, had been a significant challenge.
"The vintage nature of the carriages were appropriate for a railway museum, but for a commercial operation, many of the components of the carriage had to be upgraded," he said.
"It's taken us a considerable amount of time to get it as accurate as possible."
Mr Clancy estimates $2 million has been spent on the restoration, which has involved sourcing original materials like floors and wallpapers from the 1960s for the interior, as well as a complete mechanical overhaul.
However, there is one modification that will bring the trains into the 21st century.
"All of the carriages have ashtrays in the compartments, and you can't smoke on trains any more, so we had to remove them and we installed a USB charging port in its place," Mr Clancy said.
"We've been able to salvage a lot of the original materials used."
Lithgow Railway Workshop administration manager John Healey has been working on the restoration and said the Southern Aurora carriages were more challenging than a standard restoration.
"It all involves lifting the carriage up and getting all of the bogeys out, before putting it all back together again, and making sure everything technically is tip top," he said.
"There's been plenty of work to do."
Mr Healey said restorations of older train carriages for passenger use had become more common, as more people were looking into long-distance train journeys.
"There seems to be a growing interest in these kind of projects worldwide," he said.
While the G'Day Rail trips are scheduled to go to and from Sydney when it begins operating, Mr Clancy said he hopes to bring some of the routes through the nation's capital.
"At the moment, we're working on getting some regular trips to and from Canberra," he said.
This article first appeared on www.canberratimes.com.au
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