Push Gathers Steam to Restore a Historic Loco
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It’s all aboard for the official opening of the new Maitland Rail Museum this week – and it’s just in time for the South Maitland Railway’s big open weekend next month.
The museum, located at East Greta Junction, was established to showcase the history and heritage of the region’s rail.
For secretary Tom Skelding, the volunteer-run museum’s role was preserving the city’s lesser known but very significant railway history.
“A lot of people aren’t away of the rail because they think Maitland is just buildings and convicts but there was a lot more to Maitland than that,” he said.
“We want to get the message out to the community. We are hoping to educate and promote but also educate the community at large about how important coal mining and the way was to the community.
“We are trying to attract young people and to do this we need to inform the people that this exists, and it’s part of our tradition, and our past and future.”
The museum will include artefacts, model railway and informative displays.
In 1893, the East Greta Coal Mining Co opened a line from East Greta Junction to its mine in East Greta – which would later become Gillieston Heights.
In 1918, segments were combined under the ownership of a new company, the South Maitland Railway Incorporation.
“We are hoping when we open the building up that we get young people and school kids coming through here," Mr Skelding said.
“We want to take them around and talk to them. Some of these old timers are pretty cluey [sic]. It’s an exciting time, and it’s an asset to the community.”
The South Maitland Railway steam locomotive workshop at East Greta Junction is now protected by a permanent conservation order under the NSW Heritage Act.
The museum will exist alongside the historic locomotive workshop.
“We’ve agreed to open over the weekends, so the first Sunday of the month but other times through arrangement,” Mr Skelding said.
“We’ve got a website so people can contact us through there.”
The museum will be open during South Maitland Railway’s centenary of the incorporation and 125th anniversary of running its first train next month.
The local railway was one of the last rail networks in Australia to continue to utilise steam locomotives until they were replaced in 1983 by diesel-electric trains.
Maitland Rail Museum will have its official opening at the former South Maitland Railway workshop at 11am on Friday, November 23.
For more information about the museum, visit maitlandrailmuseum.com.
This article first appeared on www.maitlandmercury.com.au
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