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When Ash Barwick and Jake Williams-sims transported their new 130-year-old train carriage home to Tasmania's Gravelly Beach on a truck, bits of it fell off on the highway.
"They just missed our car, but I went back and picked it all up," said Mr Williams-sims.
A year on, the couple are absorbed in a dramatic restoration of the carriage, which will see it transformed into a tiny house for their family's new self-sufficient life.
"She's in pretty rough condition, but we're going to make it into home."
For years before the couple acquired it, Mr Williams-sims had been admiring the carriage as it sat in a backyard in Westbury.
The couple remained impressed at every turn with the quality of the carriage's build.(ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott)Then came a stroke of luck, after the couple had arranged to do some gardening for the carriage's owner and saw that he had put it up for sale.
"We said 'We'll buy it off you', and he said, 'Well, you can do the work cheaper, and we'll do a bit of a trade'," Ms Barwick said.
"So yeah, [we] took it home," said Mr Williams-sims.
Sanding the carriage's exterior is time-consuming but essential for its face-lift.(ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott)Quest to find 'missing' carriagesCurious about its history, Ms Barwick contacted the Tasmanian Transport Museum, which provided blueprints and photographs of the carriage in its prime.
The couple learned that their carriage had been one of 52 carriages in the DB class, which transported passengers, freight and livestock across Tasmania from the 1890s to the 1980s.
Having blueprints for the carriage has helped the couple make decisions about its renovation.(ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott)Having secured carriage "DB15", they are now keen to find out what happened to the others, and have discovered another one is also undergoing a conversion.
"We've come into contact with another lady who's got the DB19," Ms Barwick explained.
"She's living in it, doing the same thing as us."
Working at full steamWhile restoration of the carriage had to be delayed for many months, work is now well underway.
"Jake took the roof off, and we haven't stopped since," said Ms Barwick.
"We've stripped the roof and resealed it with some waterproof membrane, installed a wood heater and the flue, replaced one outside wall, and done two original window frames."
Ms Barwick loves restoring original components of the carriage.(ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott)It is a project that the couple, who have two children and run their own gardening and landscaping business, expect will keep them busy after-hours for a year.
"I knock off work and go back to work," said Mr Williams-sims.
Big tiny house plansThe finished 12.8-metre carriage will act as living room, kitchen and bathroom for the family, while a converted shipping container might serve as bedrooms.
The plan is for these small living quarters to be installed on a block of land big enough to support the family.
Touring Australia in a caravan helped the family decide to downsize their home.(Supplied: Ash Barwick)"Ultimately we do want to be self-sufficient … to be able to grow all of our own food," said Ms Barwick.
"We travelled around Australia in a caravan for four and a half months two years ago … and it inspired us to live a bit more simple," said Mr Williams-sims.
Self-sufficient living on the riseUnfortunately for Ms Barwick and Mr William-sims, living self-sufficiently is an increasingly popular goal among land buyers in Tasmania, and acquiring a block to put the carriage on has proved difficult.
It had become more of an issue since coronavirus struck, they said.
"Since the COVID thing, everybody's gone towards that self-sustainable sort of living," said Ms Barwick.
"I think a lot more people are on track to that sort of lifestyle, after being stuck in their little house in suburbia.
"They want to grow their own food."
Everybody loves trainsFor now, the partly restored carriage sits where it has for the past year, in Ms Barwick and Mr William-sims's front yard.
"We were a bit worried that the council was going to make us move it as soon as we put it here," laughed Mr Williams-sims.
Ms Barwick looks forward to living in the converted carriage on a bush block.(ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott)"But no, everybody loves it, they all stop in and have look."
"We get quite a few [elderly] people saying 'I travelled on this train when I was a young boy,'" Ms Barwick said.
"They're just like, 'Wow, this is beautiful.'"
A train to teach life lessonsFor Ms Barwick and Mr Williams-sims, the greatest joy in doing up the carriage is giving an old "broken" thing new life.
"We need to appreciate what we have … and we teach the kids, if it's broken, hey, let's fix it," said Ms Barwick.
"And what better way to put those words into action than by restoring this beautiful train carriage … that's going to be our house.
"It's so cool, I can't wait."
Converted train carriages are popular as living spaces and holiday accommodation.(Supplied: Brooke Parrott)
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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