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KENTISH Museum curator Barb Wells rubs two hands together and utters a chilled ``brrr'' to great effect.
She vividly remembered how cold she was inside this building as a little girl attending the Sheffield Area School when it was a temporary classroom.
The building used to be the post office and in 1987 it became the Kentish Museum.
Sheffield, dubbed the ``Town of Murals'', is where local history has also been well depicted on the walls of many of the town's buildings.
Sheffield reaps the benefits in more ways than one after having the foresight to not only preserve but also constantly breathe new life back into the town's own story.
It helps sustain a tourism industry and continues to connect the community, which is now celebrating where the town came from.
The weekend's SteamFest an event that won Cradle Coast Tourism's award for Best Festival in 2010 is one of the biggest events of the year (along with Mural Fest), attracting thousands of people over three days.
Barb, a founding committee member of the Redwater Creek Steam and Heritage Society, has pulled out the old files of beautiful black-and-white photographs that show the development of a rail line at Kentish 100 years ago.
She says it still fascinates kids, who are more used to screen time and playing video games, to get to see some of the restored machinery from a bygone era being fired up and in action at SteamFest.
``You should see the looks on their faces they are in awe of it,'' Barb says.
``Kids are gobsmacked at the old traction engines and how big and cumbersome they are.
``It gives them an experience of what life used to be like for people.
``Some of the people around here didn't know we even had a railway they thought the old railway station was a barn.
``We're very fortunate that we've still got a lot of our preserved history, which in other places has all gone.
``Around here it hadn't gone too far afield and was lying in people's barns and paddocks.''
A few weeks ago, Barb loaned the museum's railway files to Chris Frankcombe, tourism and economic development officer at Latrobe and Kentish councils, who pored over them ahead of SteamFest and retells the 100-year-old story of the rail line for 'Scape.
``The year was 1879 Thomas Edison was still a few months from demonstrating the light globe; infamous bushranger Ned Kelly still loomed large in regional Victoria a year before he was killed, and it was just 20 years since the end of the industrial revolution, '' she said.
``It was also the year pioneer white settlers gathered inside a pub at Sheffield to discuss an idea that would indirectly change the face of the North-West and West coasts a train line from Deloraine to Wilmot, and eventually to the Wild West.''
It would take a lot of determination and was it was held up by fighting over routes before it happened.
Barb said that in 1842 when government surveyor Nathaniel Kentish walked through the district (to later be named after him) he was sent to find a back road to Burnie and saw a huge grassed area in the valley with very tall timber on both sides and a mountain to his left.
Kentish proclaimed it a potential site for agriculture and by 1879 the crops were growing in abundance.
Chris said the locals wanted a means of getting their produce to the thriving town of Melbourne, which was booming on the back of a gold rush and looked like it might become a big town.
``And even more importantly, minerals had been found on the West Coast and scholars at the time were predicting a population of more than 100,000 people in the west.
``Given the treacherousness of the coastline, an overland rail line from Launceston via Kentish would be the only way of reliably servicing what could become one of the biggest cities in Australia.
``The Sheffield townsfolk were resolved that night to `never leave off agitating until their end had been gained' and time proved them true to their word.
``Numerous government and private studies and even a Royal Commission were conducted to determine the merit of such a line.
``They generally concluded that there was `no finer agricultural land in the world than they had in Kentish' and that food grown in the region would be highly sought after in Melbourne and on the West Coast.
``After 35 years of plans and aborted attempts to build a line from Deloraine to Wilmot, on November 7, 1914, the first freight train plied the route from Roland via Railton to the port town of Formby, now Devonport.
``It was met with a stunning reception, more than 1000 people turned up to festivities at Railton to mark the opening, and that was after an even bigger crowd, including more than 700 children, had escorted the train away from Sheffield station for the first few hundred metres of its inaugural journey.
``In between time, a rail route to the West Coast had instead been built from Burnie, and the Deloraine-Wilmot route was abandoned in favour of a spur line to Formby that connected to the main line from Launceston and Deloraine.
``But from 1914 until the last train left Roland in November, 1957, the Roland line not only connected the farming region to a port, it was the lifeblood of the community, the only means of transport during winter when roads became boggy and the means by which locals told the time.
``Many people of Sheffield re-set their clocks to 11am when they heard the train whistle which sounded as the train left the Sheffield station punctually, at the same time every day.
``In between the rail line carried not only produce, but also a railmotor - a motorised single carriage that locals called the ``Flying Flea''.
``It carried three generations of children from Roland and the districts south of Sheffield to the Sheffield School.
``The link to this century-old story remains in Kentish today, not just in the cuttings that can still be seen in paddocks between Sheffield and Roland, but through the Redwater Creek Steam & Heritage Railway at Sheffield, which utilises the original Sheffield Railway Station as the terminus for its monthly tourist trains rides and as the venue for the major annual event that is SteamFest.
``SteamFest celebrates not only its own 20th anniversary this year, but a very special double anniversary as that milestone coincides with 100 years since rail came to Kentish.''
Port Sorell historian Leonard Fisher, in a book, with chapters by Barb Wells, A History of Railways in the Municipality of Kentish, writes of John Hope, MLC (grandfather to longserving MLC Reg Hope) as being one of those pioneer battlers for the Railton-Roland rail line.
Reg Hope writes in the book's foreword that he knew his grandfather was involved in pushing for construction of the line but he did not know how he and other citizens worked tirelessly for 30 years to bring their plan to fruition.
``The book tells in detail of the construction of the line and records how two men were killed in separate accidents in one day.
``[The rail line] not only provided transport for farm produce and timber, it also provided special passenger trains for occasions such as the Devonport Show, school and New Year's Day picnics at the Bluff and even the visiting circus was also transported by rail to Kentish.''
Reg said his mother, without a radio or telephone, was one who checked the clock almost daily when the rail motor left Sheffield on time at 11am.
SteamFest at Redwater Creek Railway at Sheffield is open today, and Monday. A grand parade, one of Australia's largest exhibitions of working steam machinery, is at 3pm each day.
This article first appeared on www.theadvocate.com.au
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