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The town that formerly served as the head of the old Ghan railway line in South Australia's far north in the 1880s is set to receive a makeover.
Farina was left a ghost town when the last inhabitants moved out in 1967, due to drought and the re-routing of the Ghan line, which was used to tranship stock and supplies.
The Farina Restoration Group and hundreds of volunteers have spent the past 12 years restoring the town during annual working-bee seasons.
Now, they've been awarded $51,672 from the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal to install a 17.2-kilowatt solar system and 25.6 kilowatts of battery storage.
Farina was deserted by 1967 after the rail industry left the town.(Supplied: Richard Patterson)Farina Restoration Group project officer Steve Harding said the solar technology would significantly reduce the cost of generating power.
"We're actually developing a hybrid system. We've got 46 solar panels going in and eight storage batteries," he said.
"We're 100 per cent off-grid — we have no power at all — so for each season we have to run generators.
The underground bakery has been functioning for more than 50 years.(ABC North And West: Gary-Jon Lysaght)"We get up to 15,000 visitors during our eight-week season, so the generator runs for about 14 hours a day because we're providing the bakery with power."
Mr Harding said the power would not just be used during the working bees.
"We'll have the convenience of running our computers, our monitors and our alarm system and video cameras that we've got to protect the museum and the cafe," he said.
'Rail trail' for the outbackFarina is one of three railway destinations in northern SA planning to create a 'rail trail'.
It would include Pichi Richi Railway, based at Quorn, and the Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre, at Peterborough.
Steamtown has offered the Farina Restoration Group a 60-tonne diesel electric locomotive to display, which Mr Harding said helped demolish the narrow-gauge line in 1982.
Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre at Peterborough is popular among railway enthusiasts.(ABC North And West: Shannon Corvo)It is sitting idle at Steamtown, which is about 360 kilometres to the south.
"It's a two-day drive with a crane upwards and backwards and probably a day to do the job," Mr Harding said.
"Just for that move it's somewhere in the region of about $30,000, but of course we want to rebuild the waiting room and we have to put a shed over the locomotive."
The group unsuccessfully applied for a grant in July and is now looking to raise funds for the expensive venture.
The ruins of the Exchange Hotel which stopped operating in 1879.(ABC North And West: Gary-Jon Lysaght)No volunteers, no progressMany of the volunteers involved in restoring the ghost town travel from interstate.
This year's season had to be cancelled due to COVID-19, which was devastating for 77-year-old Bob Brownlee from Melbourne.
This year's restoration season is the first Mr Brownlee has missed in 10 years.(Supplied: Bob Brownlee)He has been volunteering with the group for 10 years, spending time as treasurer, group leader, stoneworker and mapper of the railway lines.
"It's a pity not going up there this year, but Victoria had a second wave and we're all locked down until we get rid of this virus, so that's our top priority," he said.
Mr Brownlee is hopeful the working-bee season will return in 2021.
"There'll be a whole stack of people there next year that I haven't seen for a year — friends — so that'll be good," he said.
"I've been an academic in my life, so getting out and working with your hands on these projects keeps you fit and active. It's kept me young."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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