BROADMEADOW’S historic locomotive yards could be transformed into the southern hemisphere’s largest railway museum as part of a transport heritage project.
The 18-hectare site has been identified as a potential location for miniature train and ghost train rides as well as a stream train museum in the state government’s All Aboard! A Fresh Start for Transport Heritage in NSW paper.
The document outlines the need to develop a co-ordinated plan to capitalise on the potential of the state’s rich transport heritage.
A similar project in Victoria earns $50million a year in tourism revenue.
It notes the Broadmeadow site, which contains a heritage-listed locomotive depot, could be become a key location to showcase the state’s rail heritage.
Built in the 1920s, the Broadmeadow yards operated as one of Australia’s largest steam depots for 50 years.
Despite several plans to resurrect the site over the past 30 years, it remains largely a weed infested wasteland containing vandalised rail carriages and derelict buildings.
But the report says the site’s heritage combined with its strategic position within Newcastle made it an ideal location for the rail heritage showcase.
‘‘The site is so huge that it could be put to many different uses simultaneously,’’ the report says.
‘‘It could be the site of the Ipswich, or the Utrecht, or the York, of the Hunter, with miniature train rides, ghost and circus trains, Creative Corners, Nippers’ Nooks; it could display some of the regal old steam trains and their carriages; it could include a working workshop, where welders, painters and cabinet-makers could be watched by children and families.’’
It also had the potential to become a train repair hub for regional heritage operators as well as housing some commercial activity such restaurants and shops.
A Transport NSW spokeswoman said the locomotive department was currently used as a store for government-owned heritage assets and was not open for use by rail heritage groups.
‘‘The Rail Heritage review heard from a number of groups seeking to gain access to the site for heritage and conservation purposes,’’ she said.
‘‘The NSW Government supports a review of how the depot is used and whether there are options that would maximise the benefits to the rail heritage sector and the community.’’
The site is contaminated by decades of industrial pollution, however in 2002, masters student estimated is could be decontaminated for under $1million.
Newcastle state Liberal MP Tim Owen described the proposal as a ‘‘great call’’.
‘‘A lot of money has been spent on the roundhouse,’’ he said.
‘‘We’d be silly as a government not to be using that as a key centrepiece of that platform.’’
The report also notes the potential for trades training provides, such as the Maitland-based Hunter Valley Training Company, to be involved in the rail heritage project.
Hunter Valley Training Company executive director Kay Sharp said the organisation would welcome the opportunity for its trainees to be involved.
‘‘It would be a logical fit for us,’’ she said.
‘‘If it’s going to happen we would certainly want to be talking to them about it.’’
It has been involved in the restoration of several high profile rolling stock restoration projects over the past 30 years including the 3081 locomotive.
Support from other heritage groups
THE region’s heritage railway groups have welcomed plans to establish a rail heritage museum at Broadmeadow.
Hunter Valley Railway Workshops and Museum Pty Ltd managing director Michael Muter said the idea of bringing idividual operators together at the one location was long overdue.
‘‘It’s the sort of thing we have been pushing for five years now,’’ he said.
‘‘It wouldn’t just be a museum but a training facility for heritage rail,’’ Mr Muter, who co-founded the Lachlan Valley Railway Society Co-op in 1973, said.
Among the projects set to benefit from the Broadmeadow proposal is the Blue Zephyr, a restored privately owned 1940s passenger train that provides transport to regional wine and food destinations, festivals and entertainment events.
Its operators plan to use the train to transport Sydneysiders to Broadmeadow and then by bus to Nelson Bay for whale watching tours starting in September.
It is hoped the train, which is now kept at North Rothbury, could be housed at Broadmeadow.
‘‘At the moment we can’t use the operational facility that we have here [Broadmeadow]. This would be ideal because it’s on the main line whereas at the moment we have to travel five kilometres down a branch line to get to it [the main line],’’ Mr Muter, the managing director of the Blue Zephyr, said.
Bruce Agland, the operations manager of the Rail Motor Society, said the proposed Broadmeadow rail heritage site made sense.
‘‘It’s certainly something that we would look at down the track. I can see how it could have opportunities for groups like ours.’’
Locomotive service station powered through the hours
THE Broadmeadow steam locomotive depot was built in the 1920s to maintain locomotives in northern NSW.
By the 1950s two roundhouses and associated turntables were working on the site, which had been transformed into one of the largest steam depots in Australia.
Hundreds of employees, including drivers, firemen, cleaners, fitters and shunters worked around the clock servicing trains, including the Newcastle Flyer locomotives engines.
Steam locomotives ceased being serviced at the site in February 23, 1973 after the last fire was dropped from the iconic Beyer Garrat No.6042 locomotive.
Roundhouse No.1 was demolished in 1990.
The roof of roundhouse No.2 was upgraded about five years at a cost of about $5million.