Gaze-grabber! Retro carriage now ready to roll

Always on hand: Mildura Lions Club members man the breakfast barbeque at the Homestead, ABOVE, and LEFT: Councillor Jodi Reynolds, left, with Princes Court CEO Jenny Garonne, Monash University associate Professor Dr Fiona Wright, Mallee's Living Histories Vernon Knight and Denise McCarthy. RIGHT: MRCC Citizen of the Year - Bryce Pritchard, left, with Mildura Mayor Jason Modica in Murrayville. Photo: John Heintze ??? The Border Times

With it’s bold retro livery and carefully crafted timbers, VGR’s newly restored heritage refrigerator car is certain to turn heads as it gets rolling on the Castlemaine-Maldon tourist railway line for the first of many outings.
Restoring the extremely rare early 1900s railway car has been a labour of love for the Victorian Goldfields Railways’ crew of young volunteers.
Now after months of painstaking work, the eye-catching end result is set to give railway and history buffs – and appreciators of impactful aesthetics – a visual treat as it gets out and rolling on the local VGR tourist line.
“This is a first for preservation,” Fletcher Cole says.
One of the VGR’s keen crew of young volunteers, Fletcher has played a particularly key role in the project, putting his carpentry skills to excellent use while completing the final remaining units of his formal carpentry studies through Box Hill Institute of Tafe into the bargain.
“No one’s ever attempted a heritage livery like this before and it’s certainly creating a lot of interest,” he says.
“We’ve completely re-timbered it, re-roofed it, given it essentially a full mechanical overhaul, and then we’ve added signwriting in an old heritage livery, which hasn’t been seen since the ’50s or ’60s.”
This features an advertising sign typical of the era.
“There’s been about 10 of us that have worked on it, on and off over the last six months,” Fletcher says of the unique restoration enabled by a welcome $10,000 surprise donation from a private supporter.
The rare railway car can now be used for the VGR’s train driver experience program, and as part of special trains run by the tourist railway.
“People will just need to keep a look out on the line when driver experiences are running,” Fletcher says.
“They can run anytime. It could be out a couple of times a month.”
Another of the young volunteers to have worked on the project, Castlemaine’s Adisson Chapman doesn’t hesitate when asked what he’s enjoyed most about the project.
“The finished product,” he says.
“We spent about two years talking about doing it.”
“This has got to be one of the best looking and presented heritage goods wagons operating anywhere.”
VGR workshop supervisor and chief mechanical engineer Mick Compagnoni says it’s hoped these sorts of restoration projects can now be applied across the VGR’s entire collection.
“Having this T-van taken back to its current state now reflects the period within which this railway is trying to operate, which is as the Victorian Railways in the 1950s,” he says.
“It improves the overall look of everything and slowly, slowly we hope to be able to have everything restored like this.”