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All aboard the restoration of a historic train

July 8, 2017 Rail No Comments Email Email

A group of history-loving train enthusiasts has launched a crowdfunding campaign to bring back an important piece of Australia’s rail history by restoring a 65-year-old train which was once the backbone of NSW passenger travel.

The 900-class DEB set was ahead of its time when introduced in the late 1950s and early 60s. The trains were made in the Chullora workshops, using skills in lightweight bodywork, gained from work on World War 2 aircraft by the NSW railways. The diesel-powered, multi-carriage train provided NSW a cheaper and faster alternative to steam trains. The onboard buffet and air-conditioned carriages were revolutionary for Australian rail travel at the time.

A team of 30 volunteers is working to restore the historic train back to its former glory. The 900-class restoration team has been working hard to prepare the train for its move from the Hunter region to the Riverina, where the provisions and facilities for the restoration are set up. Head of the restoration project, Ross Jackson, said: “We are keen to get stuck in and return this important piece of NSW heritage back to the iron ribbons.

“We are always looking for people with passion and skills to help with the project, from mechanics and electricians to fabric conservation. We’re extremely grateful for all the support given so far and hope that more people will get involved in bringing back a new tourist attraction for NSW.”

A crowdfunding campaign has been launched – the largest heritage rail crowdfunding campaign ever conducted in Australia – which has already raised almost $40,000 of the $300,000 needed to see the restoration complete. With hopes of finishing the restoration in two to three years the team is asking the public to be a part of the DEB set’s return to the tracks. The higher the donation, the bigger the reward. For donations of $20 or more, your name will be recorded as a supporter in the buffet carriage. If you donate $200 dollars or more, your name will be etched on the train’s honour wall as a major contributor as well as getting an invitation to the train’s recommissioning trip. And for big-pocketed, true rail revellers, you can have a carriage named after you if you donate $10,000.

Once completed, the train will able to carry 180 passengers for trips across NSW and beyond. The Benefit of the DEB set’s design means that the train will be able to travel to smaller communities that heritage steam trains are unable to reach. The train is air-conditioned with a buffet car and is ideal for rail cruises across the Australian countryside. The affordability of the DEB set also means that hiring the heritage train for events or tours is easy and cost-effective. Ross Jackson said: “We are determined to retrace the old routes the DEB once ran to show the public and NSW railway towns a piece of forgotten history that once connected our rural communities.”

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