Southern Downs Steam Railway president Christine Ford, with steam fitter John Brady, with the newly-fixed steam train.
Southern Downs Steam Railway president Christine Ford, with steam fitter John Brady, with the newly-fixed steam train. Emma Channon

Steam engine fires up

FOR the past five months, surgeons have been performing a meticulous operation on a rather large patient.

The steam train belonging to the Southern Downs Steam Railway has been off its tracks since April with an engine fault, but yesterday provided the turning point its carers needed.

With volunteers holding their breath, the steam fitters performed a test run with new high intensity elements - and the result couldn't have been more successful.

President Christine Ford said it felt "really good" to have their beloved train back on the tracks.

"The engine came through with flying colours when we tested it," she said.

"We were really hoping for the best (when we tested it) and not thinking about anything else."

Fixing the engine also cost the group considerably less than they first anticipated - another reason Mrs Ford couldn't wipe the smile off her face yesterday.

"We initially thought it would cost about $44,000 to fix," she said. "Through negotiation and generous donations through our members, we got it for $12,000."

Some of the group's 200-odd members live as far away as Brisbane and even Perth.

"We have to give our heartfelt thanks to all our members and people who have helped with this," Mrs Ford said.

"We have so many volunteers working on ongoing restoration, such as painting, oiling and cleaning. Without them, we wouldn't be where we are."

The struggling engine forced the organisation to postpone its 150th celebratory tour earlier this year, but Mrs Ford said the group had already rescheduled a couple of trips.

On September 24, the steam train will make a trip to Clifton leaving at 10am.

Passengers will hop off at Clifton for a spot of lunch at one of the eateries, before boarding again to return to Warwick at 2.30pm.

Tickets are already selling quickly, and will cost $30 for pensioners and children, and $40 for adults. All people who still have tickets from the 150th event that had to be postponed will get to use them.

On September 25, Southern Downs Steam Railway will hold its own 150th celebrations, fashionably late.

"Anyone who bought tickets and has them will be honoured," Mrs Ford said.

The steam train will leave at 10am and return by 11.45am. The trip will be followed by an open afternoon, including a sausage sizzle and various rides.

Entry for the open afternoon will be $2, while the cabin ride will be $6. More information at 4667 1543.



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