FULL STEAM AHEAD: Freight company owner Michael Smith helps Southern Downs Steam Railway board members David Laker and Peter Gregory.
FULL STEAM AHEAD: Freight company owner Michael Smith helps Southern Downs Steam Railway board members David Laker and Peter Gregory. Bianca Hrovat

Steam train back on track after generous donation

THERE is light at the end of the tunnel for the Southern Downs Steam Railway, after community members conducted a rescue effort to get the historic tourist attraction back on track.

The old Gympie Rattler, complete with original brass work, rolled into Warwick yesterday on the back of trucks supplied by Michael Smith.

Upon delivery Mr Smith told SDSR board members he would not be taking payment for his transport service from Gympie.

Instead, he told them, he would be happy to ride with his family once the historical train was restored to its former glory.

SDSR board member Chris Freeman was shocked by the generosity.

"It's amazing how many people just want to see this succeed,” he said.

The historical steam train, which had been waiting for the move for 10 years, would not be available to the Rose City if it weren't for a Brisbane train enthusiast who generously found and bought the locomotive for the SDSR to use.

The man, who wished to remain anonymous, stepped up with funding when the SDSR failed to secure the funding they needed from the Southern Downs Regional Council 2019-2020 budget.

The acquisition was quite a coup for SDSR according to Mr Freeman, who said "getting a complete loco like this is a bit like finding a rare Ferrari in a shed somewhere”.

SDSR vice-president David Laker said although a new boiler still needed to be installed, the exciting addition gave the entire operation a much needed boost.

"It puts us in front,” he said.

"It gives a future to the whole thing.”

Now the only obstacle to attracting steam train aficionados from around the world is rain, and lots of it.

Because of extreme water restrictions SDSR must rely on their own water supply which is able to power short trips to Clifton, Hendon and Wheatvale but stops short of Wallangarra.

"We'd need truckloads of it and we can't buy it from council,” Mr Laker said.

Volunteers are researching potential trips to Toowoomba, where they say they may be able to purchase water for the steam engine.

"That'd help us to get a bit more steam on the line and keep the interest going,” Mr Laker said.

"The steam definitely brings the people in.”



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