Wheatbelt Heritage Rail Project
Following the success of the 100 years of rail celebrations that took place in December 2006, the Shire of Dowerin in conjunction with the neighbouring Shires of Wyalkatchem and Goomalling propose the development of a unique and innovative tourist attraction, the Wheatbelt Rail Heritage Project. It is proposed that the Wheatbelt Rail Heritage Project is to be implemented in two phases.
Firstly, the S Class ‘Greenmount’ locomotive will be relocated to Dowerin, complete with passenger carriages, a dinning carriage, guards van and other items of rolling stock specifically linked to the Wheatbelt and Grain Carting activities. These items will be housed in the former Minnivale Wheat Bin within the Shire of Dowerin and will form a permanent, fully interpretative, static display ‘The Wheatbelt Rail Heritage Museum – Annex to the Bassendean Rail Heritage Museum
In conjunction with this, the Shires of Goomalling, Dowerin and Wyalkatchem will work together with the Bassendean Rail Heritage Museum, ARG, Westnet Rail, the Office of Rail Safety and Public Transport Authority to gain accreditation to operate a fully operational steam train between Goomalling, Dowerin and Wyalkatchem.
It is anticipated that initially the train will have four (4) excursions per year, intended to coincide with the local events calendar of all three shires.
The notion of reviving steam in the Wheatbelt is not a concept that is new to Dowerin and the surrounding region. The Shire of Dowerin recognised the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Dowerin Railway line and organised a weekend of festivities on the 9th and 10th of December 2006 with the S-Class ‘Greenmount’ being transported back to the centre of Dowerin where it once ran on a regular basis
Shire staff worked in conjunction with the Bassendean Rail Heritage Museum, Westnet Rail, ARG, the Office of Rail Safety, Public Transport Authority, FESA and the former Minister for Transport Alannah McTiernan to ensure this project met compliance requirements to move the Steam Train out of the Metropolitan Area and into the heart of the Wheatbelt.
History of the Project
Following the success of the Dowerin Centenary and impressed with the planning, organisation and support of the event, the Bassendean Rail Heritage Group in conjunction with the Shire of Dowerin proposed a long term plan to relocate the S Class Greenmount and other items of rolling stock to the region, on a full time basis. This proposal stemmed from critical issues of limited storage space within the Bassendean Museum and a need to relocate stock out to a new location. It is believed that the Goomalling, Dowerin and Wyalkatchem region is perfect for the relocation of this stock, Bosworth claims ‘the most significant development in transport during 1897-1914 was the arrival of the railway in 1906 to the Dowerin townsite and in 1911, to Minnivale, as it looped to Wyalkatchem and beyond’ as noted in the Dowerin Shire Heritage Inventory November 1995.
CBH Group and Westnet Rail have committed support to this project, working with the Shire of Dowerin to establish a legal sub-lease agreement for the Minnivale Wheat Bin and a peppercorn lease of the Dowerin Station Building and Minnivale Gangers Shed. With these parameters in place the Shire of Dowerin has secured a lease agreement of the Minnivale Receival Point Site for the use of the area for a period of 99 years. Passenger accreditation must be obtained to operate and carry passengers along the line, the Shire’s of Dowerin, Wyalkatchem and Goomalling are working in conjunction with the Office of Rail Safety and Minister for Transport to initiate this process.
The proposed Wheatbelt Rail Heritage Project is an innovative, unique and regional proposal that is anticipated to provide significant benefits for the Bassendean Rail Heritage Museum in terms of growth and both businesses and communities within all three shires in terms of increased tourism and visitor numbers, economic growth and possible population growth in the region as a whole. The Wheatbelt Rail Heritage project has received a huge volume of community support throughout the three towns including existing museum groups, visitor’s centres, business associations, the Avon Regional Organisation of Councils, Dowerin Events Management Committee and more widely CBH Group, Westnet Rail, ARG, WACC, the Wheatbelt Development Commission and the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure.