Video taken 1991 at Lilydale prior to move to Sheffield.
The full story can be read in The Railton-Roland Branch Line by Leonard C. Fisher and Barbara Wells, ($15 from the Society) but here’s a condensed version of why the Society was formed.
In 1993 the Second River Tramway Society Inc. experienced problems with land tenure and future commercial viability. It operated a 1km long two foot gauge railway at a location near Lilydale on private property and maintained a small collection of traction engines, a steam roller and portables. The location of the operation was not subject to passing tourist traffic and as such could not become an economically viable tourist attraction. The members of the society realised that its collection would be preserved for future generations in Tasmania in a tourist attraction situated on leasehold Local Government owned land. Remaining members of the Second River Tramway Society Inc fostered the creation of the Redwater Creek Steam and Heritage Society Inc.
Since then other substantial collections of vintage machinery have become available (for display) to the Society as owners realised that a large museum combined with an operating steam railway could become a major tourist attraction, the revenue from which would be used to further the preservation of historical machinery and prevent it from being sold to the highest bidder – who is usually not in Tasmania.
If no action is taken to preserve historical rail and agricultural machinery, equipment will gradually disappear from the state. Already much has been sold for scrap or to the highest bidder – the latter usually mainland or overseas collectors of vintage equipment. Many other items still exist around Tasmania in an un-preserved state. As we lose those who used, maintained and experienced vintage machinery, the desire and the skills to restore this equipment are also lost.
Collection owners have rallied together to ensure that their labours of love and the skills and money required to maintain and continue restoring machinery is not lost by a divided approach. The Redwater Creek Rail, Steam and Heritage Society Inc is the focus of a united approach to maintain our heritage in a working environment.
The Society has for some years held annual Steam Training weekends to help to foster the retention of the skills and knowledge needed to operate these historic machines.
The Redwater Creek Steam and Heritage Society Inc formed in 1993 as a collection of like minded people – initially with a focus on constructing the Redwater Creek Railway but always aiming for the bigger picture of preserving our working industrial age heritage. Since 1993 the group has achieved many ambitious goals due to the voluntary input of members, friends and the community. A few members in particular have been the mainstay behind many of the developments on site Today in 2016, we are no longer a volunteers’ hobby group. With the Society’s current vibrant and enthusiastic group of people committed to undertaking development we are well on the way to becoming a tourist and community asset which will deliver the following outcomes:-
- A business under the incorporated association which gives tourists a quality thematic and memorable experience – one which has broad appeal to both young and old.
- Maintenance of key equipment such as a chaff cutter, threshing drum, straw press, locomotives and rolling stock in operating condition for future generations to see working alongside the skills such as blacksmithing, fitting and machining etc. needed to maintain this equipment.
- Attract more tourists to Sheffield and hold tourists in the area for a longer period of time.
These outcomes are beyond any one individual but together as a community it is possible to achieve these broader aims.
Our secondary aims are to construct the infrastructure for the tourist attraction which will allow the fulfilment of the above aims, including
- a 4km steam operated railway from the museum site to the picturesque Redwater Creek caves, waterfalls and rainforest which follows the abandoned Roland Branch Line formation (now part of the Tasmanian Trail); This requires an enormous amount of preparation and another planning application and more importantly support from the surrounding landowners;
- a museum building housing the large collection of agricultural and steam era machinery with thematic interpretation to provide a quality tourist experience.
- a pioneer settlement presenting houses from the early settlers.
- a sustainable craft village which will support craft industries on the museum site eg. blacksmith, woodcrafts etc in a turn of the 19th century village;
- board walks around the Redwater Creek Caves and Waterfalls to protect the fragile rainforest environment;
- amenities at both the Sheffield and Redwater Creek ends of the railway.
Further to this the Redwater Creek Railway has even greater potential to benefit tourism in Tasmania if it is extended 9km from the Redwater Creek caves and waterfalls to Railton. This construction plan has been a long term aim of the society which may be a reality in 8 to 15 years time. It would allow connection of the Redwater Creek Railway and Sheffield to Devonport via the 3’ 6” gauge mainline in Railton. Attractions which would constitute stopping platforms on such a one hour journey from Sheffield to Railton include the Redwater Creek caves and waterfalls, the Stoodley forest walks amongst the experimental forestry plantations, the existing barbecue area at Stoodley and Sykes’s Sanctuary near Railton.
With this level of development the society would undoubtedly have a world class attraction.