Restoration team members at the unveiling (back) MTHG president Col Seccombe, (middle, from left) John Jeffery, Bruce Steele, Michael Kinion, Chris Tait, Brian Piers, Phil Egan, Ian Angow and (front) Geoff Brumpton.
Restoration team members at the unveiling (back) MTHG president Col Seccombe, (middle, from left) John Jeffery, Bruce Steele, Michael Kinion, Chris Tait, Brian Piers, Phil Egan, Ian Angow and (front) Geoff Brumpton.

Historic Shay loco back on track

TIPPED off the rails back in 1936 and left to rot, its job done, an original Shay locomotive that hauled timber from Ravensbourne to Hampton from 1904 has had a rebirth.

The historic steam locomotive, restored by the Munro Tramway Historical Group (MTHG) and unveiled to a crowd of about 180 on March 30, is now destined to bring tourists to the area.

It sits on a spot where the train line once ran, on the corner of the Esk-Hampton and National Park Rds at Ravensbourne Sports Grounds.

At its peak, the 2'6" gauge line extended 26km, with Duncan Munro having travelled to America to buy the unique locomotive to replace horse-drawn haulage for the A&D Munro Palmtree sawmill.

MTHG president Col Seccombe said the restoration had taken 10 members three years.

They dedicated every Saturday to the job.

While it is not operational, which would have cost millions of dollars, he said the Shay was otherwise in good condition thanks to a $30,000 grant from the Heritage Bank.

"There has been so much support within the group, and there's a lot of nostalgia and interest in it in the district," Col said.

Formed in 2015 to research the history of the Munro tramline, the timbering families of Palmtree, Perseverance and Ravensbourne, and explore the possibility of restoring the locomotive and opening sections of the rail as walking trails, MTHG has about 40 members.

Col said most of those involved in the restoration were not train enthusiasts as such but interested in the tramline, which passed through many of their properties.

Farmers, he said, are naturally "good at fixing things" and, being predominantly seniors, this team had a lot of experience to draw upon.

Originally discovered decaying under lantana, having been picked over by locals for parts, the Shay was shipped down to the Illawarra Light Rail Museum in 1974, where it sat in pieces for almost 40 years with little work done.

The late Ian McRae sought its return for Ravensbourne's Sketches Mountain Resort in 2010 and began the ambitious project of restoring it, before the pieces finally came into the hands of MTHG.

At the opening, Toowoomba Regional Council Mayor Paul Antonio praised the hard work and commitment that had gone into the volunteer project and pointed to its historic as well as monetary value to the community as a tourist attraction.

Ian McRae's son Stuart presented the bronze bell that his father had cast for the train some years earlier.

Stuart spoke lovingly of his late father's enthusiasm for the project and the effort, investment and time he had put into it.

A restored Hornsby engine, imported from England in 1908 to pump water from a well into the boiler, has also been restored and donated by Doug Shum to be displayed on site.

For more information, contact the Hampton Visitor Information Centre or go to munrotramway.wixsite.com/mthg.


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