The first word
Valley Chairman's Track Chat
1. News desk
2. Vale Debbie Inwood
3. Large exhibits
4. Building services and Per way
5. Small exhibits
6. Shop news
8. Blast from the past
9. Our coming events
‘Past, present and future’ - your publicity team (Andrew Tester, Grant Robinson and I) works on all three levels.
We tell the story of events past: explaining to the outside world what the museum’s volunteers have been up to and painting a picture of happenings large and small.
In the present tense, we liaise and negotiate with outside bodies, organisations, groups and our own volunteer base to deliver activities that will excite and educate visitors of all ages.
Up ahead, we shout from the rooftops about what’s coming up and the new adventures and experiences to be had at our museum.
In light of recent world news, and in common with many of our fellow volunteers we might be considered ‘jobless’? Of course there are hundreds of thousands in (or recently removed from) the paid workforce whose current life experience is a lot worse than ours and our sympathies are with them.
But what to do about ‘our’ situation? You’re reading (D/D 124) one of the outcomes, and trust that you find it a breath of fresh air, a ray of sunshine, in the gloomy fog that can descend in times of stress. An innovation in this edition is the reproduction of extracts from earlier ‘Depot Diaries’ (not always known by that name!). Please enjoy tales of our formative years, and learn a little about the successes (and otherwise!) of our pathway to 2020. It might also give you some ideas for the future!
So to my closing points:
As it’s our first D/D for 2020 I must say, “Welcome to another year!” With the easing of the drought and finally some good rain, we can’t thank enough all volunteers, from our own members protecting the museum, to the RFS, NSW Fire Brigades, the SES and everyone who assisted in keeping us safe from those terrible bushfires. To any members who were affected by the fires, if you need some help, your museum friends can assist you, so please give me a call.
Unfortunately we have now been hit with the Corona Virus (COVID-19) pandemic which as you will know by now has closed our museum to all but essential work. Your management team has formed a four-person Corona Action Committee empowered to make the many decisions at short notice needed to comply with all Government directions. Subsequently, we instigated extra daylight patrols of the museum to ensure security of the site and the exhibits. Importantly, pest inspections of all small exhibits are taking place to ensure that in our absence the library, for example, is not being attacked by pests such as silverfish that will destroy our books if we leave them unattended for a long time. STARPS members were allowed to complete some essential work on their exhibits that was half done when the museum was closed to volunteers. Completion of these projects ensures these heritage listed items are safe and secure. All essential work at the museum has been approved by THNSW.
Please be assured that your museum will be fully protected during this shutdown period and that your committee is ready to resume normal operations as soon as we are allowed.
Moving on, this year looks to be another big one if the start is any guide. Three great events including Australia Day, the 90th birthday celebrations for 5711 and of course the ‘Trains Trams and Ts’ event have all been success stories.
To keep the museum fresh and to increase our visitation, a Special Events virtual meeting led by Keith Ward and Andrew Tester will be held along with our partners STARPS in order to review future events and to brainstorm some new ones. David Bennett, Marketing Manager for THNSW and hopefully Andrew Moritz, CEO of THNSW will be attending so that we can integrate our two events lists together for our mutual benefit. We have to keep evolving if we are to grow.
One huge addition to the running fleet is diesel shunter X206 which has been with us for a long time but has only just been accredited for passenger service. The loco was trialled on Australia day and was quite a hit with our visitors. We lost many running days recently due to fire bans and now a total shutdown, but with the diesel operational we can now offer rides on quieter days or mid-week events which certainly increases our visitor potential so watch our website for news of what’s running, at the ‘Grand Reopening!’ later in the year.
Work had been continuing on the site with good progress on the refurbishment of the Civil Depot ready for use as office space, training rooms, parking and storage of essential spares.
The retaining wall on the access road required a few rotted sleepers replaced while Ted Dickson is finalising our plans to seek funding and have this big ticket item replaced.
Please enjoy your latest Depot Diary as I believe it is of the highest professional standard.
See you at the museum when circumstances permit but until then please stay safe!
Our first Open Day of the new decade saw only a few adventurous souls visit the museum on Sunday 12 January, with low temperatures but the attention of many focussed on the NSW fire situation.
A much brighter result was achieved on Australia Day, Sunday 26 January, when well over 200 visitors took advantage of FREE museum entry and a re-worked price structure, with optional ‘pay-to-ride’ tickets. This experiment proved a financial success with our fifth highest earnings day for the financial year to date (excluding Grandparents Day on 3/11), largely boosted by food & drink sales on a fine, hot day. It was highlighted by the long-awaited ‘soft’ launch of diesel shunting tractor X206 (heading the ‘Valley Heights Mixed’) and it performed to expectations, hauling many excited passengers to and from the signal box on a shortened 10 minute ride, as they enjoyed the first day of public service for the loco. This enabled crews to run in familiarisation mode, on level ground, without the added complications of the coal stage and points changing procedures.
On Wednesday 29 January Ted Dickson and I attended a ‘Small Business Bush Fire Recovery Forum’ at Leura hosted by Blue Mountains Accommodation & Tourism Association (BMATA) and attended by over 200, including representatives from all tiers of government and the tourism sector. In a non-partisan environment, guest speakers addressed the forum with many attendees expressing a range of personal experiences and questions from the floor. Governments are keen to fill the space that has been created by the impact of the fires, both from a business and a psychological angle and a range of opportunities for financial and moral support was offered. While our museum and many businesses don’t qualify for grants or loans, it was ‘pleasing’ to see such a large number of interested and concerned attendees, and the calm manner in which the meeting was conducted was reassuring to most.
Ted and I also attended the first monthly BMATA meeting for 2020 on Tuesday 4 February at Katoomba. This was also open to non-members, invited as a fellow up from the Forum, and whilst numbers were much lower than the week before, there were certainly more than at regular BMATA meetings. Tiffany Glasgow, NSW TrainLink Area Manager, showed a short video of the fire’s impact on the Blue Mountains line and their response. Blue Mountains City Council had two representatives there, confirming many of the details from the previous week but also to emphasise the importance of the ‘Love Local’ campaign to encourage residents to spend money in the area. Andrew Tester has agreed to display two of the full A4 posters in the shop and the campaign details appear below:
Sunday 9 February saw the outcome of many months of endeavour by a large army of planners, volunteers and other contributors with the 90th birthday celebration for giant steam locomotive 5711. Despite all the effort involved, the weather had a big say in the proceedings with the main event being relocated to the adjacent ‘Springwood Boys & Girls Club’. Speeches by our members, dignitaries and other invited guests were warmly received by the enthusiastic audience as the incessant heavy rain did its best to drown out their well-chosen words! While all this was going on, I was escorting some hardy members of the general public to view the loco’s cab that had been specially readied for the day. Of note was the visit of two young men who had come for the event, from Newcastle, by public transport, incurring a thorough soaking as they walked from Valley Heights Station! In case you didn’t see it, here is Andrew Tester’s timely and comprehensive summary on Facebook:
“A number of Special Guests were invited to the event and although Mother Nature is always welcome to all our events, she certainly stretched the friendship on the weekend. Sadly the rain did impact visitor numbers. Weather aside we were not going to let a little bit of rain spoil the party.
Four months of planning culminated in the locomotive being moved to a location for immediate public impact. As soon as the public enter the Museum they are greeted by the size of the locomotive. Special arrangements were implemented so as to allow the public to get up close and personal with the locomotive, get their picture taken beside it and climb aboard the cab to see a photographic recreation of cab with the driver and fireman's controls visible.
A series of interpretive panels were prepared with the intention of displaying them beside the locomotive, however the persistent rainfall on the day confined them to a marquee close by the locomotive.
Two 5 inch gauge models of 5701 and 5035 were kindly displayed in steam by their owners Robert Smithers and Graeme Kirkby respectively.
One dilemma facing our event organisers was where were would to conduct the Official Ceremony. Enter our neighbours the Springwood Boys & Girls Club who have their gymnasium adjacent to the Museum. We have an excellent relationship with the Boys & Girls Club. Chairman Bruce Coxon made contact with the club and was able to secure access to a room within the gymnasium as their facilities were not being used. We also had access to their kitchen allowing us to provide the catering for our guests. This facility made for a more comfortable setting for our guests, with the welcome sound of the rain on the roof being the only challenge to contend with.
The Ceremony was attended by 50 people with a strong representation from Transport Heritage NSW. The ceremony commenced with a Welcome to Country delivered by Uncle Graeme Cooper, followed by speeches from Susan Templeman MP (Member for Macquarie), Councillor Chris Van der Kley (Deputy Mayor, Blue Mountains City Council), Mr Rob Mason (Chairman, Transport Heritage NSW), Mr James Dalton (Chairman, Australian Railway Historical Society - NSW), David Oram and Ted Dickson. James Dalton spoke about the Significance of the Locomotive. David Oram spoke about Saving the Locomotive for preservation while Ted Dickson spoke on the locomotive's restoration and reconstruction. Following the speeches a birthday cake was cut followed by three cheers. A light lunch for the special guests was provided following the ceremony.
We were encouraged that despite the weather many of the special guests stayed to inspect the locomotive and the displays associated with the Birthday celebrations.
Mr Ian Vigers, Blue Mountains Coffee Roasters created a special 5711 Blend for the occasion. For all those coffee lovers a sample bag can be purchased from the Museum.
Transport Heritage NSW also provided assistance with the creation of a commemorative handout. The handout features a picture of the 57 from a Christmas Card that was given to all Railway and Tramway Employees by the Commissioner of Railways in 1929.”
Member and ace photographer Ralph Cooke had been commissioned to capture plenty of shots of the proceedings.
You can see more of Ralph’s photos with Andrew’s report (as above) on our website.
On Sunday 23 February, two weeks after the 90th birthday celebration, the elaborate scaffolding that had been erected for the 90th birthday was still in place, enabling visitors to inspect 5711’s cab under more pleasant conditions.
With that in mind, publicity for this event also included the offer of cab visits as well as other special attractions, including:
A grand day out for all!
Rain hampered the first half of our Open Day on Sunday 8 March.
It saw an early start for a family group from Penrith who had engaged MoKi Photography of Blaxland for a ‘maternity’ photo shoot using our large exhibits and buildings as backdrops. Photographers Kev and Stacey captured plenty of images of Cat, the heavily pregnant mum-to-be, husband Dave and their young son, despite the intermittent showers. Everyone was delighted with the outcome and the museum gratefully accepted a generous donation for providing our unique venue.
Shortly before 10:00 we opened our gates for cars belonging to the Triumph Sports Owners Association, whose pre-booked visit saw numbers reduced because of the weather. Although English-built and therefore ‘Bulldog’ tough under most conditions, these cars don’t cope well with the harsh Australian climate and some drivers felt they should leave their vehicle at home under a raincoat!
After a ride on the diesel-hauled ‘Valley Heights Mixed’, a 60 minute guided tour was arranged for the group before they left for lunch in Springwood.
With all the adverse press reports on matters local and global, plus the damp start to the day possibly affecting visitations, we were in the end pleased to crack the ‘ton’.
There have been many thoughtful words shared about the sudden loss of Debbie, our good friend and keen volunteer. Debbie was born in Sydney and lived most of her teenage years at Faulconbridge in the Blue Mountains, attending Springwood High School. She entered the Commonwealth Bank where she met Eric, her husband of 43 years, and rose through the ranks due to her diligence, enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge, ending her career there as Branch Manager. On retirement, they started a home delivery business and eventually Debbie joined the ranks of the volunteer movement, becoming a popular and well informed guide at the local Norman Lindsay Gallery, where she met and worked alongside my wife Eileen. A policy change at the Gallery caused Debbie to look elsewhere to spend her volunteer hours and their loss was our gain. She threw herself wholeheartedly in to whatever was on offer, and Debbie was always the first to put her hand up for special events, assisting Eileen (who also volunteers at the museum) with catering and more recently, keenly learning barista duties from those more experienced.
I can do no better that to reprint in full, the words of Steve Corrigan who worked closely with Debbie in our shop. Read aloud at a brief and small ceremony at Buttenshaw Park, Springwood amongst family and close friends, these thoughts are shared by all of us who knew Debbie. A larger occasion will be held later in the year to enable Debbie’s extended family, friends and workmates to pay their respects at an interment at Faulconbridge.
“I can’t recall exactly when Debbie first appeared behind the counter in our shop, but on that day she seemed to light up the room, and so brightened up our lives. Encouraging people to stand behind the counter and serve customers has never been an easy job, but suddenly here was this irrepressible lady who not only seemed to seize upon the opportunity to serve customers, but actually went way beyond just welcoming and assisting our visitors, she seemed to delight in informing and pleasing them, so as to ensure that they all had a very positive memorable experience. But there was a lot more to Debbie than just excellent customer service skills. She had an insatiable desire to learn new skills, very quickly mastering the cash registers, the EFTPOS machine, and was on her way becoming a barista extraordinaire. But even that wasn’t enough, she had set herself the target of increasing her knowledge of things railway, starting with work of George Westinghouse, inventor of the Westinghouse air brake, the workings of which Debbie was researching and mastering. I recall her even having a go at driving the 46 class driver simulator. Nothing it seems escaped her enthusiasm.
But of all my recollections of Debbie, it is her warmth and compassion that impressed most. On one occasion when I working in the shop and became ill, she gently encouraged me to go home, the shop was in good hands (which it was with Debbie there), and a couple of days later, when I came home from hospital, it was Debbie who checked on how I was.
Debbie’s sudden and unexpected passing came as an immense shock. The light that once brightened up our lives has gone out, and we are all the poorer for this loss. I shall miss her greatly.”
Steve is also responsible for noting this unusual and touching coincidence: Computer systems developer Linux Mint recently launched a new operating system, and as is common practice it has a nickname. This news item was posted on the same day (20 March) as Debbie’s passing:
‘The (Linux) team is proud to announce the release of LMDE 4 “Debbie”……’
A loan agreement between STARPS and Transport Heritage will be developed in order to use this vehicle in traffic, similar to the existing agreement for X206.
The visits by the ARHS and Faulconbridge Medical Centre on 1 December were in effect the first public demonstration of the simulator.
The simulator was run and demonstrated to the public all day on Australia Day, and performed satisfactorily. Leigh Stokes and Steve Corrigan are now trained in operating the system.
A clip on shelf that been installed on the drivers' control stand so as to facilitate operation of a keyboard and mouse for the simulator proved effective. The installation is designed to be easily attached or removed without any modification to the driver’s desk.
A new version of the simulator manual has been produced which documents the operation of the simulator using the new computer and software.
A repair has been carried out to the door locking mechanism. A bolt securing the locking bars to the door had pulled through the door, this has been replaced with a longer bolt, with a steel plate to prevent it pulling through.
The 90th anniversary celebration for this locomotive was held on Sunday 9 February (see News desk report above). Significant tasks undertaken included clearing the site, moving 5711, safety inspection, quantification of volunteer resources required, development of text for the information panels, installation of scaffolding and stairs for visitors (as recommended during the safety inspection), manufacture of a visitor ‘footplate’ for the driver’s cab, provision of a suitable tarpaulin for the cab in case of wet weather.
The event went well, in spite of atrocious weather. Its success is a tribute to the work done by Sue Fulton and Ted Dickson. It was suggested that clear acrylic panels be fitted in the cab windows to improve the environment in the cab, especially during inclement weather, as well as improving the appearance. Job now done!
The Civil Depot has involved much of our time in recent months.. The gyprock on the ceiling and walls is all but finished, and tape and cement has been applied to joints.
Bruce Coxon has done a very good job installing lights and switches.
The internal door jambs are in place.
Although much has been achieved, with the labour we have, there is still more to be done.
Clearing of the site at the shunting neck outside the shop was completed in time for the 5711 shunt in January.
Paintings from the Small Exhibits room were relocated to Lewers Gallery in Emu Plains during the bushfire crisis. Thanks to Ted Dickson, Ted Mullett, Bob and Heather Dickson, Sue Fulton and Ellen Anderson who all assisted in the relocation effort. The paintings were returned to Valley Heights during February. We sincerely appreciate the great cooperation and support from the team at Lewers. New information stands for 5711 were delivered and deployed to acclaim for the 90th birthday celebrations.
We still have some 2020 calendars and stock of children’s hi-vis vests has been replenished.
STARPS have supplied customised pens for sale, featuring pictures of the tram or ‘Stevo’, and reasonably priced at $4.50 each.
57 class prints – A3, A4 and A5 prints of a 57 class steam locomotive were sourced as souvenir items for 5711’s 90th anniversary. Each print comes with a matt frame (the A3 and A4 sizes have two matt frames) and are fixed to a light weight solid backing ready to be installed into picture frames.
Each print comes packaged in a sealed clear plastic sleeve to protect the print. They are great value at $15 for A5, $36 for A4 and $54 for A3.
Mid-week events, although needing extra planning and volunteer support, are always welcome. Valley Heights is the perfect site for special interest groups and attractive rates can be negotiated for birthday parties, wedding photography, film shoots, and so on. Please contact Keith Ward at the Museum on (02) 4751 4638 (leave message) if you know anyone who might be interested.
As at the end of March, our membership numbers are:
A warm welcome to you all. I hope you enjoy all the activities and facilities at your Museum.
Total volunteer hours worked since the last Depot Diary:
If you have not yet paid your renewal for 2020, go to our website: valleyheightsrailmuseum.info and on the menu select VHLDHM then MEMBERSHIP.
You can choose to complete the form online or to print and post.
If you need a paper copy of the form, please contact me at email@example.com or 02 4751 2471
To help you while away the days before normal service is resumed, you may like to revisit (or view anew) the first Museum circular to members (December 1989). NB complete with Andrew's coffee stains?
COVID-19 – what now?
In response to direction from our Emergency Management team, in consultation with Andrew Moritz at THNSW and edicts by the NSW and Federal Governments, the Museum as previously advised is closed to the public and volunteers, unless carrying out ESSENTIAL tasks. Access should be requested via your line manager who in turn will liaise with VHLDHM Chairman, Bruce Coxon.
As a result, our regular Open Days are cancelled, while special events (such as Teddy Bears Day Out, car club runs, etc.) and mid-week group visits will be rescheduled for later in the year or 2021 as appropriate. Despite all the effort involved in planning such activities, that input is not lost, as the groundwork has been done and the relationships formed will carry us through in brighter times.
How many (‘common’) words of SIX letters or more can you make from the letters contained in:
Each letter can be used as many times as it appears but only once per appearance (i.e. you can use two each of ‘L’, ‘E’, ‘H’ and one each of the others). NB: No proper names OR any words ending in ‘s’.
Score: 20 = good; 40 = very good; 55 = excellent; 65 = you used computer!
Depot Diary 123 Trivia Quiz answer:
Check the question at infobluemountains.net.au/ locodepot/ depot-diary
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