On Thursday 7 July, 2005 former steam locomotive 5112, once driven by Prime Minister Ben Chifley, was transferred out of storage in Bathurst to Lithgow State Mine and Heritage Park where it will undergo restoration.The following article, courtesy of Len Ashworth, Lithgow Mercury, tells the story;
Photo credits: Ray Christison and John Oates
Its not every day that a vintage steam locomotive trundles through Main Street but that was the spectacle greeting startled motorists and confused pedestrians in Lithgow on Thursday.
Heading through the mid city in the afternoon traffic were two low loaders from Henrys Haulage carrying the so called Chifley locomotive and its tender.
The old loco, driven by Labor Prime Minister Ben Chifley during his railway days, was in a somewhat emaciated condition with its cabin and external cladding removed but it was a hefty load just the same and drew plenty of attention.
The Chifley Loco has been brought from storage at Bathurst to begin a restoration program at the Lithgow State Mine Heritage Park & Railway.
Its the latest move in an on again/off again history of the old steamer that has seen a number of false starts while its future has been debated.
It did, in fact, begin a restoration at Orange some years ago but that effort was later abandoned for various reasons and the loco was moved back to Bathurst where it stood in the council depot awaiting a decision on its future.
Bathurst Mayor Norman Mann said the transfer of the loco to Lithgow will enable a study to be carried out to determine what resources will be needed to restore it to a standard suitable for static display or possibly to an operational level.
It is crucial to the future of the engine that it be temporarily housed in a place where it can safely and properly restored and the State Mine Heritage Park & Railway is the best option. he said.
How far the restoration project will go will depend primarily on the availability of funding.
Bathurst Council has put aside $20,000.00 a year for the next two years as seed funding and will pursue grant funds to add to that.
Cr Mann said that once the eventual extent of restoration is decided the Council will decide on a permanent location for the historic locomotive and expects it to be a significant tourist attraction.
Prior to earlier steps being taken for its restoration, the loco was a fixture at the Bathurst railway station.
The heavyweight haul from Bathurst to Lithgow by Henrys Transport was incident free despite the need to negotiate a number of tight bends.
Media Release from Bathurst Regional Council