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Updated Monday, 3 August, 2015 by www.abc.net.au
Niels Brun states that everything about trains is either very heavy or very dirty. They are also very, very expensive.
Mr Brun is the Don River Railway (DRR) site foreman in Devonport and he opens the door to the enormous work shed to reveal numerous railway locomotives and carriages occupying most of the length, breadth and height of it.
Crates of uniquely sized nuts, washers and spanners, along with piles of other antiquated but functional tools, plug most remaining gaps.
"The cost of restoring a steam train is enormous. It's upwards of a million dollars to put a steam train back on the rails. Most of what we are able to do here is thanks to the hard work of volunteers," Mr Brun said.
"We have 10 running locomotives so we have the largest fleet of preservation locomotives in Tasmania and probably the envy of many railway societies around Australia."
A quick head count reveals a dozen, maybe 15 volunteers in the shed and shunting yard on this day.
Retired train drivers move the trains around while a semi-retired carpenter works inside a carriage. A fitter and turner has oil and grease covering almost every part of their face and overalls.
Three A-class wagons from the 1870s are in the process of being prepped and painted.
Somehow, against the odds, there is enough industry in the shed to suggest the days when railway was the only way and a technological marvel.
The DRR has about 400 members and of that number about 70 are qualified and able to work hands-on in different aspects of restoration, maintenance and running of the trains.
Nerd? Oooh nah, geek? Mmm... enthusiast. Enthusiast I think you could call me.
They sometimes receive generous donations from members of the public and local businesses, some restoration projects have been assisted with government funding, and the turnstiles keep clicking over with families, school groups and others riding the trains along the leafy Don River to Coles Beach.
On this week day, it is the diesel rail car that is easing into the platform with about 20 people onboard. For older Tasmanians, the distinctive red and cream-topped livery of the Tasmanian Government Railway's Tasman Limited service is an instant nostalgia trip. There has not been a passenger rail service since it ceased in the 1970s.
On Sundays, and for special events, one of DRR's three functioning steam locos does the Coles Beach run.
As rail-car driver Peter Matanle settles in for a quick break and a browse through Australian Railway history magazine, shop supervisor Ian Volker holds court with the freshly disembarked couples, children, railway nerds and geeks.
He is passionate, but he stops short of confessing to being a geek.
"Nerd? Oooh nah, geek? Mmm... enthusiast. Enthusiast I think you could call me," he said.
"I never did the train-spotting thing. I actually lived in Queensland and there are a lot more trains on the main lines up there. I was a regular tripper on the Australian Railway Historical Society's steam excursions.
"We are holding our own here, so far. We had a good summer season but winter is tough for all tourism operators in Tasmania, but we seem to get through and we keep running every day of the week."
Keeping trains on the line needs money and forward planningBack in the sheds, plans are discussed for running the steam engine on the upcoming weekend. This is no small undertaking.
"If we want to run a steam engine tomorrow, we have to start it today," Mr Brun said.
"If we want to run steam on a Saturday, someone will come in Friday afternoon, they'll light it, they'll pre-heat it and then come back in very early on Saturday morning, before the sun's up, stoke it up again and get it out of the shed."
Restored and running steam trains are absolute treasure for rail history buffs alike. Carriages marked first and second class, with leather-bound luxury and hard, wooden benches suggest another time.
The purists like them black but the heroic reds and racing greens certainly add to the story-book appeal.
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