Robert Ketton delivered a lecture called "Life is like a Railway ." He started his lecture by blowing a whistle loudly and calling us all to attention. He spoke passionately of the huge impact of railways on daily life and engaged us with facts, anecdotes and memories of railways. He is working on preserving and bringing back to life a heritage railway.
Robert, together with a group of other volunteers and railway aficionados - lovingly and jokingly aka as "anoraks" have set their hearts on establishing a tourist railway for the Darling Downs region. Well, that is their dream and they are steadily and methodically working towards its realisation. To see exactly how much they have achieved and how wonderful the whole project is, go to DownsSteam.
We went up to Toowoomba on a sunny day to hear Robert speak about his plans but also visit the "Dreamtime" carriage which is probably unique in the country, to look at "The Pride of Toowoomba" Steam Locomotive which is being lovingly restored as well as "The Drayton Belle" a diesel loco, which was brought all the way from Tasmania, as a burnt out shell.
Each of these engines and carriages are being stripped back and slowly restored to their former glory and the idea is that one day, in the not too distant future, a train will leave the station and head to Stanthorpe stopping at interesting stations along the way. Once there, passengers will be able to sample the Stanthorpe wines and have a wonderful dinner, come back on board and overnight on the train and then following a hearty breakfast, head back to Toowoomba.
What a joy that would be - everything at your finger tips, no worries about drinking and driving and enjoying the magnificent countryside.
Until this becomes reality, you can enjoy the next best thing, which is a day out at the Railway Museum to see all the carriages, hear Robert recounting the marvellous stories associated with the Dreamtime Carriage and how much more there is to do.
They have tea and coffee on the platform as well as a small gift shop. A generous lunch is prepared and served in the dining carriage and it is really very good, served to a fairly large group quickly and piping hot. The dessert was delicious and there were teas and coffees to follow and all this for $35 pp. I think it is exceptional value but also money for a very good cause. The waiters are all volunteers as are the kitchen staff.
The whole project relies on keen railway buffs and tradesmen who will come and do a few hours per week. They are always looking for volunteers. You can organise day events, school parties, special events, and even weddings. They also have special event days themselves, to coincide with the Carnival of Flowers in Toowoomba in the last week in September, Mother's Day and Father's day breakfasts and an Australia Day Celebration, so check their website out for details.