The great train hobby: Midvale railawy enthusiast is restoring a railway car

The great train hobby: Midvale railawy enthusiast is restoring a railway car

MIDVALE railway enthusiast Jim Howlett could not believe his luck when he bought a 25m, 46.5 tonne piece of local railway history for just $100.

That was until he paid thousands to get the 1930s ex-Commonwealth Railways carriage trucked and craned on to his Morrison Road property in August.

His motivation: the satisfaction of restoring a part of railway history.

Mr Howlett said he first spotted the haggard EH54 railway car in Bellevue, near the former grain silo and its old home at the Midland Workshops.

It last belonged to the Railway Heritage Society of WA but sat unused for several years after the society was moved from the Midland Workshops.

After years exposed to the elements, it was on the brink of demolition.

“I first saw it last December and just thought there’s something about it that I want to save and restore,” he said.

“I’m going to put it back to what it was like in 1930; I think history should be kept. It’s going to be a lot of work and probably a lot of money but will I do it? Yes I will.”

A restored 1908 ARS348 carriage at Dome Cafe in Bassendean has provided inspiration for Mr Howlett, who thought “if they can do it, so can I”.

Although his EH54 carriage is significantly bigger than Dome’s, it is in a similar state of disrepair to the Bassendean car before its restoration.

EH54 last functioned as a training carriage for railway air brakes at the Port Augusta workshops in South Australia.

Years ago, the Railway Heritage Society of WA acquired the carriage and brought it to Midland with the intention of refurbishing it. But soon after, the society was moved from the Midland Workshops, forcing the group to consolidate its standard gauge fleet, and the EH54 was let go.

Mr Howlett said he had no plans about what to use the carriage for when it was finished. His vision is to restore the EH54 carriage to its former glory and classification of BR54: a Second Class Sleeping Commonwealth Railways Car.

The community has taken an interest in the restoration and Mr Howlett has already welcomed about 40 people to have a closer look at the carriage.

“It’s had the really positive effect of getting people excited about a good cause,” he said.