Train for the train run

Locomotive fireman Peter Gould and former premier Peter Dowding with one of the locos. Picture: Bruce Hunt www.communitypix.com.au d422642
Locomotive fireman Peter Gould and former premier Peter Dowding with one of the locos. Picture: Bruce Hunt www.communitypix.com.au d422642

For close to 30 years, Bennett Brook Railway volunteers have helped families and other visitors take home memories of happy days out in Whiteman Park ” now it is their turn to ask for help.

It takes a small army of volunteers to keep a railway running and as current crews and stocks mature, more enthusiasts are required to keep the trains on track.

Help is needed in just about every area of running a railway line.

Former premier Peter Dowding, who opened the Whiteman Village Junction Railway back in 1984, is the patron of its owner, the Western Australian Light Railway Preservation Association (WALRPA), also run entirely by volunteers.

‘Whiteman Park is a vast public resource utilised by a lot of people, but there’s a great swag of people that don’t know it’s here,’ he said.

‘People who work on this railway are preserving an immeasurably valuable resource and skills, all the machinery is old but it has been brought back to its former glory by the volunteers.’

Mr Dowding said the railway was a treasured State asset and given Perth’s expanding population, was an important part of the city’s recreational heritage in the Swan Valley, a short drive from Midland and 25 minutes from the CBD.

‘Here’s a kind of ‘Men’s Shed’ with a clear mandate; it’s all here, we need boilermakers, carpenters, ticket-collectors, there’s something for young and old alike, an entire family can get involved,’ Mr Dowding said.

Retired teacher Peter Gould, of Bassendean, rolled up his sleeves 13 years ago and recently poured his passion for the track into writing a series of books for youngsters, soon to be published.

Mr Gould works closely with signals manager Bob Baker, a retired telephone technician from Mandurah and volunteer of some 19 years.

For the two volunteers there is no greater feeling than driving a train-full of happy families around the bushland loop or down to Mussel Pool, where other volunteers are rebuilding engines in the fully equipped workshop.

Rail enthusiasts will likely know Bennett Brook Railway is of the less common 2foot gauge variety and great effort ensured the necessary stock came over from Queensland.

One such restoration was the Betty Thompson; a pretty engine named in honour of the hours of labour devoted to the engine by her late husband Arthur and his co-workers.

With accreditation by the Department of Rail Safety, volunteers participate in training, free-of-charge, to drive both steam and diesel engines.

Training is provided to volunteers working in all other areas, including customer service.

A youth section for teenagers offers adult mentors ‘to buddy up with’ and learn about safe rail working, with the aim of becoming a guard at the age of 18.

Volunteer workshops run every Wednesday and Thursday, 8.30am to 4pm and the railway is open the same days, as well as weekends, public and school holidays.

Make a date to ride Ashley and friends at the next Ashley Day, Sunday, September 14.

Anyone interested in volunteering should call Ken Watson on 0422 158 281.

An Open Day will be held Saturday, July 26 from noon until 4pm with a free sausage sizzle, train ride and tours.

Go to www.bbr.org.au.