Richmond Vale Railway Museum to reopen after devastating fire

The ashes: Firefighters worked hard to bring the fire that tore through Richmond Vale Railway Museum in September 2017. The museum will reopen in March. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
The ashes: Firefighters worked hard to bring the fire that tore through Richmond Vale Railway Museum in September 2017. The museum will reopen in March. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

THE Richmond Vale Railway Museum will reopen to the public in March, five months after a deliberately-lit bush fire engulfed much of the historic site.

The museum, home to priceless artifacts belonging to the Hunter’s rich industrial history, has been closed since a 800-hectare fire caused $1 million worth of damage to the railway track and historic rollingstock in September 2017.

Peter Meddows, the museum’s chairman, was in tears after watching 36 years of work, toil and money “go down the gurgler” in the blaze.

“But I said at the time that we’d be back, and that I wouldn’t let the place die, and we have worked from there,” he said.

“Our main aim was to get enough track open to run a train.”

They had received “tremendous” support from volunteers, the public, businesses and the railway fraternity to tackle much of the extensive damage, which extended along two kilometres of track.

Mr Meddows said it was only thanks to that support that the museum would reopen on March 4.

“The damage bill was about $1 million,” Mr Meddows said.

“There is no way we could have even looked at reopening facing the costs we had without the support of the companies that have helped us.

“A bridge was damaged in the fire. We lost three passenger cars, we lost 50 freight wagons, we lost 10 of the 16 restored hoppers – a 100-year-old brake van was absolutely destroyed, and there is no way we can rebuild it. 

“Most of it is not replaceable.”

The museum buildings were mostly unscathed.

“We are particularly grateful to significant companies in the railway engineering field, who have donated resources and labour to ensure that our museum can reopen for rail operations,” he said.

“We still have a way to go, with the major bridge repair yet to be funded, but being able to run trains on our Mulbring Road branch demonstrates that we will continue the rebuilding process.”

The museum gates will open at 9.30am on Sunday, March 4. Miniature train rides will also be available, and the mining museum will be open.

This story Richmond Vale rail is ‘back on track’ first appeared on Newcastle Herald.