How the first train carriages came to spark placemaking

by | Jun 3, 2015

Forget travel to exotic climes. The glorious winter sun is streaming in the carriage windows, adorned with views of Stellar Violets garden, and thousands of apple trees giving over to slumber. Bright red steel baggage racks give bold architectural lines to the interiors. It’s flush with old red carpet floors, teal blue seats, and emergent dreams for a refurbishment. 

A neat little springbok decal adorns the double entry doors, and one original window in the “east carriage” – that’s the one I’m in today. Built in South Africa, in 1961, and 1964, they weigh about 20 tonnes each and sadly came sans the bogies, which weren’t even for sale, being far too valuable. I was told our carriages have been to Manjimup and Pemberton before, on the railway last time.

I often lament the lack of passenger rail in our quiet part of the world, and I hope, perhaps foolishly, to live to see it return one day. In the meantime, we’re travelling without moving at Stellar Violets, sitting in these sunny carriages. Five days on, this is still might be the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me. 

The great carriage moving day was months in the making, and thanks to co-ordinating a number of pretty exacting contractors, it went off without a hitch.

We knew we needed a space to hold host workshops, meetings and events. A space to work in, with room to play. I just didn’t know it was going to begin with two twenty metre long carriages built in South Africa.

A chance search on GumTree for second hand french doors earlier this year first sparked the notion to put a train carriage in the garden. The first I found was cute, with french doors. It was pretty small though, and way too expensive, we decided, for the limited purposes it could serve.

I couldn’t get the idea from my mind. Another Google search late one night unearthed two South African beauties from Hotham Valley Tourist Railway in Pinjarra. The last two for sale in a batch of fourteen they were moving on.

What are we going to do with them? Read more about Placemaking at Stellar Violets. Interested in other heritage rail vehicle acquisitions we’ve made? The next unexpected find was Trolleybus 854, that used to run on the Claremont and Wembley lines in Perth.

photo: Pete Bowdidge