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Steam train enthusiasts are crazy about the M class locomotive, but when the machines arrived in Tasmania 70 years ago, no-one wanted to drive them.
In 1952 the Tasmanian government ordered 10 steam and 32 diesel-electric locomotives.
But it was the diesel engines that arrived first.
Once the drivers had a taste of the difference between diesel and steam engines, they were loath to drive the latter.
"Unfortunately for the steam engines, diesel had arrived here first and the drivers weren't all that rapt driving steam engines after the diesel," Tasmanian Transport Museum president Rod Prince said.
"With the steam engine you have to turn up four to five hours before.
"With the diesel engine you just stepped up and basically pressed a button and once you had air pressure it was ready to go.
"They used to have lighters and people to manage the engines until they were ready to go and then the drivers would take over, but it was hard work."
Dana Burke and Rod Prince are working hard to get the M class steam locomotive back on the tracks.(ABC Radio Hobart: Rachel Edwards)Head for steamDana Burke, a boilermaker and welder who cut his professional teeth working on council steamrollers, is managing the project to refurbish of the M5 train, which was donated to the Transport Museum in the 1990s.
The museum received a grant from the Federal Government of $100,000 to restore the train.
Even with volunteers putting in 40-hour weeks, finishing the task, which began in June last year, will take some time yet.
"How much longer? How long is a piece of string?" Mr Burke said.
"I'd hope to have it back together in another year."
Boilermaker Dana Burke is a steam train enthusiast and the project manager of the M5's refurbishment.(ABC Radio Hobart: Rachel Edwards)Despite the challenges of running a steam engine and the intricate work involved in the restoration, Mr Burke prefers steam over diesel any day.
"With steam you've got to drive it, fire it, put the fuel in yourself," Mr Burke said.
"There are no driver aids — it's all up to you.
"Everything is manual on it."
Mr Prince said the fact that the steam trains were all decommissioned by the 1970s was making the restoration slightly easier than it might otherwise have been.
"The steam locomotives did very little work, which fortunately for us was maybe a good thing, because they are not as worn as they could have been, had they done 100,000 miles like the diesel trains," he said.
The plaque on the side of the M5 steam locomotive at the Tasmanian Transport Museum.(ABC Radio Hobart: Rachel Edwards)Climbing the hillMessrs Burke and Prince want the M5 to run on a hill, where its power will be best showcased, but they are concerned that may not be affordable because of insurance premiums.
There are tricky ownership laws around the train lines, but the Tasmanian Government recently passed legislation to help heritage machines access the track.
But Mr Prince says the quote the museum has received is too high, and he is hoping the Government can assist.
M class steam locomotive in Hobart in 1967.(Supplied: Tasmanian Transport Museum)Mr Prince says heritage rail is already heavily regulated and that premiums may not be commensurate with accidents in rail.
"The insurance companies are not that fond of railways, not because of our record in Australia — it is very good," Mr Prince said.
"Overseas there have been some disasters — not in heritage rail I quickly add.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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