By Geoff Courtney
A FIERCELY fought campaign by enthusiasts and preservationists to prevent the auction of many of the assets of one of Australia’s leading railway museums ended in failure when the sale went ahead on August 2.
The controversial auction, which included two British-built steam locomotives, took place against a heated background of protests, claims that it was illegal, and an attempt by security guards to eject one of the protesters as he confronted staff.
Held on site at Canberra Railway Museum, the sale was organised by accountancy firm Deloitte, which had been called in to oversee affairs after the closure of the museum last November and the collapse of the ACT division of the Australian Railway Historical Society, which ran the museum and owned a number of its assets.
Within days of the museum’s sudden closure, two of the society’s prized British-built steam locomotives, Beyer-Garratt No. 6029 – which had recently undergone a major restoration – and 4-6-0 No. 3016, were removed and relocated 150 miles away at Trainworks Railway Museum in Thirlmere, south-west of Sydney.
Reports emerged that the debts of the ARHS ACT were more than $700,000 (about £425,000), a figure that included about £60,000 owed to employees and £100,000 in tax, prompting a Deloitte spokesman to say: “We need to balance creditors’ interests and the return they are entitled to expect, with preserving and protecting items of historical and heritage significance.”
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