By Geoff Courtney
AUSTRALIAN officials are refusing to confirm the identity of the purchaser of UK-built Garratt No. 6029, one of the world’s largest preserved steam locomotives, despite a social media post from an individual saying that he and a colleague now owned the engine.
The giant Beyer-Garratt has been mired in controversy and became the centre of lineside rumours, claims and counter-claims after its owner, a division of the Australian Railway Historical Society, collapsed into administration a year ago with debts of £425,000 and its Canberra Railway Museum home closed with immediate effect.
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Built by Beyer Peacock in Manchester in 1953 for New South Wales Government Railways, the 4-8-4+4-8-4 and another Beyer Peacock locomotive, 1903-built 4-6-0 No. 3016, were relocated within days of the museum’s closure to another railway museum 150 miles away at Thirlmere, south-west of Sydney. Enthusiasts feared the newly restored Garratt could end up being sold overseas, with some reports saying that it had attracted the interest of the National Railway Museum, a claim denied by the NRM.
Global accountancy firm Deloitte was appointed administrator to oversee affairs, and on August 2 the company held an auction of some of the society’s assets, including two steam locomotives, a main line diesel, carriages, and other items such as track.
The sale, which was opposed by some enthusiasts and preservationists, raised nearly £250,000 which, after costs, was to be used to partly settle creditor claims and other liabilities.
No. 6029 was not included in the auction as Deloitte had said two months earlier that it was not for sale, but this was reversed on August 28 when the company announced that offers were being invited.
The Deloitte team, headed by lead liquidator Eddie Senatore, imposed a number of conditions, two of which were that offers had to be received by September 15 – fewer than three weeks after the announcement that the giant engine was for sale – and that it had to be removed from the museum where it was stored just two weeks later, by September 29.
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