Surprise donation funds rare rail restoration project

Young VGR volunteer Fletcher Cole with a vintage advertising design that will ultimately be replicated on the exterior of the VGR's rare historic refrigerator carriage that's now being restored thanks to a generous donation. Photo: Eve Lamb.

A generous private donation to the Victorian Goldfields Railways is now enabling the restoration of an extremely rare piece of the state’s railway history.
Aided by the welcome $10,000 surprise donation, a fourth year carpentry apprentice and VGR young volunteer who lost his paid carpentry job due to COVID, is now able to help VGR restore its rare but dilapidated vintage railway refrigerator car to former glory.
“I lost my job because of COVID in late April,” says 20-year-old Fletcher Cole who’s been a dedicated volunteer with the railway since age 14.
Now the young VGR volunteer has started putting his carpentry skills to good use to rejuvenate the early 20th century rail refrigerator car.
“This was built in 1911,” he says.
“The reason why it’s unique is that this one’s the last one that’s in operating condition.
“The walls are insulated with cow hair. There use to be a trough that ran along the roof filled with salted ice.”
In the days before refrigeration as we know it, this method using ice was needed to keep meat and other produce cold and fresh during transportation from regional Victoria to metro Melbourne.
“It’s not every day you get to preserve the last running examples of this kind of van,” Fletcher says.
“It’s very special. It’s unique.
“I’ve always loved trains. This is sort of living my dream, basically.” More in today’s Castlemaine Mail 21.08.20

Eve Lamb
Journalist and photographer Eve Lamb has a Bachelor of Arts (Journalism) degree from Deakin University and a Master of Arts (Professional Writing) from Deakin University. She has worked for many regional newspapers including the Hamilton Spectator and the Warrnambool Standard, and has also worked for metro daily, The Hobart Mercury, and The Sunday Tasmanian. Eve has also contributed to various magazines including Australian Cyclist.