The history of the Association
The Alexandra Timber Tramway & Museum Incorporated (“the ATTM”) is an incorporated association. Founded in 1985, itis located in north central Victoria in the picturesque grounds of the old Alexandra Railway Station Precinct. The ATTM has been an accredited tourist railway for the past 30 years. We operate under the Rail Safety National Law Act 2012 under the oversight of the Office of the Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR).
Our particular focus is industrial tramway rolling stock and over the last 30 years we have accumulated a vast collection of items. Our collection criteria enable us to recover and preserve items of industrial tramway and logging machinery, with an emphasis on the nearby Rubicon Ranges, which was for nearly 50 years a centre of logging production. We also feature a large collection of logging and farming machinery that have local rural historical significance, particularly machinery used on the land. This era evokes a sense of nostalgia and history.
The association was formerly known as the Alexandra and District Historical Society, formed in 1968. With the closure of the Victorian Railways line, the Shire of Alexandra negotiated a lease of a large part of the station grounds at a peppercorn rental for the use of the historical society, the emphasis of which was then on the timber industry, once a mainstay of the district. The Rubicon forest had been logged since 1907, and the narrow-gauge tramway brought the forest produce to the railhead at Alexandra. When the last of the forest mills closed in 1954, many items of logging and tramway equipment were removed from the forest and stored at the Ruoak sawmill in Alexandra. Donation of this intact collection of timber technology to the museum brought about the transformation of the historical society in 1985 into the Alexandra Timber Tramway and Museum Incorporated, a non-profit body of volunteers. From 1971 the railway museum had been open to the public on weekends.
When the railways site was taken over it was covered in long grass, bracken and blackberries.
Thousands of hours of volunteer work were spent on the site. In 1973, 100 trees were planted, under Presidency of Mrs Alison Gilmore (nee Pearce), a member of a pioneer timber family. The station gardens also were replanted and the open spaces sown with grass, maintained by a fleet of mowers owned by the museum and manned by volunteers. The grounds became home to many native birds who inhabit the maturing trees and who have come to accept the presence of the narrow gauge railway. The station grounds thus became an asset to the community rather than an eyesore, to form part of a green belt stretching from the racecourse through the museum and Leckie Park from one side of the town to the other.
The ATTM initiated a master plan that covered 20 acres of the former Railway Precinct that included a timber mill and loco sheds. In the ensuing years, our direct historical link with the Rubicon forest logging industry has been the restoration of the two original diesel locomotives built for the Rubicon to Alexandra timber haulage tasks. Built by Kelly and Lewis Pty Ltd, Springvale in 1935 and 1936, the first of which was the first diesel loco built in Victoria. A two-foot (610 mm) gauge railway has been built around the station grounds, with regular passenger operation commencing in 1986 using the first of the restored locomotives. An engine shed similar to that used by the Rubicon Lumber and Tramway Company from 1912 to 1935, was built to house the locomotives and the railway goods shed was converted into a store for the smaller locomotives and carriages, and as a railway museum and workshop.
The museum owns or has on permanent loan ten locomotives (two steam, three diesel and five petrol). Six of these, including one steam locomotive, are restored and operational. The ATTM’s collection includes the largest private collection of Malcolm Moore locomotives in Australia and the only remaining operational Day’s timber tramway tractor in Australia. Along with the Climax articulated locomotive owned by Puffing Billy, these latter two represent the most important extant pieces of timber tramway motive power in the state. Many other items of rolling stock and machinery have been rescued from the local sawmill scrap yards. The ATTM’s machine shop and workshop facilities allows some restoration and maintenance of exhibits to be carried out. The museum collection also includes financial records of defunct local timber companies, several hundred photographs, and recorded oral histories. All of this provided an invaluable resource for researching the book ‘Rails to Rubicon’ by Peter Evans (1994).
The Apex Club erected a boundary fence for the old railway site. A public appeal raised $870, for purchase of a J Class locomotive, as a static display, and it arrived in 1976 before the final closure of the railway line in 1978. From the proceeds of sale of the house, the John Fowler 2-foot-gauge steam loco was purchased at an auction in Canberra. The John Fowler locomotive was hired to the makers of the film ‘Snowy River 2’ for two weeks, with Don Birnie as engineer. The loco was damaged when the truck on which it was being carried overturned on the return journey from Mansfield district, and an insurance claim of $9,000 contributed to the restoration of the engine.
The Rotary Club of Alexandra built four replica single men’s huts that are open to the public. These depict the basic life of the timber workers and also on display is a range of hand tools in their daily work. The Alexandra Lions Club helped by removal of trees, and the barbecue area and picnic area was established. New outside toilets, with disabled access were also constructed by ATTM volunteers. This is a serene area great for children’s parties. Specially designed group visits include a train ride, history talk by a historian including Rubicon era, morning or afternoon tea and time to sit and contemplate on the station platform.
In the early 1990’s ATTM was again under threat of being closed down. Peter Evans decided to ask A Current Affair to visit and do a story. The full interview can be seen on our digital Rails to Rubicon which is screened every open day in the Parcel Room.
To help with ongoing finances the Alexandra Market was established in 2005. Over the past 17 years the Alexandra Market has been through fires, draught, floods and stall holders expectations. The ATTM receives the dollars from heritage train rides, BBQ and coffee stand and stalls. The Alexandra Market is run from September to May and closes in winter months.
Since 2010 the ATTM has been a stakeholder in the development of the Great Victorian Rail Trail. Quite a number of visitors arrive on bike, horse or walk and are free to wander around the ATTM grounds and view the exhibits. In 2021-2022 there has been an extensive upgrade of the educational signs on each of the exhibits using a grant from the Public Records Office, Victoria. The signage also includes a QR code which links to further information online.
To help with grant applications an Alexandra Railway Precinct Master plan was developed in 2016.
This has been developed further into our Business and Strategic Plan 2022 – 2025.
The precinct of five hectares has been looked after by volunteers. In 2020 allocated funds from the Murrindindi Shire were spent on improvements. One of these was the painting of the railway station, including the roof and canopy and carpentry repairs. The railway station now looks welcoming with a clean and tidy area with small artefacts and flowers on the platform.
In December 2019, author, Peter Evans “Rails to Rubicon – 2nd edition” book launch and the ATTM has books available for sale in the newly designed Souvenir Room.
A grant has been received to upgrade the Single Men’s Huts as part of the educational display showing the life of a timber worker with basic tools and basic accommodation.
The Alexandra Timber Tramway and Museum is currently a unique, cultural and economic asset for the people of Victoria.