By Nick Sinis

AN ADELAIDE man has an incredibly ambitious project to restore two heritage ‘Red Hen’ trains stationed at Korumburra, which will be put back to work in Barossa Valley.

Grant McDougall has long dreamed of one day owning a historic Red Hen, which were in service on Adelaide’s public transport network from 1955 to 1997.

According to Mr McDougall, only 111 of the trains were built, with roughly six left in working condition, including the two at Korumburra.

After purchasing the trains last year, on Saturday at Korumburra railway station, the Red Hens began the first step of their journey back to Adelaide.

This was conducted under the accredited Heritage Railway operators of Walhalla Goldfields Railway, with Graeme Skinner as the driver and Travis Jankovic as the senior trainee driver and shunter.

“When the trains retired and were withdrawn from service, a lot of them were scrapped for metal,” Mr McDougall told the Sentinel-Times.

“A handful of them were sold off and bought by private companies and people between SA and Victoria.

“There were four that went over to Victoria in about 1996, unfortunately two of the four were scrapped, which just left ‘402’ and ‘311’ in Korumburra, owned by another private person.

“In about 2017, I started my search for the remaining Red Hens right around Australia, and my search led me to Korumburra.”

Mr McDougall said he eventually made contact with South Gippsland Shire and VicTrack to show interest of ownership.

“In 2020, I went over in February with my son to formally look at the trains,” he said.

“But soon after that, COVID did its thing… and that’s where it stuffed things right up.”

Mr McDougall officially purchased the trains from the Mornington Railway Preservation Society in August last year, and has since been trying to organise their return to Adelaide.

And on Saturday, the trains’ engines were cranked up and brought back to life, thanks to Shane Blitz – a former volunteer trainer/instructor and driver of the now closed South Gippsland Railway.

Red Hen ‘402’ started up at the first push of the button, after almost five years of sitting.

With a successful start, 402 was then driven out on to the Korumburra turntable, where a few locals gathered after hearing the train horns blowing.

The trains will be stored at a freight yard until they can be successfully transferred to a holding area of Korumburra, before being transported by road back to Adelaide.

Mr McDougall said his interest in owning a Red Hen was sparked after watching the trains go past his front door while growing up.

“As a kid, I always dreamed of being a train driver or owning a train, and now I own two,” he said.

“They’re classified as classics, so it’s more of a passion to keep them and bring them back to Adelaide and restore them to their former glory.

“I work in Barossa as well, and I see the potential to bring people to Barossa by one of our heritage trains.

“We’ve got a few unused rail lines north of Adelaide… so the plan is to actually get them running again and have services back as regional rails.”

Mr McDougall will undertake most of the restoration work himself, with the help of Detroit engine specialists.

While he still has much work to do to get them over the border, the Sentinel-Times hopes to follow the story and see how the Red Hens’ journey progresses.

Thank you

Mr McDougall also thanks the following businesses, groups and people for all their assistance:

• Shamick Transport – Laverton North.

• Glen Gow – Gows Crane’s.

• BJ Earthmoving – Brenton Williams and staff.

• Traralgon Tyre Service – Tony and staff.

• Austral Hotel Korumburra – Trudy and staff.

• Walhalla Goldfields Railway.

• Mornington Railway Preservation Society.

• Kelly’s Bakery.

• South Gippsland Council.

• VicTrack.

• The Men’s Shed at Korumburra.

• South Gippsland Tank Adventures

• Shane Blitz, Graeme Skinner, Travis Jankovic and Darcy Cameron.

• Locals: Richard Davis, Dean Notman for engine help, Len Wyhoon for engine help, Simon O’Neil – O’Neils Transport, Steve O’Neil – O’Neil’s Buses, Michael Austin, Tess Smith, Phil ‘Ozzy’ Osman and Shirley Cowling.