To help our rail assets deliver for the community, between 2013 and 2016 we restored 15 of the state’s historic railway buildings and opened them up to local people, through the Community Use of Vacant Rail Buildings Program.
The program was funded by the State Government through Public Transport Victoria (PTV), and meant that buildings in 13 regional towns, which had sometimes been unused for decades, were restored and put back into use by local community groups.
It complemented the work we do under our Heritage Program to restore heritage railway buildings for community and commercial use, and gave back to regional communities as part of our role in preserving what matters to Victoria.
The program involved heritage architectural firms Quadratum Architecture and Davidson Architecture, who worked with builders to ensure the restorations were as sympathetic as possible to the original building designs.
For every station we completed we held a launch event, which the community, local councils and local MPs often attended. They were a great chance not only to celebrate the buildings’ openings but also to let local people know their station buildings were open and available for them to use.
Often rural communities don’t have nearby spaces for people to get together or for local groups to use, so the community use program had the double benefit of restoring historic station buildings while providing the community with new spaces for them to enjoy.
The restored buildings are continuing to provide a boost to the regional economy, by attracting tourists and visitors to rural towns.
The Community Use of Vacant Rail Buildings Program won the ‘Best Government Leadership’ award at the Property Council of Australia’s national Innovation and Excellence Awards in 2017.
Station buildings in the following towns were restored under the program and are open to the community and visitors:
- Beaufort - Beaufort has a purpose-built community arts hub and steam-engine era museum in the town’s former station and goods shed buildings. The station building is a modern gallery space operated by the Pyrenees Arts Council. The Lake Goldsmith Steam Preservation Society has created an active educational steam era museum in the goods shed.
- Birchip - Birchip Lions Club is the head lessee of the station building, which is a permanent and flexible community event, exhibition and display space. The Lions Club, Birchip Landcare Group and Birchip Historical Society are the building’s tenants.
- Chiltern - The goods shed at Chiltern Station is a tourism, cycling and arts hub. The Shire of Indigo leases the building and surrounding land, which is used by Chiltern Tourism and Development Inc. as a tourist information and cycling hub, art gallery, workshop space and for other community uses.
- Clunes - Creative Clunes have the head lease of the 140-year-old station building, which is a community based cultural hub with office and meeting spaces. It is also a permanent base for the Clunes Booktown Festival administration and volunteer activities.
- Donald - Donald Station houses a community meeting space, complementing the adjoining rail heritage precinct. Local group Donald 2000 has the head lease of the building.
- Dunkeld - The station building provides the Dunkeld community with a flexible studio space for local professional and amateur artists as well as a gallery and exhibition space. The head lessee is Off the Rails Dunkeld Inc. who are managing the space.
- Gordon – The station building operates as a multi-purpose small group meeting and activity space. It is leased by the Australian Railway Historical Society – Victorian Division for use by the wider community.
- Inglewood - The Inglewood station building and goods shed is a health centre, business incubator and community space, and the Loddon Shire Council has the head lease of both buildings. The Inglewood and Districts Health Service occupy the station building, and the Goldfields Choir occupy the goods shed.
- Newstead - The station building is home to local groups Newstead 2021 Inc., Newstead Salon and Friends of Newstead Station. They use the building as an arts and business hub, comprising a gallery, exhibition space, workshop and performance spaces, flexible community meeting and event areas, a kitchen and a cafe. Mount Alexander Shire Council has the head lease of the building.
- Trafalgar - The Baw Baw Arts Alliance is using the building as a community art exhibition and workshop space. The Trafalgar and District branch of the Bendigo Community Bank has the head lease.
- Wycheproof - Wycheproof Vision Inc. has the head lease of the heritage-listed station, which is a multi-functional arts, education and cultural hub. The station provides a community meeting space and a permanent home for Wycheproof Vision, the Wycheproof Youth Group and Wycheproof Community Resource Centre.
- Yarragon - The Trafalgar and District Community Bank have the head lease of the building and provides access to two local groups. The Baw Baw Arts Alliance has its Yarragon Arts Hub at the station, which houses an art gallery, studio and sales space. The Yarragon and District Community Association uses the station building as a local history space and also provides an affordable community meeting space.
- Yarrawonga - Yarrawonga Mulwala Development Inc. has the lease of the station building. A range of local community groups now use the building, which offers a multi-purpose gallery, exhibition and display space together with flexible group workshop and meeting spaces.