History Of Steam Carriage in Forrest Part 2 & Otways Loft

The carriage was retired in 1983 to a railyard in Collingwood, then sold to the builder of Otways Loft for $400, uncleaned, graffiti, cigarette buts and all. It was put on a truck and shipped to Forrest from Melbourne. During the trip, some of the more easily removable fixtures mysteriously went missing such as the beautiful hand-basin fittings and some of the signage. Unloading the carriage was eventful. The crane sank in the wet Forrest soil, and a second crane had to be brought in to save the day. It turned in to one of those big messes; with mud and trucks and slop and trains and cranes. The cost of shipping ended up thousands more than the original carriage cost.

The carriage was used as a workshop while the house next door was being built (Otways Loft). The builder was an environmentalist, tinkerer and craftsman who sourced recycled materials (way before it was trendy), locally milled timber, and used parts of the train in construction of the house. The grid structure of the house at Otways Loft is based on the width of the compartments in the train (7ft or 2.1m). Panels stripped out of the train fit perfectly in to the grid of Eucalypt poles of the house: Except they often didn’t because the poles were not straight with knots and bends. There was a lot of trimming and plaining to make it work. If you walk around Otways Loft you’ll see the vast amount of timberwork to fit all the pieces together. Apart from the giant poles and locally milled timber, there is ceiling timber taken from a local church that was demolished in the late 70s early 80’s, that covers most of the ground floor ceiling. The builder found a huge cypress and dragged it to a local mill. The stairs were cut from it, and we think the benchtops in the kitchen. Probably the most impressive construction task achieved, was cutting shingles for roofs of both the house and the train carriage. Shingles need to be split, not sawn or it rots. There would have been thousands of shingles to hand split, then nail on. Unfortunately they didn’t last on the house, and we are slowly replacing them on the carriage.

Part of the train carriage lives on in Otways Loft. “Finding the train parts” is a fun game for kids.

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