All aboard at Burra Station

The Burra Railway Station restoration is now complete, almost five years since the project was first proposed.

The restoration was flagged back in 2009 by Peter Harvey and Roger Cross, when the station was wrapped up in yellow plastic and bows for South Australian Living Artists festival.

The building was then a crumbling ruin, riddled with white ant and littered with pigeon droppings.

Jay Weatherill, who at the time was Minister for Environment and Heritage, visited the site and promised that should Labor retain Government he would provide a grant of $200,000 to replace the roof.

The conservation management plan for the building restoration estimated the project would cost $1.5 million, but the grant would be a start.

Work began at the end of 2010.

Roy Taplin had just completed restoring the Burra Town Hall, and shifted his focus to the Railway Station, working every weekday from 7.30am to 11am.

Over the next few years, with the help of volunteers and a small management committee, Roy managed the entire restoration project and completed much of the work himself.

Decorative fittings had been stripped and stolen and the building vandalised in the years since the station had been operational, 

All the floors and joists had to be replaced, sections of the external stonework were repointed, walls replastered and repainted in original or heritage colours.

Mr Taplin estimated in one room alone he used more than 50 kilograms of plaster and flexible filler repairing the walls.

Local tradespeople came on board to do the electrical and plumbing work, charging what committee members Pip Edson and Meredith Satchell called “very reasonable prices”.

The Burra Station Restoration Committee was able to access two small heritage grants to replace windows and door frames, and worked to fundraise the remainder of the money required.

Mr Taplin estimates the total cost of the restoration was about $310,000, kept way below estimates because almost all the labour was donated free of charge.

Over Easter 2013 Jay Weatherill, now Premier, dropped in to see how the project was progressing. He was so impressed with the efforts of Mr Taplin that the Premier personally nominated him for a “Heritage Hero Award”, in recognition of Mr Taplin’s outstanding contribution to conserving South Australia’s heritage.

“What Roy has done is save the building for future generations,” Mrs Edson said. A final government grant of $50,000 enabled the remaining work to be completed.

The Burra Regional and Tourism Association will be taking over the lease of the station from the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure.

The eastern end of the station has been fitted out as a Bed and Breakfast, and the management committee hoped this would help the station to pay its own way.

Other ideas for future use include a display by the Ngadjuri people on the indigenous history of the region, a display by the Pygmy Bluetongue Conservation Association or possibly an artist in residence.

Volunteers will open the station from 11am to 1pm each weekend in June for visitors to view the restoration, and at other times it can be seen from the outside with interpretive signage providing information on its history.