The original South Australian Railways engine shed in Quorn, called the 'carbarn' for as long as most can remember, is finally undergoing some urgent structural repairs. Like most of the other buildings in the Quorn Station Yard area, its age is showing. Along with the Goods Shed this building is a large timber framed, iron-clad structure dating back to the 1880s. Built originally as a two-track engine shed measuring 50' long, it was extended to 100' long only a few years after construction. It certainly must have been a busy place 100 years ago with up to four SAR 'Moguls' on shed in the form of W or Wx, Y Class or even a 'Yankee X'!

During PRRPS's custodianship its condition has deteriorated, particularly In the early 1990s as gutters leaked, downpipes fell away, tanks rusted, adjacent peppercorns grew out of control and termites and rot attacked nearly all of the 28 main columns. Also iron started to loosen and the timber floor and work benches became termite infested and fell away. Not a very good record for a preservation group!  Unfortunately the deteriorated condition is reflected in the goods shed too.

During 1995/96 application for funding through the National Estate Grants Program was partially successful. A submission estimated significant restoration/repair work at around $86,000, however a small grant of $10,600 was provided. Whilst some durability Grade 1 Australian hardwood structural timber was readily purchased and delivered to site for local seasoning prior to installation it was apparent that the money available would make any work difficult as there was so much to tackle to make any impact on structural stability and so little to do it with. And what would actually be uncovered when the work started? Anyway, with the reality of losing any unspent grant money by 30 June 2000 work began cautiously in May. The sprawling trees along the south side were cleared away to provide access for the backhoe to excavate each footing area and for ladders and scaffold to work at gutter level. The 'bitter' almond tree had grown to a point where one branch had rubbed right through the guttering. To gain access to the termited columns corrugated cladding needed removal. Not easy as all the sheets are screwed to the timber girts and fully riveted together on all transverse and longitudinal joins. The screws generally came out of the oregon girts but were rusted into the jarrah top plate. All rivets had to be ground off and punched out without damaging the soft imported 120 year old corrugated sheets. As the sheets were removed, the full extent of deterioration could be clearly determined, resulting in many floor level girts needing replacement as well.

Each roof truss needed to be supported on scaffold frames adjacent to each column as the excavations revealed virtually no remaining timber below ground level. The original timber posts were sunk some 5'-0" down and supported on a timber sole plate extending some 4'-0" horizontally. This in turn was bedded on a pad of weak limy concrete and creek stones in most cases! Diagonal timber braces connected the sole plate and columns. To date, with eight columns 'exhumed' only a few small pieces of highly rotted timber have been found. In fact not one of these columns had any timber at all in the area just below ground level. So what has prevented the building blowing away?

New timber posts were prepared with step joints to connect to remaining sound timber. Two have extended right to the top plate and two others to within two feet of the top. Each timber was carefully prepared to match the jointing requirements presented by adjacent timbers. Swinging timbers up to 18 feet long and weighing up to 200 kg into position also presented some challenges. Well below ground level concrete bases were prepared to cap the old lime concrete and support the new posts. All buried timber was coated with creosote and treated with 'Polesave' sticks drilled into plugged holes. These slow release chalk-like sticks provide internal resistance for the timber against both termite attack and rot and are one of the recommended treatments suggested by the heritage architect from Department of Environment, Heritage and Aboriginal Affairs (DEHAA). Puffing Billy also use them on their timber trestles. Backfilling to surface with rammed earth completed the process.

Because so many timbers were rotted out below ground the building had developed quite a sag, particularly on the north wall where a variation in level was around 8". So as the new columns were installed the building had to be jacked up to level again. Surprisingly this could be achieved with track jacks! Work is still progressing until the grant money is exhausted, however it will not extend sufficiently to complete the vital works. Negotiations are still continuing with DEHAA regarding completion of works and how they might be achieved. Can you imagine in the 21st century Yx 141 and Wx 18 'on shed' again at the original Quorn Loco shed?