La La turntable restoration and refurbishment underway

The Warburton Advancement League has been working to refurbish and restore the La La turntable. Picture: IVOR WOLSTENCROFT

By Callum Ludwig

The latest restoration effort in Warburton is helping keep the history of the old railway alive.

The Warburton Advancement League with the support of the Crockett Grup and the Upper Yarra River Reserve Committee are in the process of refurbishing the old La La Turntable.

Vice President of the Warburton Advancement League David Pratt said they all identified that that turntable needs to be preserved and incorporated into any architectural or landscape plans for the site going forward.

“In terms of clearing it up, when we had the developer do the cleanup earlier in the year, which made a big difference around the site, we ensured that none of the big machinery would go in and around the turntable because we didn’t want to disturb it anymore than it already had been,” he said.

“The Advancement League took it on and we were in with hand tools and a very small 1.7 tonne excavator just to help remove the dirt and the waste that had been put in there from years of neglect.”

Garry Crockett and the Crockett Group own the old Warburton Sanitarium factory and have been working with the Warburton Advancement League to repair and restore that site as well.

Mr Pratt said they believe that there’s still more work to do, but they’ll certainly maintain the site.

“This will help architects have a much more visible and identifiable piece of Warburton Rail history to incorporate into the future, I think it is critical that we maintain that link to our history,” he said.

“What people are seeking when they’re looking at the experience of coming up to Warburton and finding out what it’s like up here at the pristine water of the Yarra, the mountains and how that all ties into our history,”

“If we look at the factory for example, we’ve got photographs of when the trains used to pull up right next to the building to load Weet Bix onto the trains for taking all over the country, so I think the whole site can be incorporated to link that bit of railway with historical evidence and take people on that journey.”

The La La siding, Turntable and Crane are listed on the Yarra Ranges Council Heritage Database ‘as evidence of the scale of timber getting operations in the upper Yarra Valley in the early nineteenth century.’

Mr Pratt said by pooling their volunteer strength into projects like the turntable and Sanitarium factory, it highlights forgotten gems and restores them to where they should be.

“For example, the turntable, there are a lot of people who have probably lived in Warburton for a decade who probably didn’t even know it still existed and it goes to show how critical it is for the area,” he said.

“In the upcoming Warburton Urban Design Framework, over two-thirds of people when reading that section on the old factory want something done with it and done as soon as possible,”

“In the discussions I’ve had with Garry, he is as keen as, he’s meeting with architects, he’s meeting with planners and we hope that there’s real positive steps that can be achieved before Christmas to mean that a planning permit goes in early next year and we can see a future for the building.”

In 2011, the Star Mail reported on Crockett Group’s commitment to preserving the site after residents were concerned that brickwork had been removed from the siding after a clearing project. During the clearing, blackberries, poplars and other weeds were removed before contractors went about excavating hooping and strapping iron, concrete, timber, corrugated iron and other rubbish from on top of, and around the turntable.