Museum potential for signal box

BALLARAT’S largest signal box would make an ideal train museum, according to a local history buff.

However, graphic designer Peter Sparkman - who is a Ballarat Historical Society member - also said signal box A was in danger of demolition by neglect.

“When everyone talks about heritage buildings in Ballarat, including saving run down ones, no one ever mentions signal box A,” Mr Sparkman said.

“Currently homeless people and vandals hang there, probably more so in drier periods than this soggy time of year.

Potential: Ballarat Historical Society member Peter Sparkman in front of the signal box, which Mr Sparkman says would make an ideal train museum

Potential: Ballarat Historical Society member Peter Sparkman in front of the signal box, which Mr Sparkman says would make an ideal train museum

“It’s just beautiful and has so much potential, if the signal box and surrounding gardens were done up. 

“I do wish people would take more notice of this building as I’d hate to see it meet the same fate as the Macarthur Street signal box, which was destroyed by a fire from candles lit by vagrants that were shacking up there.”

Signal box A is located halfway between the Ballarat station and the Humffray Street North railway gates and forms a pair with Lydiard Street’s signal box B.

While clearly visible for train commuters, the three-level box can also be seen by motorists and pedestrians on the Mair Street embankment, with graffiti and broken windows marring its appearance.

“It could have a business in it. It could be a number of things - a railway museum for Ballarat, a cafe, used for train spotting or done up for heritage weekend,” Mr Sparkman said.

“The gardens also have daffodils and irises in them. It could be a beautiful little oasis.”

Signal box A is owned by Vic Track, which has a regular asset upgrade program, including the revamp of the Humffray Street North signal box a few years ago.

“It would be good if they could just fix up signal boxes A and B and maybe lease them out to a business to run,” Mr Sparkman said.

“That part of Mair Street is so ugly and it’s got this beautiful oasis hidden away behind it right in the centre of town that no one is aware of.”

VicTrack said in a statement it was keeping up with its “custodial obligations”, but could not afford a major refurbishment. 

“Unfortunately, VicTrack has only limited finances and we are not in a position to do major restoration works to signal box A at this time,” VicTrack said.

It said it would be conducting “minor works” in response to recent vandalism, but did not say when this would happen.

fiona.henderson@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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