ONE thing we've always known about Ballarat residents is that they love their history, and there's nothing to show that more than the response since the southern-side Lydiard Street crossing gates were destroyed by a runaway train on Saturday night.
A poll conducted by The Courier on Monday shows that two-thirds of residents want the 135-year-old gates repaired or replaced. Emotionally that's where we would expect to be, but practically is that going to be the best solution?
HAVE YOUR SAY ON WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN TO LYDIARD STREET BELOW
As we've seen with many projects in recent years - particularly around the station precinct - nostalgia for the rail past is not necessarily the state government's, or the rail authorities', strong point here.
Ballarat councillors are split on whether heritage outweighs future safety. While no doubt they will be able to voice their collective views in due course, the likely scenario is, whatever the state government and the rail authority in charge decides, that's what will happen. This will probably not end up a council decision.
Questions to authorities regarding the future of the gates have been flat-batted since the accident as focus is on what went wrong on Saturday night, rather than what's to come.
"Safety is always our top priority therefore V/Line will continue to work with the local community to respond to the incident - but right now the primary focus is on the investigation," is all the state government will say at this point.
So let's be practical about what are the options and what could happen.
The first solution is to repair.
The biggest issue facing this option is whether or not the plans still exist for the columns. While the brackets are still in place and wooden gates can be replaced, the columns which hold the system together are the crucial element and they are gone. A repair will cost money and take a lot of time to get right to match the northern side, and then once that's done, getting the two to synch is the next issue that has to be overcome.
If repairing is impossible or not cost effective, the second option is to replace. This then needs a complete design process which will involve multiple stages and various parties figuring out what to do, you can almost see the red tape wrapping around the gates as we speak.
The council will want its say, V/Line and VicTrack will want it to be right, Save Our Station will want its voice heard and of course Heritage Victoria will want to be part of it as well.
The third option, - and dare we say, most practical but least popular with the community - will be to remove.
It will cost a lot less to install boomgates at the sites, and as Councillor Daniel Moloney pointed out on Monday, "an out of control train will not a hit a boomgate that goes up and down".
If this happens, then it is crucial the remaining northern gate be retained in some way.
Save Our Station president Gerald Jenzen thinks the possibility of turning some of the unused rooms at the station into a form of museum might be the best solution, but is first and foremost his view of repair first of all if it can be done.
"Many years ago a train smashed into the eastern end of the good shed, we didn't pull the goods shed down," he said.
"If you were to remove the gates, what's the point of the signal box and the gantry? What they did at Humffray Street doesn't work because no-one maintains them.
"To me this isn't a safety problem. It's the first accident with a train in a very very long time and we don't believe it was a problem with the gates."
So could a train museum be a possibility? There's plenty of room at the station that's for sure, and it is crying out for some sort of renovation. The lack of disability access is just one of the myriads of problems.
The former Ballarat East station has also long been mooted as a potential site but plans have not progressed for decades since a 2001 study was made into the proposal.
The other possible and what will be a controversial, position could be in the area where Alstom currently stands. While the state government has just announced a $12 million injection to the company, right now, the factory is likely to sit mostly dormant. There is also plenty of underutilised space in the area that hails from rail's glory days.
The stretch from McCarthur Street, which lost its own signal box to fire in 2012, to Creswick Road has a long railway history.
As a future site for a train museum in this city, on a train line, on a major road, could it be worth thinking about?
Whatever happens, the northern gate at Lydiard Street needs to be preserved in someway that shows Ballarat is aware of its history but prepared to embrace the future and the safety that fast regional rail demands.
What do you think? Have your say here.