LOUIS (LOU) RAETo study tourist railways and transport museums and carry out historical research on Tasmanian railway records - UK
Prior to applying for a Churchill Fellowship in 1990 my limited hobby time was split between various sporting activities, bushwalking and writing books on Tasmania’s railway and mining heritage. It was becoming increasingly obvious that much of Tasmania’s railway and industrial heritage was quickly disappearing, a result of neglect, vandalism, sales for scrap or merely being deposited on the local tip. At the height of Tasmania’s green revolution, few cared for the preservation of industrial heritage save the passionate rail and machinery enthusiasts to whom we now owe a great deal.
The Fellowship opened many doors for it introduced me to enthusiastic people, both here and abroad, who were all specialists in their own particular fields and very keen to give up their time and pass on valuable knowledge. To observe firsthand how the successful UK societies dealt with difficult political issues, raised monies, restored historic items and retained and harnessed volunteer members was of considerable interest. The research museums and libraries contained much valuable information, particularly company records and historical photographs appertaining to operations in Tasmania.
Out of adversity comes success. Provided with the useful advice of making appointments well in advance and being punctual was an important aspect when soliciting help in English establishments, I duly followed instructions to a tee. Unfortunately, when in York, my contact was detained at a meeting in the same building and his secretary informed me that the next appointment was some three weeks away. Polite reasoning fell on deaf ears, even despite the fact I had only two weeks left abroad. Two days later, at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, I sourced duplicate records. This time around a librarian spent several hours helping me and the information and copious copies were provided free of charge!
FELLOWSHIP CONCLUSIONS & OUTCOMES
With the help of the Churchill Fellowship I have made many friends, written further books, prepared heritage assessments and was heavily involved with the rebuilding of the Abt Railway on Tasmania’s West Coast. When not involved with my “hobbies” I helped raise three children with my supportive wife Debbie, was employed as Valuer-General for Tasmania (2000 to 2007), completed a PhD in History (2005) and worked as a consultant prior to retiring. Nowadays life includes writing, travelling, bushwalking, various sporting activities (knees are shot) and, most importantly, enjoying the company of my wife, family and friends.