ALLANSFORD’S Eddie White arrived at the Warrnambool Railway Station to a hero’s welcome on Saturday.
When the R711 pulling 1950s-era Spirit of Progress carriages arrived shortly after 2pm, its passengers were greeted by a large crowd.
In the sea of people, a man with a smile plastered on his face and a tear in his eye emerged.
Eddie White had realised a 16 year dream.
Voices from the crowd could be heard saying “good on you Eddie” and “well done mate”.
“It does feel good and my dream has come true,” Mr White told The Standard.
He said it was an emotional moment, but the hard work had been worth it.
“It’s just like the old West Coast days,” Mr White.
“It’s taken 16 years to get this locomotive back and it’s been a dream.”
Mr White said the trip had sold out within 10 days, with people booking a ticket from all over Australia. He said the trip went well, with only a slight hiccup that caused a half an hour delay at Colac.
“We had a slight drama at Colac where we had to take water and that cost us the half hour," Mr White said.
He hopes to organise a similar event, particularly on the back of the success of this trip. “After seeing this we’ll do it again,” Mr White said.
Mr White said he was looking forward to celebrating the milestone with friends and family.
It came as an early birthday present for Mr White, who will turn 34 on May 19.
“I think there will be a little bit of a celebration,” Mr White said.
“We’re here and we’ve done it.”
The R711 – an ex-Victorian railways engine built in 1950 in Glasgow – was rescued by West Coast Railway from a Bendigo park.
It was during the era of West Coast Railway that Eddie’s love of trains grew. As a kid growing up in Allansford, Eddie admits he would get distracted in school and stick his head out the window to watch the trains go past.
But when, at age 12, he met one of the directors of West Coast Railway on the platform in Geelong in 1995, his passion for trains grew.
On his travels with the family trucking business, Eddie can be seen trackside taking photos of trains going past.