A FINELY wrought and carved metal and timber steam engine has now arrived at Fish Creek’s railway station, right beside the composting bins of the Fish Creek Community Garden.
Designed and built by Fish Creek artist Andrew McPherson, the engine appears as though it has just drawn up with a train of wicking garden bed “carriages” following along behind.
The sculpture was made possible thanks to the Gardiner Dairy Foundation’s Working in Dairy Communities Small Grants program, which awarded $5000 to the Fish Creek Community Garden in 2019 to commission an artwork.
The program is run in partnership with the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal.
This grant was the third given to the Community Garden by the Gardiner Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation established in honour of the late Geoffrey Gardiner, a Foster district milk producer and a United Dairyfarmers of Victoria stalwart.
The Foundation’s mission states that it “invests in research, development and extension, people capability and community development to benefit the Victorian dairy industry and dairy communities.”
The Fish Creek Community Garden first began in 2010 on a section of rail reserve land parallel to the Great Southern Rail Trail, which also included the railway station platform.
The first Gardiner Foundation grant was received in 2012, allowing the Community Garden to welcome district organic gardener extraordinaire Juneen Schulz as its facilitator.
Now Juneen is the Garden’s co-ordinator liaising with Fish Creek’s Buckley Park Community Farm.
The second grant, presented in 2018, saw the composting bins and the wicking beds built along the platform, the very ones that now have become the engine’s backing (or should that be siding?) and the “carriages”!
Community Garden secretary Joce Meyer said the idea for a railway-themed piece of art came about when one of the group’s members was driving towards the Garden along what locals call the “Fishy Link”, a gravel shortcut between the Meeniyan-Promontory Road and Fish Creek- Foster Road intersection, and Falls Road.
“The member was all of a sudden struck by how much the composting bins and the wicking beds looked like a train engine and a row of carriages, and that’s how it all came about,” she said.
“We found that there was a section in the Gardiner Foundation’s Small Grants program for supporting the arts in dairy communities, and so we applied, and felt very fortunate when we were successful,” Joce said.
“Andrew was our first and only choice as the artist to create the Community Garden’s engine and when he accepted the commission we were absolutely stoked!
“What he has made is so brilliant, and we know he has put in very many more in-kind hours than what he listed on his invoice,” she said.
“We are so grateful to Andrew for his generosity and his community spirit, as well as for his artistic ability, though when we thanked him, he merely shrugged and told us, ‘when you commit to something, you’ve got to give it the respect it’s due’.”
The artist himself described the engine as a “relief sculpture” that had to be 150 or less millimetres thick in order for it not to protrude beyond the line of the railway station building further along the platform.
Asked if the shape of his engine was based on a real locomotive, Andrew said the design had “come purely out of my imagination.
“I simply envisaged a steam engine and, as it turns out, I’ve come up with what is a recognisable configuration of the wheels with their 4:4:2 arrangement, according to what a railway buff was telling me,” he said, with a grin.
“The engine took me eight weeks to make, and I used a rivetted steel shipping tank for the squarer parts that had belonged to the late Noel Gibson and was given to me by his wife Heather.
“The front section was made from the copper cylinder out of a hot water service, and the wheels are of cypress from Fish Creek sawmiller Dan Bright,” Andrew said.
“The rest of the engine mostly came from materials I already had in stock, and the whole thing was installed in two days.”
Joce said the Fish Creek Community Garden is “in a bit if a recess at the moment because of COVID-19, however we’ve been going in individually to look after it.
“We’ve got our winter vegetables planted though, including the brassicas, alliums, and root vegies such as carrots, and they all seem to be thriving.
“New members are always wanted to join the Community Garden group and hopefully in the not-too-distant future we’ll be able to work together again,” she said.
“We appreciate the support we get from the local community, including the Fish Creek and District Primary School and the Fish Creek Kindergarten, local residents and tradespeople, and from our sponsors like the Bendigo Bank, the South Gippsland Shire and of course the Gardiner Foundation.”