Plan in motion

By Southern Riverina News

Long-held plans to build a permanent Tocumwal Historic Aerodrome Museum are now officially in motion.

Preliminary discussions about the proposal started last year, with a case study completed earlier this year.

At its August meeting, Berrigan Shire Council intends to vote on a motion to provide land at the Tocumwal Aerodrome for the project.

Council general manager Rowan Perkins said while the project would depend on funding being available, and covering ongoing operation costs, the museum proposal would satisfy a genuine interest for visitors to the Tocumwal area.

He said the challenge was earning enough from the museum to make it self sustainable.

Tocumwal Historic Aerodrome Museum committee president Bob Brown estimates a permanent facility could significantly increase the number of visitors to see the collection, which already draws coach-loads of visitors from all over Australia.

He said a dedicated museum is also required to preserve the history that has been collected by the committee.

‘‘Our hope it to provide a facility the Tocumwal people can be proud of,’’ Mr Brown said.

‘‘When the aerodrome was built it was the biggest in Australia, and there would have been 7000 Americans who went through it during the war (World War II) and 5000 Royal Australian Air Force people. It was home to 54 B-24 Liberator bombers plus other aircraft, but very few people know about any of that.

‘‘That’s why we want to establish a museum in recognition and tribute to these veterans.

‘‘Our collection is currently located in the Lions Care Centre, which was the old bowling club building and which is becoming a bit derelict.

‘‘The space we have there is very small, so we have to jam the display in.

‘‘We have had to move the museum four times over the years, and each time we do that more damage is caused to the items.’’

Mr Brown said the collection currently includes 400 photos from the 1940s, model aircraft, mannequin in air force uniforms, story boards and a giant mural of the planes flying during World War II.

He said in addition the committee developed plane profile billboards to line the entrance to the aerodrome, where they have built historic gates.

At the golf club the committee has provided a Liberator model with a 7m wingspan and a replica sign of the original aerodrome entrance sign from World War II.

A historic marker and information board has been placed at the point between Tocumwal and Barooga where a 200-bed hospital servicing the aerodrome was located.

Mr Perkins said with other physical reminders of the town’s role during the war also remaining, such as former engine testing facilities, the study on the project suggested a contemporary multi-site approach to the museum could see it perform better than a traditional museum.

‘‘The museum so far generates a lot of interest but not a lot of money, but we have been quite impressed with the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum which gives us some hope.

‘‘With museums already in Lake Boga, Point Cook and Temora, we could be part of a history trail.

‘‘There is a lot of work still to do though.

‘‘Council has agreed in principle to offer land at the aerodrome for the project, and the committee in the meantime will do some costings for what we need now and potential expansion in the future.

‘‘Council will start collating information for grants to pay for the capital, if we can’t facilitate the project ourselves.

‘‘There is no real timeframe for the project yet, as it is still in its infancy.’’

Mr Brown’s conservative estimate for the project timeline is one to two years.