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Portraying the results of a 20-year revitalisation, this documentary shows how a small Tasmanian community in Sheffield won the battle of ‘to be or not to be’ – triggered by the economy forcing people to seek life-opportunities outside their home-town.

 

The rescue plan was invented by the community itself in two stages. Firstly, to convert Sheffield into a tourist-oriented ‘Town of Murals’. The second stage created a self-perpetuating working and exhibiting space based on a steam railway and the ‘big shed’ – a workshop where the preservation of industrial and agricultural heritage takes place through maintenance and inter-generational skills-transmission.

 

Collectively, they have rescued numerous steam-powered traction-engines, steam-rollers, steam locomotives and agricultural machines from being scrapped.  By saving industrial heritage, the Redwater Creek Steam and Historical Society empowers the memory of the epoch when Tasmania had the status of ‘the bread-basket for early European-Australia.

 

This film presents evidence of the success which works against the stereotype associating Tasmania with a passive consumption of welfare and a lack of creativity.  A motivated train station crew, a community-based working-space attracting people of all ages and the annual event SteamFest, which drew 9,000 visitors in 2015 – depicting the nowadays prosperity of the Sheffield community.

 

Interviews with the founders of the project help to analyse retrospectively all the human and historical forces involved in the process – the years of hardship bred cooperation between individuals and the town’s authorities which now represents a model for other communities to follow.

 

 

‘Sweet Running Machines’ serves as a tribute to the community’s achievements and paves the way for future recognition through international tourism.  Additionally, this film preserves the local history and enriches the collective memory and pride for those individuals who played a decisive role in the project.