Last Train from Boree

Farmer, returned serviceman and politician, the late Tim Fischer has been recreated in steel by talented Urana sculptor Andrew Whitehead. Photo: Andrew Whitehead.

One of the nation’s most respected politicians of the modern era, the late Tim Fischer is set to return to his roots at Boree Creek – albeit wearing a 10kg Akubra hat and astride a steam engine.

Commissioned by the Federation Council, the Tim Fischer Memorial sculpture will take pride of place in Boree Creek and has been titled by artist Andrew Whitehead as “Last Train from Boree”.

The sculpture undergoes the final touches in the workshop of Urana scrap art sculptor Andrew Whitehead. Photo: Andrew Whitehead.

The 450kg sculpture of the train enthusiast has been made from scrap iron and depicts him in his famous Akubra Cattleman’s hat, a suit coat adorned with military medals and his well-worn RM Williams boots. He sits astride a miniature steam engine on rails.

Tim’s wife Judy Brewer providing clothing and memorabilia so the detail even down to his wedding ring was correct.

Urana sculptor Andrew Whitehead has laboured over the sculpture for eight months and expects it to be unveiled at the Tim Fischer Park in Boree Creek in July.

The train will sit on two metre lengths of authentic seven and one quarter scale railway track donated by Diamond Valley Miniature Railway Inc at Eltham.

Tim Fischer made the Akubra Cattleman hat famous and the 3mm steel version weighs a hefty 10kg.

His boots are made from metal strap and curved cultivator tips.

A replica of Tim’s wedding ring was made by Robson Engineering, Urana, from brass and turned on a lathe to represent infinite railway tracks.

Andrew’s wife Daphne made Tim’s service ribbons from coloured glass and were secured into a steel frame on Tim’s suit coat.

Andrew liaised with Tim’s old regiment association (1RAR) with members wishing to include the Unit Citation for Gallantry and a kangaroo badge in the sculpture. Badges were donated by the OTU Association as Tim had graduated as an army officer at OTU Scheyville before serving in Vietnam.

The suit also accommodates an Infantry Combat badge (awarded to those who spent significant combat time outside the wire), and five Military Service Medal ribbons.

His tie is adorned with the old school badge of Xavier College Melbourne and Stevenson’s famous “Rocket” steam engine.

Tim Fischer’s original RM Williams boots were used to fashion the steel version. Photos: Andrew Whitehead.

Urana resident Seane Powell modelled posed for the Tim Fischer Memorial – the basic pose was tweaked as Andrew studied photos of Tim to reveal any idosyncrasies.

Andrew drew on advice from his old army mate Andrew Rule for mounting the military decorations. He used x-rays to replicate the bones in the hand – measuring and cutting them out to pose the fingers in the right position.

“The nature of the materials has aged Tim to a reasonable depiction of him in his last years,” he said.

Tim sits on a steam train tender carrying a reproduction of a late 1800s sign seeking to reduce the spread of tuberculosis or consumption as it was known then.

Much web searching failed to unearth a tub of coal for the steam locomotive but as it happened, there was an old abandoned coal mine less than 10km from Andrew’s home.

He said the sculpture was an art work and not a military figure.

“I met Tim several times – he took a dragon sculpture of mine to Sydney Central railway station to promote the region.

“Tim’s wife Judy and his sister gave me his boots, suit, tie and hat. I studied his sister’s hands which were similar to Tim’s.

“The head was the hardest part and I had to know his face three-dimensionally without reference – when you are holding two bits
of steel you can’t get the measuring stick out.

“I drew a cartoon version of him to identify the key components of his face, then it was a matter of creating the elements that made up the face.”

Andrew conceded it was his most challenging piece to date as Fischer was such a well-known identity.

“There is a vast military community who will recognise the five different elements hidden in his suit and understand the meaning of those objects,” he said.

The idea of a statue was conceived by Federation Council mayor Pat Bourke who approached Andrew late last year.

“He had the vision I would produce something the public would connect with,” Andrew said.

The sculpture’s progress has captured the imagination of tens of thousands of people on social media.

“Tim was a very popular man and so well liked,” Andrew said. “Artistic people will appreciate the form, flow and construction techniques, the kids will love jumping on the train, the farmers will be looking at the scrap metal items to identify what tractor they came off and those who knew Tim personally will study his face.

“I called the artwork ‘Last Train from Boree’ as it his last ride to heaven.”

2 Comments on "Last Train from Boree"

  1. Thank you so much…..I loved this article.
    Sandra
    editor/public officer
    Howlong Grapevine Magazine.

  2. Noel Bottrell | June 29, 2020 at 1:12 pm | Reply

    Congratulations to Andrew Whitehead on a brilliant depiction of Tim, so pleased to see the Boree Creek region commemerating such a fine man, as one who took part in several Tim’s Tumbatreks on the Hume and Hovell Track I say “well done”

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