In a shed just outside of Launceston lies a hidden treasure trove.
Moments of history, covered in thick dust, stacked side-by-side where no one can see them: 30 horse-drawn vehicles from the earliest moments of Australia’s history.
Some are incredibly rare, not just in Australia but internationally.
A World War I General Service wagon, fully restored, is one of perhaps two or three surviving across the world, its massive timber frame requiring several strong Clydesdale horses to pull it.
“It was the truck of the First World War, it carried food, horse feed, ammunition … it carried up to five tons,” Tasmanian Horse Drawn Vehicle Foundation’s Michael MacDonald said, nothing that wagon alone is worth about $45,000.
The collection also houses a $180,000 Britzka carriage, an incredibly rare and a fine example of a traditional travelling carriage with room to re-purpose it as an overnight bed on the road.
Another rare item is an ice cream carriage, its decorations still in original condition, right down to the striped red-and-white hood and the stainless steel ice box to keep the ice cream fresh and cool when out and about.
A baker’s van from the White House collection is another remarkable item, painted in green and yellow, fully operational, and highly prized among collectors.
But there’s a problem: these carriages need a new home.
Mr MacDonald and fellow THDVF member David Potter are trying to find a safe, long-term place for the collection – preferably a home where the carriages can be on display, showcasing their history.
Mr MacDonald said he believes it’s the largest carriage collection in Tasmania, and each doctor’s buggy, phaeton, pony trap and wagon has a story to tell from its years on the road.
“We’re the only carriage driving club in Australia that has a carriage driving museum,” he said.
“They really should be on display for the public.”
Mr MacDonald hoped the carriages would form part of the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania, but the museum itself is already hard-pressed for space.
NAMT manager Phil Costello said even when the museum moves to its new site in Invermay there will still be a scramble for room, although the museum could house one or two carriages alongside its oldest cars.
City of Launceston mayor Albert Van Zetten said he and the council’s general manager would be “more than happy” to discuss the Foundation’s needs.