A LITTLE idea started germinating in Graeme McVean's mind almost two years ago.

The seed, planted during a conversation with a war veteran 16 months ago, on Monday blossomed into a project involving more than 300 people, a nine-carriage heritage train, about 1500km and the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing.

The Gladstone grandfather is the driving force behind a troop train re-enactment that is slowly snaking its way across central Queensland this week.

It's been a long project, involving extensive fundraising and MPs from electorates covering Maranoa, Rockhampton, Fraser Coast and the Sunshine Coast.

Along the way there have been headaches and problems, including a $25,000 pledge from one MP being withdrawn, but on Sunday night Mr McVean stood by acting Prime Minister Warren Truss to bask - somewhat shyly - in the glory of a job well done.

"We had an offer of funding from the Federal Government to help local RSLs commemorate the 100 years since the Gallipoli landing," Mr McVean told a packed Winton Town Hall on Sunday evening.

He had a captive audience in the gathered veterans, families of soldiers who died at war, volunteers, Army personnel, Scout troops and dignitaries, including Mr Truss and MPs Ken O'Dowd and Bruce Scott.

"We thought if the money was shared between all the RSLs and the sub-branches in our areas, they would have just enough to paint a fence here or there.

"Ken O'Dowd and I visited every RSL and sub-branch and asked them what do you want to do? Do you want $2000 to build a fence or do you want to tart up the old cenotaph and most of them said no because they are country people and they know the value of the dollar."

A chance meeting with Lester and Mary Anderson from Blackwater set the wheels in motion.

"They said 'Why don't you do a troop train - a re-enactment of the troops going through to their embarkation points?'

"I thought it was the greatest idea I'd ever heard and so did Ken."

Mr McVean threw his energy into organising the massive event.

And it has been no mean feat.

More than $200,000 was needed to fund the exercise, not to mention the immense number of volunteers at each stop, including Longreach, Alpha, Emerald, Rockhampton, Gladstone and Maryborough.

"This is one of the pre-eminent, if not the pre-eminent, Anzac event of this year," Mr McVean said.

- APN Newsdesk



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