HOW much would you pay for a fleet of 23 trams and everything needed to start a renowned tourist line through town?
The Bendigo Trust spent a grand total of $1 on it all back in 1977, five years after community activists won a hard-fought battle to stop the collection being broken up.
The dollar note used to strike the deal survived a house fire and will now be preserved for the public.
James Lerk played a lead role in the fight to keep the 23 trams together and was there on the day the State Electricity Service of Victoria handed the note over.
"I had the presence of mind to think 'ah, this might be a very important historical document', so I very quickly whipped out a $1 note. It was the only one I had in my wallet," he said.
Mr Lerk was able to swap the notes over.
"It's been locked in a safe and didn't get burnt in my housefire, so you can see I really treasured (it)," he said.
Mr Lerk hoped handing over the $1 note would encourage others to part with their own rare historic pieces, saying there were thousands across the city that should be in public collections.
"Bendigo Heritage Attractions has some very good things in place as far as looking after and cataloging historic items," he said.
"So I felt the time was right to return it to somewhere where it could be more appreciated than if it was in a dark safe."
The SECV handed control of the trams, the lines, overhead wiring and other infrastructure after a community campaign to stop any vehicles leaving Bendigo.
Dennis O'Hoy was part of efforts to keep the fleet together and remembers some of the attitudes at the time.
"A lot of the comments were 'why do you need 23 trams that are all the same?' But the fact was, they were not," he said.
The collection included incredibly rare "Birneys", one of which had been promised to a museum in South Australia, as well as historic trams that had run in cities across the nation.
As word spread that somebody was trying to "pinch a Birney" a small group of Bendigonians took extreme measures, fearing if one was lost the floodgates would open.
They welded iron bars to the tram rails, took carbon brushes from motors to make them inoperable and relocated lifting jacks well outside of Bendigo.
"People realised we could lose our assets," Mr O'Hoy said.
"We were never quite sure we could keep all of our trams. That's why our former chairman (of the Tram Committee) negotiated with the SECV to buy the lot for a dollar."
The $1 note would soon go on permanent display at the Bendigo Tramways store.
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