VOLUNTEERS of the Glenreagh Mountain Railway are thrilled to see their pet project back on track with the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator finally giving it the thumbs up to carry out rolling stock operations.
While there's still much work to be done before the tourist railway can carry passengers again, the accreditation handed down earlier this month is a major milestone and the volunteers are celebrating.
GMR media officer Phil Buckley said he expected more than a few people would be surprised as many had written off the project as mission impossible.
"Some of those armchair critics will be eating humble pie now we have achieved this," Mr Buckley said.
"And it really is an amazing achievement for a small team of dedicated, loyal and focused volunteers.
"It's taken five to seven years of paperwork and filling out forms, crossing every T and dotting every I."
The accreditation allows GMR to commission, maintain, repair, decommission and operate rolling stock for three specific activities which include track and infrastructure maintenance, and shunting or rolling stock within the Glenreagh West yard.
It also permits work to be carried out on GMR's steam locomotive 1919, diesel railmotor CPH 11, carriages and freight wagons within the Glenreagh West depot.
"The ability to use track maintenance machines will now allow us to continue further sleeper replacement and track rehabilitation activities to the east of Lowanna utilising our stock of second hand timber sleepers," he said.
"Reconstruction of our railmotor can now recommence and we will be making every effort to begin removing the casings and other external items from steam locomotive 1919 to allow us to carry out a thorough inspection of its boiler to determine the extent of any corrosion.
"Our other urgent priority will be to move our two HFO end platform cars under over so that we can prevent any further deterioration and make some necessary repairs.
"This event marks the beginning of what we expect to be an exciting time at GMR."
Mr Buckley is hoping the announcement will bring more enthusiasts and volunteers out of the woodwork.
Glenreagh Mountain Railway Inc owns more than 30km of track between Glenreagh and Dorrigo, however the majority of this needs to be replaced;
GMR is a non-profit community based association run entirely by volunteers with the goal of restoring the line and rolling stock and operating a heritage steam tourist railway on the GMR owned section of the Glenreagh-Dorrigo line;
Similar volunteer operated tourist railways, like Puffing Billy in Victoria, are enjoying record levels of patronage, last year carrying 284,536 passengers and contributing an estimated $50m a year to the economy;
Accreditation for GMR expired in January 2008 - the last public steam train ride was in December 2008;
More members and volunteers are needed to help carry out the work. Visit gmr.org.au or phone the secretary on 6654 5350 for details of upcoming working bees.