TRAIN buffs converge for a ride on a steam train.
TRAIN buffs converge for a ride on a steam train.

It?s full steam ahead


2005 marks the 150th anniversary of NSW railways ? since the first journey on September 26, 1855, the railway system grew from a 22km line between Sydney and Parramatta to a statewide network covering 11000km.

But that is only half of the story. While thousands of kilometres of rail was being laid, other lines were closed, soon to fall into disrepair.

The restoration of a small section of the Glenreagh to Dorrigo railway line has been undertaken by the Glenreagh Mountain Railway since early 2004, a project that works manager Bob Farquhar described as a 'pretty big one'.

"Things are going ahead each week, slowly but surely ... we have to completely replace every sleeper on the railway," Mr Farquhar said.

"We've got almost two kilometres of line running now, and with our newly acquired rail-mounted excavator, that makes laying sleepers heaps easier, we should be able to move reasonably quickly.

"At the moment we have a run of open country ahead of us but after that things are going to be a little more difficult ? we will be getting into steep terrain with sharp curves on the track, so it's fairly inaccessible."

The Railway runs a fully restored steam locomotive, Betty, which is shortly to be joined by a second, smaller engine.

Mountain Railway president Colin Sambrook said he was excited about the progress of the restoration project.

"We have a few projects under way at the moment ... we are being helped with the restoration of an S truck (an open freight wagon) by the Acmena Juvenile Justice Centre in Grafton," Mr Sambrook said.

"We are doing this in conjunction with Grafton TAFE, so at the end of it the boys will get a TAFE certificate for their work.

"As well as the Acmena guys we have a couple of work-forthe dole squads, and of course there are the steam-train enthusiasts ? some days I go out there and there are are more than 40 people ? it's a very busy workshop."

The poultry pavilion at the Coffs Harbour Showground is being converted into a restoration workshop, where the new steam locomotive Alison will be worked on.

Funding for the restoration of Alison is to be raised when the railway is opened to passengers tomorrow and Sunday.

Head of the track team Artie Seewald said he was looking forward to seeing passengers enjoy the thrill of steam-train travel.

"We had a similar weekend in October 2004 and it was just fantastic," he said.

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