Train track revival mooted

Steam trains will run alongside walkers and cyclists if a plan to restore a disused train line from Picton to Mittagong goes ahead.

A Wingecarribee councillor said the project could be a major tourist drawcard for Wollondilly and the Southern Highlands.

The rail-side trail project would see the restoration of the 34-kilometre single track loop line, which has not been used since 1975.

It could be used by the NSW Rail Museum in Thirlmere to take locals and tourists on heritage train rides.

The next step is for councillor Ian Scandrett to secure funding from Wingecaribbe Council and then he will approach Wollondilly Council for support.

The councils will need to jointly conduct a feasibility study.

A Transport Heritage NSW spokesman David Bennett said the project would be “great for tourism”.

“The line could be the Puffing Billy of NSW,” he said.

“The project would benefit the NSW Rail Museum but we need to work with the community to explore whether it is feasible and how the project would work.

“Costs would involve reactivating the line, landscaping and maintaining the line. The potential visitor numbers would also have to be considered as would how to secure funding.”

Colo Vale resident and museum volunteer David Thurlow is the last surviving train driver from the loop line and said he would love to see the track used again.

“I worked on the line for five years and often I would have a full train at Picton,” he said. “Numbers went down when cars became more popular. I would love to see the line reopened as a tourist attraction. It will be interesting to see if it is feasible.”

Hume MP Angus Taylor supports the project and believes it would “generate tremendous tourism and recreational opportunities”.

“Bringing steam trains, cycling and walking together is a fantastic blend of heritage, activity and discovery,” he said. 

“I’m encouraging the [project co-ordinators] to think of innovative ways to fund the project and to explore grant opportunities from a variety of sources including the state and federal governments.”

Councillor Scandrett said the line’s proximity to Sydney meant it could be a money generator for both regions.

“Bed and breakfasts, coffee shops, tea rooms, electric bikes, segways, history and nature walks, and camping along the line could be started to give the regions an economic boost,” he said.

Wollondilly mayor Judith Hannan said she thought the project was a “good idea” and would “like to see it happen” but said the council had no funding to conduct a feasibility study.