Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Revive the rails

Councillor proposes regular locomotive trips to Deni

- By ZOE MCMAUGH

A partnershi­p which could see regular heritage rail trips visit Mathoura and Deniliquin is being brokered by Murray River Council.

Cr Tom Weyrich asked council to help revive the idea, which he first floated in 2015 when he was mayor of the then Murray Shire Council.

Now with council’s support, Cr Weyrich said the next step will be getting surroundin­g councils — in both NSW and Victoria — on board.

‘‘Campaspe Shire owns a steam locomotive, which currently forms part of a static display but could be refurbishe­d and has the ability to be one of few operating steam engines,’’ Cr Weyrich said.

‘‘In 2015 I approached Campaspe, Bendigo (City Council) and the then Deniliquin Council to pursue the project, but Campaspe declined being involved in the business plan at the time.

‘‘It’s time for another look at it. ‘‘Steam locomotive­s are attractive to all types of people.

‘‘It’s an era that has gone, but there are some remnants left that I feel we should capitalise on.’’

Cr Weyrich said reinstatin­g a steam locomotive to travel throughout the region could be a huge tourist attraction, which could accommodat­e both day trips and overnight stays.

His belief is that Echuca and Deniliquin have the most to gain from the proposal.

‘‘The service would perfectly complement the paddle steamers at Echuca, but I really feel Deniliquin could be the main beneficiar­y.

‘‘We have an underutili­sed tourism asset (the locomotive and the railway lines), and I feel something like this can be really good for the whole region.

‘‘It certainly deserves a bit more attention. ‘‘It will require a ‘can do’ attitude, not a ‘can’t do’ approach.’’

Cr Weyrich said he received a number of informal pledges of support and funding for the project when it was first discussed in 2015.

And with Colac, Wagga and Dubbo-based interest since raising it with council again this year, he is confident the project could gain a similar level of support if it came to fruition.

He admitted that while additional infrastruc­ture would be required in each council to support regular rail trips, he did say it did not have to be done straight away.

‘‘Portable steps are not that difficult to get, and people who use heritage railway don’t seem to mind using them where they are required.

‘‘We could continue using that system in the short term and eventually, when it proves to be the success I think it will be, we can look at investing in permanent infrastruc­ture.’’

Cr Weyrich said Murray River Council is still working on getting a meeting organised between Campaspe Shire, Bendigo City Council and Edward River Council to discuss the proposal in detail.

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