THE Tablelands could be set for a significant boost in tourism after the Atherton-Herberton Historic Railway Inc (AHHR) got a step closer towards securing a feasibility study courtesy of the State Government.
AHHR President Bob Slater and Secretary Judy Cooper joined Member for Hill Shane Knuth at Parliament last week to meet with Minister for Tourism Kate Jones to discuss the enormous benefits a project of this nature will bring to the region.
AHHR owns 22km of the old Cairns to Herberton line which reached Herberton in October 1910, and members of the notfor-profit organisation have been working tirelessly since 2014 to grade the track from the Historic Village Herberton to Moomin Siding and from Platypus Park Station, Atherton to Hastie Road.
In addition, this project also includes the restoration of a 1905 Peckett Steam locomotive and a 1911 carriage along with the extension of museum displays at Herberton.
“All this has been done by donations, fundraising events and the hard work of the train crews running return trips on the Tinlander from Herberton Station to the Historic Village Platform,” AHHR Secretary Judy Cooper said.
“Up until now there has been no government support.
“It is hoped to have the steam loco pulling the restored carriage on the track between Herberton Station and Historic Village by the end of the year.
“This, of course, is determined by the amount of work needed on the Peckett.
“When machinery is over 100 years old they can throw up things you least expect especially as a lot of the parts have had to be made by our talented volunteers because they have disappeared over the years.”
Ms Cooper said it is the goal of AHHR to provide a first class tourist rail experience carrying passengers between Atherton and Herberton.
“It will also have an impact on eco-tourism and adventure sports in the area as we will be able to carry passengers to Hastie Wetlands, Carrington Falls and the top of the range,” she said.
“It has already been proven that heritage railways draw in train buffs and visitors from all over the world.
“This will have an economic impact, not just on Herberton and Atherton, but the whole of the Tablelands.”
Ms Cooper noted that if some funding from the State Government comes through it will be used for a feasibility study which, in turn, will help in approaching governments for further funding to finish the track between Historic Village Herberton and Hastie Road.
“This part of the line has several bridges which will need replacing,” she said.
“This will be a major undertaking but if total funding was available it is anticipated that the line could reopen within three years.”
There has been an incredible amount of man-hours that have enabled this project to reach this stage, and Ms Cooper wanted to take time to thank those who have made a considerable contribution.
“Last year the volunteers did over 15,000 hours of their time and this year have already given freely over 13,000 hours,” she said.
“The achievement of the volunteers to date is amazing.”
Member for Hill Shane Knuth lauded the project.
“These historical railways remind people of the history it played as a reliable transport service – from passenger to freight including the war years,” Mr Knuth said.
“AHHR has already tapped into rail enthusiasts and tourists that like to participate in a different venture. I really commend the hard work from the AHHR volunteer team and all they have achieved so far.”
Mr Knuth’s passion came from working for the then Queensland Railways for 20 years and understands the line of hard work that is needed to get these train services fully operational.
“The difference here is that Queensland Rail is owned by the State Government and other rails are owned by big corporations who have unlimited funds for maintenance, rolling stock and construction,” he said.
“Whereas this group do this out of their own time and own expense with fundraisers and grants.
“This is why it’s so important to tap into support from state and federal government.”
Mr Knuth said he believes the meeting with Minister for Tourism Kate Jones was positive. The Minister and her office were impressed with the professionalism and all that has been achieved so far