The former Smokey Mountain and Grizzly Flats Railway has closed after five decades of providing locomotive enthusiasts and tourists a place to enjoy the joys of steam trains.
The railway was first opened in 1967 by Arthur Birch at the Australian Reptile Park before being moved to its current site on Mountain Rd in Halloran in 1975.
The “new” site officially opened its doors to tourists in 1977 and visitors were able to enjoy a ride along the four-kilometer trail winding through the bush and wetlands of the site.
Ray McDonald, a former Smokey Mountain and Grizzly Flats Railroad volunteer, said the park saw tourists and enthusiasts from all walks of life visiting before it closed to the public in 1998.
“The railway officially opened to the public in 1977 and closed in 1998.
During this period, the railroad saw 450,000 people traveling on the railroad.
“All we really had on site were trains and a picnic area.
“It was really for train enthusiasts because it is the only site with a 12 inch template.
“I started as a volunteer in 1997 where I started cleaning and lighting the engines, and ended up driving them.
“One of my favorite memories of the railroad is when I bought one of the locomotives.
“I’ve been an avid trainer since I was seven, so it was quite special for me when I had the opportunity to buy one of the trains,” said McDonald.
The railway was closed in 1998 due to the zoning of the site by the Council, forcing the railway to apply for a new development application to continue operating, which McDonald said would have cost more than $ 1 million. of dollars.
The shutdown was also the result of the inflated cost of liability insurance after an incident that year.
Since then, the railway has been running a few days a year for family and friends.
“Before COVID, we had three to four days of racing for family and friends, and those days we would run trains around the track from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“The public was never directly invited these days, but friends who were invited were always welcome to invite their friends.
“They were pretty fun days and I don’t know how more people didn’t hear about them, because the trains were certainly making a lot of noise.
“Apparently you could hear the whistle of the train from Warnervale station,” McDonald said.
The last trains were put into service on October 8.
Today, the railway faces the bulldozer, while the site is being redeveloped into an industrial park.
McDonald says the trains currently on the site will most likely be moved to a warehouse, as there are no suitable places in NSW for the trains to be moved.
While this may be the end of the line for the Smoky Mountain and Grizzly Flats Railroad, its legacy will live on YouTube, where the Warnervale Steam Railway channel offers all manner of railroad videos, including slideshows. old photos and views. long.