Trains on track to a new era

An innovative project being spearheaded by Queensland's Stanthorpe Shire Council aims to reverse the march of history and recreate a disused station as the centre of a new industry. Council has set up the Border Highlands Rail Company, as part of the Border Rail Federation Heritage Project, to create a 'theme park' facility around the historic Wallangarra Station.

The project will include the restoration and preservation of the station and the operation of a tourist train between Stanthorpe and Wallangarra. Supporting commercial development will contribute to urban renewal in the area serving several key aims.

"It will diversify the region's industry while highlighting and preserving the area's fascinating history," said Stanthorpe's Economic Development Officer and Managing Director of the Border Highlands Rail Company, Tom Knobel. "It will also create sustainable employment and provide a valuable boost to the local tourism industry."

Barely a generation ago, the Station on the Queensland/NSW border was a busy link on the route between Sydney and Brisbane. It was here the legacy of colonial pettiness had passengers disembarking to resume their journey on a separate rail gauge.

When the line closed the station and surrounds fell into disrepair becoming a target for vandalism. Local businesses supported by the rail traffic declined. However 3,000 vehicles still pass through the region each day and this new project aims to entice many of them to pause on their journey and relive the joys of rail travel.

The train route will carry passengers on a scenic journey, through three national parks as well as the region's many picturesque orchards and vineyards. Although Council owns the Rail Company, the project will run as a private sector enterprise. Tom Knobel said it has been greeted with enthusiasm and strong support from local business, assuring it of success.

"Substantial effort has been invested to establish the project on sound commercial principles from the start, and for that reason it has been enthusiastically embraced by the private sector," he said. "The opportunity for ongoing employment will also be a great boon to the local economy."

"It will serve as a good model for other places considering similar projects."

All going according to plan, the Border Rail Company will be in full operation in the year 2001.

For further information contact Tom Knobel, telephone (07) 4681 5528.