Oberon Rail Heritage
Revised April 2010 – Oberon to Become an Exciting Tourist Centre
Oberon Tarana Heritage Railway group (OTHR for short) now occupies Oberon railway station and yard. Recently we have relocated several goods wagons and two heritage carriages to the yard. See details. These include three S trucks, an ABV (CV) and two heritage end platform cars. These carriages are historically significant and were built in 1897. They are generously on loan from the NSW Rail Transport Museum.
Work in the yard area to re-lay sleepers has been suspended due to an inordinate delay in the arrival of the station lease from ARTC. As soon as the impending lease arrives, track work will be restored in the yard.
The station is being returned to the state that it was in during operations circa 1960. We have had many wonderful donations of heritage items from individuals and the Goodwin Alco company have been most generous in supplying items for the station and yard. We are hoping for additional items from the Office of Rail Heritage to further furnish the station in NSW Railways style.
More rolling stock will arrive in the following months. OTHR has purchased two diesel locomtives, both of which are in excellent condition. These should arrive soon and will provide the motive power for revenue services to Hazelgrove in stage one. The second unit will then be availbale in emergencies or to operate the work train on the next stage to Carlwood.
The lease/purchase of a diesel CPH railmotor is proceeding and will provide economical service for less than coach loads between Oberon and Hazelgrove. We have never intended to operate the CPH beyond Hazelgrove, due to the gradient and sharp curves, however we have just received photographic evidence that a CPH did venture up the line. See the proof.
In addition, we will be receiving 3 bogie wagons from Bathurst two of which have been tranerred by deed to OTHR by the Office of Rail Heritage and one from PN. They will form the basis of the work train for use on the line reconstruction between Hazelgrove and Tarana. There is a bogie flat wagon, an ex bogie ballast plough van which will be the crew wagon and a refrigerated van which will provide secure storage. We also have the tender from steam locomotive 1957 coming on loan from the NSW Rail Transport and composite carriage HS36 which was used on the Oberon line for many years, also courtesy of NSW RTM.
The railway station and yards are listed on the NSW State Heritage Register and the OTHR group will work closely with the Heritage Branch of the Department of Planning to refurbish the station building so that it can again become a working station when the CPH railmotor makes its tourist trips to Hazelgrove. The railway group is looking forward to working in a co-operative way with other heritage groups who are interested in preserving and displaying our rail history and Oberon’s heritage in a professional manner.
Planned benefits for Oberon
Visitors to Oberon increased from 3,573 in 2000 to 14,647 in 2008 showing an increase of 409% in eight years. When trains are running, numbers will increase dramatically. OTHR plans to run regular train trips on two days per week as well as during school holidays and on public holidays.
Facilities with tables, seats and toilets will be constructed at Hazelgrove for travellers and “Special” trains are being considered for groups wanting an added experience such as morning tea runs, catered trips, champagne runs, weddings and birthday parties, etc. We will also run trains to interlink with tourist coach services and to accommodate rail enthusiasts.
OTHR has a vision for the development of a vibrant, professionally run tourism centre initially based on the area bounded by the railway yard, with the possibility of extensions in the future. Our vision includes a building complex at the end of the railway line adjoining Scotia Avenue. This complex would be built, in part, over the end of the line and would house offices, a café, toilets, and a shop selling tourist merchandise and local produce. OTHR members also foresee in the same complex, the inclusion of an area where a current work project, such as a carriage or wagon actually undergoing restoration could be viewed by visitors with an accompanying audio-visual story describing the project. This is exciting news for Oberon rail heritage.
The station building and platform will once again become the operating headquarters of a working branch line and space will be required for management, ticket sales, etc. The building will be refurnished in period style railway furniture. The main focus will be on an operating tourist railway but some historical items will be on display in the proposed administration building and in the station itself. OTHR does not intend to involve itself in any way with the operation of Oberon Museum.
There are also plans to run connecting bus trips to the Jenolan Caves, Mayfield Gardens, nearby historic villages and other tourist attractions in our district. One possibility could be to relocate the Oberon Visitor Information Centre to the railway area to take advantage of the tourist potential of Oberon’s railway with its headquarters located at Oberon Station. Tourism managers have said that the railway “… will provide an all weather attraction for young and old and will dramatically increase tourism on a whole new level. It will complement the whole of the Tablelands theme with a unique experience.” Tourist packages will encourage visitors to stay several days in Oberon.
With an expected big jump in tourism there will be:
- Increased demand for local accommodation
- Increased demand for food outlets
- Increased numbers of shoppers in Oberon’s shops
- Increased employment for full time and part time workers on the railway line and increased employment in Oberon’s hospitality industry.
Tourism New South Wales has calculated that domestic, overnight visitors spend an average of $159 per person each night. It will not take many years before Oberon caters for 30,000 visitors a year and this equates to a tourist income of $4,770,000.
Can Oberon cope with this tourist growth? Yes we can! It will require careful and detailed planning and the Oberon Tarana Heritage Railway board and members are keen to work closely with the Oberon Plateau Tourist Association, the Oberon Business Association, the Oberon Visitor Information Centre, the Oberon Council and all museum and heritage groups to make the Oberon and the Tarana district one of the leading tourist centres in Australia.
Summary – April 2010
- Rebuilding of the line is occurring progressively. It is being constructed to a standard exceeding that of a Heritage Pioneer line (using standards developed under the guidance of RIC staff).
- Development and reconstruction is reaching completion in Stage 1 from Oberon to Tarana (stage 2 will be the Hazelgrove Carlwood section – 9.4km; Stage 3, the Carlwood Tarana section – 9km).
- The main focus was on the rebuilding of the line rather than the expensive acquisition and restoration of rolling stock and locomotives.
- By early 2010 it was realised that rolling stock and locomotives needed to be procured as revenue passenger operations were an approaching reality. Rolling stock for Stage 1 (Oberon to Hazelgrove – 5.4km) has been arranged by OTHR largely due to support from the NSW Rail Transport Museum; other heritage groups; the Office of Rail Heritage and by selective purchasing of wagons and locomotives by OTHR.
- Preliminary discussions have occurred with other tourist and heritage rail operators with a view to their running locomotives and rolling stock to link with OTHR or to run on the line. Standards and operations will be compliant with ITSRR regulations.
- An operating Tourist railway is considered to be a major tourist potential for the towns of Oberon and Tarana and will effect associated regional areas such as Jenolan Caves. Tourist potential will be considered in conjunction with the local Councils and appropriate tourism organisations. OTHR Inc is a member of the Oberon Plateau Tourist Association.
- Additional accommodation options will need to be explored in conjunction with Councils and tourism organisations as well as with existing proprietors to cater for increasing tourist numbers.
- Initial operations will probably consist of a diesel hydraulic locomotive (73 class) hauling restored heritage carriages on loan from the NSW Rail Transport Museum as well as a rail motor service to cater for smaller groups. This service will extend to Tarana as the remainder of the line is rehabilitated.
- Tourist services under consideration include:
- Operations over the full line may include:
- Operation in the Oberon Hazelgrove section on a regular schedule (yet to be decided but possibly initially one day each weekend; plus one day midweek; plus special provisions for school and public holidays)
- The development of Hazelgrove to include a reconstructed copy of the original station; a platform to cater for passengers (including the disabled); a toilet based on the original facility (foundations still in place); facilities for picnicking, eating and shelter.
- Services to allow passengers to detrain at Hazelgrove or Carlwood or Fish River for picnicking or exploring. Pick-up occurring on scheduled return trips.
- Services to allow lunch or dinner at Tarana Hotel.
- Special trains utilised to convey walking/ cycling / tourist groups up or down the mountain.
- Restaurant trains running initially between Oberon and Tarana.
- Interchange with mainline heritage rail operations to allow passengers to journey to and from Oberon.
- Facilitating passenger connections from other rail operators in the region (eg. Zig Zag) and to and from other tourist destinations (such as Jenolan Caves).
- Night wildlife tours using open carriages at low speed “drifting” down the gradient.
- Tourist operations will be designed to offer a worthwhile “experience” for the passenger. The process is envisaged to be a “theatre” where the railway will provide the medium for offering passengers an enjoyable experience.
- Paid management and marketing staff will ultimately be required as operations expand.
Download a Position Paper on Commercial Operation of the line (Word™ Doc 54kb)