|Lithgow could become the hub of heritage rail operations in NSW - with the main area centred on the old Eskbank railway station.
A group who interested in establishing a rail heritage centre has met with the State Member, Gerard Martin, Department of State Regional Development, Council officers, the General Manager and Mayor Neville Castle.
In a Mayoral Minute presented to the latest meeting of Lithgow Council, Cr Castle said the proposal is to have the Eskbank Rail Heritage Centre established in the Eskbank area of Lithgow.
The proposal is to include employment, training and tourism, as well as establishing a rail maintenance workshop which would undertake heritage rail restorations, as well as commercial rail work including locomotive and wagon repairs.
There would also be an establishment of a rail specific training facility which would include the training of apprentices in traditional and lost trades, as well as rail safety and qualifications.
There is also the possibility of using the State Mine Branch Mine as a practical training ground.
There would also be an establishment of Lithgow as a base for a luxury day trains, including a 180 luxury seat train based at Eskbank where journeys would depart and terminate in Lithgow, Cr Castle said.
The members of the Eskbank Rail Heritage Centre have also been in communication with a Hunter heritage rail group that has had difficulty in finding time placements on the very cluttered Hunter rail network, who may be looking to relocate to Lithgow.
This particular project is expected to bring eight to 10 permanent jobs to Lithgow, as well as increased training in the TAFE who the group have already been in contact with.
The Department of State and Regional Development has been given a document as an expression of interest created by one of their officers that has met with this rail heritage group.
This expression of interest will be the first step in the attempt to get government funding for their project, the Minute said.
In supporting the Minute, Cr Howie Fisher said the proposal is an exciting one, 'one that Council is obligated to get behind'.
This will put Lithgow on the map as the steam heritage centre of NSW, he said.
Councillors adopted Cr Castle's recommendation that Lithgow support in principle the concept of the Eskbank Rail Heritage Centre.
It was also adopted that Council assist this organisation in preparing for any possible grant applications while Council's Economic Development Officer is to work with the Eskbank Rail Heritage Centre to help further their proposal.
Photo by John Oates