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GLENREAGH residents are battling with Australian railways bureaucracy to retain the historic town's railway station, without support from a group of local enthusiasts.
The future of the station is up in the air as the Australian Rail Track Corporation has revealed it would not renew the Glenreagh Mountain Railway lease on the property when it ends on July 31. But residents decided to fight back and have set up a change.org online petitionwhich had attracted more than 600 signatures by last week.
One resident, Kim Smith, who is the daughter of former assistant station master Fred Weller, said the community was determined to keep an important piece of its history.
"This building was an integral part of the development of Glenreagh and the timber industry," she said.
She said the community had already lost vital parts of its rail heritage and couldn't afford to lose such icons as the station and water tower.
"Sadly, over the years we have seen the loss of the stockyard, the sleeping quarters, the goods sheds, and other maintenance sheds and the railway cottages nearby," she said.
"It would be a terrible shame if this iconic building, the water tower and the precinct were allowed to be demolished and not preserved for future generations."
Ms Smith said a history of squabbles between the GMR and a rival group, the Dorrigo Steam Railway, had reduced the community's interest in its rail heritage.
"I just hope ARTC can see that's there still an interest in the station and not totally demolish what's there.
"I hope they could relocate or restore some of the structures and salvage some of our history for future generations."
The GMR and ARTC have been negotiating what can be done with the land, but ARTC has confirmed the lease would not be renewed.
When the ARTC first announced its decision on the lease, GMR secretary Bill Harrison said his organisation would not fight it.
He said the GMR concentrated its operation from its shed at West Glenreagh and the station building and the land it was on was surplus to requirement.
He said GMR would like to have removed the water tower and the turntable and include them in its collection of railway artefacts.
Ms Smith remembered the station in all its glory when her father worked there.
"I have been left with a real sense of disappointment and regret the various rail authorities and governments have allowed us to lose our historical railway buildings and, more importantly, don't place value on the importance of saving our heritage buildings," she said.
"There were always stacks of timber sleepers in the yard awaiting transport to their resting place along the rail line, and the iconic water tower, an important part of the Glenreagh-Dorrigo line, overlooking it all.
"It has even been the scene of a movie set or two."
An ARTC spokesman said negotiations were continuing with GMR and it was aware of the change.org petition.
"The GMR has leased the Glenreagh Railway Station and some of the surrounding land for a number of years," he said.
"We are in discussions with GMR regarding the future of the site including some infrastructure and rolling stock. We are committed to continue working constructively with GMR on this.
"We certainly recognise the interest in the Glenreagh Railway precinct, and will provide further advice to the community when these discussions have progressed."
Next weekend's Glenreagh Timber Festival is also important for the GMR, which opens its rail museum at West Glenreagh as part of the festivities.
The organisation has not been able run trains on the 35km of track it maintains between Glenreagh West and Lowanna since 2008, but is confident it will get back on track.
This article first appeared on www.dailyexaminer.com.au
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