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Supporters of a heritage railway on the North-East line were out in force on Thursday to see their rail car being transported from the Don River Railway to Karoola.
Several weeks ago a team of volunteers built 40 metres of track on a property at Karoola, where the rail car will be based for refurbishment.
“It belonged to the Burnie railway and we have purchased it off them,” Wendy McLennan from the Launceston North-East Railway group said.
The group has more than $2.1 million in pledged assets, support and trained railway workers ready to start, she said.
The rail corridor from Launceston to Scottsdale was pegged for conversion to a cycling trail, but the group instead wants to see it restored to a heritage railway.
If the railway went ahead, instead of the proposed rail trail for bike riders, it would reopen Denison Gorge to the public.
Former track worker, supervisor and inspector Wayne Venn, who worked on the railways for more than 30 years, is eager to see the project succeed.
“We are rallying today to try and get the North-East open again for a tourist train, which is suitable for everyone to do because if you have got a bike trail only a very few can ride their bikes,” he said.
“To me it’s not suitable for a bike track because you’ve only got 2.4 metres [of width] … 70 per cent of it would have a four metre drop off on one side.”
He said the track was capable of carrying a 25-tonne axle weight but the light rail would only be a fifth of that, meaning the quality of track required was easier to achieve.
“The track is probably 90 to 95 per cent ready to go, Karoola bridge is not really a problem because we have only got to drop the track down a foot at either end and run it onto the steel girders straight onto the deck, we can make it an open deck bridge,” Mr Venn said.
Jan Best owns the Karoola property on which the rail car will be stored. She said most of the residents who lived near the rail corridor did not support a cycling trail.
“My living room is about 20 metres away from the cycle trail, I didn’t want to see cyclists going right past my window, with a lack of privacy, bio-security issues and security issues as well,” she said.
“That track can never go back if it’s ripped up … I’d be utterly devastated.”
The Dorset Council has received $1.47 million from the federal government to convert the corridor to a cycling trail.
Due to community pressure the state government agreed to fund an independent assessment of the proposals.
A government spokesman said the assessment had been completed and it was now being “closely” considered.
This article first appeared on www.examiner.com.au
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