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The proud railway identity among the farming community of Cummins is to become history as it prepares to tackle 50 extra trucks on its roads each day.
But as of June 1, the celebration will become a memorial, as trains will cease moving through the town.
Grain handling group Viterra has announced it is not renewing its contract with rail company Genesee and Wyoming, instead shifting entirely to road transport.
Prior to this decision, Viterra moved 30 to 40 per cent of its grain by rail.
By the local council's calculation, the shift to road-only transport will add up to 30,000 truck movements a year to the region's winding, two lane highways.
Rodney Pearson is the CEO of the Lower Eyre Peninsula District Council and said the new road trains will join the already-heavy traffic flow between Cummins and Port Lincoln.
"What concerns us most is the safety of the community on the roads," he said.
"We recognise that our roads are not as wide or structurally sound as they might be, they are already busy — rail was always a safer option."
Mr Pearson was particularly concerned about the 100-kilometre-an-hour speed limit imposed on road trains, on highways where the typical speed for other drivers is 110 kilometres an hour.
"There aren't passing lanes and we all know people get impatient on the roads, sitting behind trucks," he said.
"We think there need to be at least two or three new passing lanes going forward.
"We understand that the minister has been working with the Commonwealth to upgrade roads, but at this point in time we don't know what that might mean — we are feeling very uncertain.
The local council is also concerned about the extra trucks that will pass through the town's centre.
"It's a very busy street … lots of people jumping in and out of cars, there are plenty of children and older people trying to cross the road," Mr Pearson said.
The town already lowers the speed limit during harvest season to accommodate extra truck movements.
"We will need to think of this as an annual situation, not just a seasonal one."
Nostalgia for trains
Some Cummins community members see this as a double blow for the town.
Claire Holman has lived in the region her entire life, and her grandmother ran the tea rooms at Cummins original train station.
"It's a tragedy losing our history, but all those extra trucks on the roads are going to be a nightmare," she said.
"We who have lived here our whole lives know where its safe to pass [slower moving trucks], but for people just driving through — I think there will be accidents.
"I can't imagine the town without trains, the town's dominated by the railway line, it runs straight through the town centre."
Growing up, Ms Holman said "it was lovely to hear the rumble and the whistle, it feels like its coming in your bed room window — it can be so loud".
"But if the train was moving, you knew crops had been successful, farmers had grain — it was a sign of prosperity and reassurance.
"It's a bit of an emotional thing- losing the trains."
Local farmer, Michael Treloar, agreed.
"You deliver grain locally, then you know when the train goes past, it's loaded with local grain and its off to port, on to a boat — you are feeding the world, and that's a big part of what we do as farmers," he said.
"It's been just such an important part of life in Cummins, and the history of Cummins — obviously it's changed over the years but its become an efficient way of moving grain to port.
"It's a community that will continue to evolve, it will remain a strong rural community — but it will be a sad passing of what's been part of the community for so long."
And like other community members, Mr Treloar is worried about what the extra trucks will mean.
"All of a sudden its going to be happening, from the first of June there are going to be a lot more trucks on the road — and that raises serious questions around safety and sustainability of road system," he said.
"The speed limit needs to reviewed — you get stuck behind a triple truck carrying 70 tonnes that can only go 100 kilometres an hour, and we technically can go 110, but you need a long stretch to pass that safely and respect the speed limit — I see serious issues there."
Viterra said in a statement that safety is its highest priority and it will discuss roads and traffic flow with councils and government throughout the transition process.
Rail reason communities existThe Eyre Peninsula rail network has operated since 1907 and was once the largest employer in the region, with over 600 workers in the 1950s and 1960s.
There are now just 35 full-time employees, all of whom will be made redundant following the rail's closure.
It is the end of the line for a once-bustling network that was the lifeline of the region.
Port Lincoln railway museum president Peter Knife described Viterra's decision as a tragedy.
"Up until quite recently there would be very few families that didn't have at least one family member who worked for the railways at some stage and in a lot of cases it was multi-generational, two, three generations worked for the railways," Mr Knife said.
"You talk to people around town and you hear that all the time — they just can't understand why it should come to an end and they are not looking forward to the implications of for our roads.
"We feel it's a tragedy for Eyre Peninsula, it's a tragedy that 111 years of history here is going to come to an end, writing the closing chapter in the history book on Eyre Peninsula railways and that's something we never wanted to do."
Mr Knife said the rail line was also the focal point for the region's towns.
"Prior to the coming of the railway, we only had a few large pastoral leases in the interior of the peninsula because it wasn't economical to do any kind of cropping and ship it out to the coast," he said.
"The railway changed all that and it was built specifically to open it up for settlement.
"All the townships in the interior followed on from the railway and were built along the railway line and they existed today because of the railway being built."
Looking to the futureJoanne Quigley is the Mayor of the Lower Eyre Peninsula District Council and said the council is looking to the future.
"Unfortunately the decision by Viterra was made, and although it wasn't what we wanted, we have to go forward, find a way to keep our rate payers safe," she said.
Ms Quigley also said the council was looking forward to any funding announcements from the South Australian State Government, who said it is discussing possible road infrastructure improvements with the Commonwealth Government.
She said she was also grateful to have the Cummins toilets as a celebration of the town's rail history.
"We are always going to have a reminder of our roots, our rail history — lets look at positive ways to get the whole community involved in thinking about what to do next," Ms Quigley said.
"We don't want to just rip up the railways lines, we want to look at beautifying it — let's embrace it and make it better for the community, that might mean visual arts and public space.
"We can't look back, we are all disappointed but the decision has been made, so we are looking forward."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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