A miniature railway track at Yippin Creek Reserve on the outskirts of Wauchope, built by the Hastings Valley Miniature Railway Society to run scale passenger carrying trains on, is now open to the public. Chrissy Jones caught up with Mark Stoker to find out more …
Tell us about your group, Mark …
The society is a not for profit group with a common interest in railways. Our hobby involves the many facets of running the railway, the club social activities and the building of the miniature trains.
You are open to the public, when …?
On the second Saturday of each month the railway is open to the public to take train rides. Anyone who can sit on a carriage is able to ride. The youngest passenger has been 2 years old, and the oldest I know of was 94 years young. Small children under 6 years need an adult to ride with them, and for safety reasons, all passengers need to be wearing covered shoes. Suitable clothes to ride behind a steam train are advised, as it is real steam and smoke that comes from the locomotive chimney.
Yippin Creek Reserve is a great location. Why was this spot chosen, and what was the process to get it up and running?
We chose Yippin Creek Reserve for many reasons, but mostly because it has been under utilised in the past and is the ideal location for our activities, as it already has picnic shelters and amenities, grassed areas and tall trees for shade. Families can picnic while watching the trains and having rides. Most parents enjoy it so much, it is more common to see the kids getting tired and dragging the parents away!
The track had to leave its original location two years ago and after consultation with Council and Wauchope Lions, the Reserve at Yippin Creek was selected as a suitable location. It has good parking, picnic facilities, toilets and shady trees, everything we needed. Although a lovely park, usage has been low for many years since Lions first built it. The landscape makes it difficult for other community uses, so the marriage of the railway with the location has been a best use solution.
Once preliminary approval was given to the concept, consideration had to be given to the laws governing use of the public park, the impact on neighbours and the existing users of the park. Two years has been spent preparing plans and reports to obtain permissions, the DA and lease. The neighbours were consulted before the application was made.
Council, representing the community as a whole, required certain provisions be made to ensure the park’s existing usage wasn’t adversely affected. This was all incorporated into the DA in order to develop a good plan. We found everyone concerned to be very helpful. Council staff, and we have been assisted by a large number, have been very helpful with suggestions and generous with their time.
During this time, the entire track and all its equipment was dismantled, stripped back, reconditioned and repainted in preparation for the new site. Approval was granted in December, but insurance and legals, and then the rain, held up actual work commencing until new year. The soft, rain soaked ground held up Jeff from Mid North Coast Tree Services and the consulting arborist John Kennedy from doing the tree pruning and removing some old stumps and unsafe trees until early February.
The trains look fantastic – just like the real thing, only smaller. Do they run the same?
They sure do. The trains are scale working models of actual steam locomotives. Each is powerful enough to pull a set of carriages with both children and adult passengers. The locomotives are built by the club members in home workshops; it takes about 1,000 man hours to build each loco and can take many years of spare time to complete.
The specifications are exacting and must meet the AALS codes and rules. It is not just a replica, but must actually work like the real train.
The Society is affiliated to the Australian Association of Live Steamers. What does this entail?
The AALS regulates the hobby through its codes and two independent standing committees, one for the steam boiler codes and another for safe working of tracks and carriages. The affiliation has 85 clubs throughout the country.
Our club is over 10 years old with about 25 members, aged between 12 and 90.
A lot of work been done. Who was involved?
Our members have put in over 800 hours on site to lay the track. We could not have done it without the assistance of many people; they have been very supportive. There is a long list of supporters at the station platform.
Who can join your group?
Anyone interested in trains and having fun is welcome. There is a small subscription each year, and we expect members to help with the upkeep of the reserve, track and equipment. We are a club with members of various talents, and it is the mix and cooperation that makes it fun and satisfying. Be warned though, once you have driven a steam locomotive, in the words of one member: “It’s addictive”.
If you think you may be interested, come to the next running day, talk to a member, get a member information pack, and attend some activities.
We start at 10am and finish at 2pm, the second Saturday of each month. The track is on the corner of Yippen Creek Road and Beechwood Road at Wauchope. Turn at the showground heading for the racetrack, and look for the steam plume and listen for the train whistle!