Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Taking the Plunge Keeps Business on Track

Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Taking the Plunge Keeps Business on Track

Article excerpt

BY THE time you read this, workmen will have begun ripping up the track and putting aside for the museum and as a plaything for the kids carriages from one of Australiaas great tourism icons a the nearly 70-year-old Scenic Railway at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.

Not that itas the end of the line for this internationally renowned attraction, which descends at a jaw-dropping 52 degrees for some 415 metres into the picturesque Jamison Valley, and is officially recognised as the worldas steepest railway.

For come the end of March a new $30m Swiss-designed Scenic Railway will follow the same plunging route, complete with new stations at top and bottom of the line.

And it will continue a legacy thatas seen the railway since it opened in 1945 carry more than 25 million passengers into the ancient rainforest of the once coal-mining valleys below Katoomba.

Although tourists have, in fact, been carried down into the Jamison Valley and back up again from well before 1945 a as early as 1928 they kneeled on folded chaff bags in the open wagons of a narrow-gauge coal tramway that was the actual forerunner of the Scenic Railway.

It was in 1945 that Harry Hammond and his sister Isobel Fahey opened the Scenic Railway as we know it today, having bought the lease of one of a cobweb of atram linesa built in the late 1800s to haul coal and kerosene shale out from the Jamison and Megalong valleys.

Harry and Isobelas line was the steep 52-degree track from the valley floor to a junction of the Western Railway at Katoomba, and which had gone into liquidation during the First World War. But knowing its history for carrying adventurous tourists in a purpose-built carriage named The Mountain Devil during the 1930s after the demise of the coal mines, the siblings bought the 52-degree lineas lease to reinvigorate the tourism boom the mountains had enjoyed before the interruption of the Second World War .

They registered their venture Scenic World, and as well as the Scenic Railway the company later opened Australiaas first cable-car called the Scenic Skyway that traverses the Katoomba Falls gorge, and built our first revolving restaurant (at Katoomba), a 2. …

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