Reluctant move ... the Kingston Miniature Railway is being moved to Symonston to make way for development. Photo: Richard Briggs
Reluctantly, Peter Hateley and his fellow volunteer model train enthusiasts are pressing ahead with the development of the new Symonston site for the Kingston Miniature Railway.
''It is a reluctant move,'' the president of the Canberra Society of Model and Experimental Engineers said yesterday, during a break from being the signal master at the popular attraction in Kingston.
''Apart from the fact that we've got more land, our preference would have probably been to stay here.''
Still, the site at Symonston will eventually have more than double the length of track - 2.5 kilometres versus 1 kilometre at Kingston - and more hills for the $40,000 to $50,000 locomotives to travel over. Asked if the new site would be better, Mr Hateley said: ''In a way, yes.
''We've designed the track so it will actually fit the block that we've got.
''It's a bit more of a challenge, because you've got a few more hills and you really don't want a level or straight track because it's not very interesting for people.''
The miniature railway is being moved to Symonston to make way for real estate development. The land off Cunningham Street has been earmarked for the new residential suburb of Eastlake.
The society received a $250,000 grant from the ACT government to hire commercial contractors to help with some of the major earthworks, concreting and infrastructure at Symonston.
''We should start to lay the track probably in about two months,'' Mr Hateley said.
''We've got a fair bit of earthworks to do and we've started doing some of that.
''We've got a lot of welding to do in the meantime.
''We weld the tracks up in panels of about six metres.''
By February or March next year, the society expects to have one of two tracks laid, allowing the miniature locomotives to start pulling loads of parents and children.
The society had asked for additional government funding but was knocked back.
Mr Hateley estimated the society would need about $191,000 over the next 12 to 18 months and the money raised from the train fares would be put into Symonston.
''What we need to do is get one track operating out there so we can carry passengers and bring in some income, so we can further develop the site,'' he said.
''Whilst we charge for rides here and party bookings, we are all volunteers'' and the money was returned to the operation.
At Kingston yesterday, the picnic area was fully booked with 10 parties.