Efforts to get the Cooma railway back on track
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Efforts to get the Cooma railway back on track

Thomas the Tank Engine has placed an intrinsic love and fascination of trains in the hearts of many children but for Rodney Clancy that passion didn't subside with adulthood.

Now the president of the Cooma Monaro Railway Incorporated, he wants to reopen the railway line from Cooma travelling north, south, or ultimately, in both directions.

Gordon Strachan, the railway group's secretary,  at the Cooma Monaro railway station in Cooma.

Gordon Strachan, the railway group's secretary, at the Cooma Monaro railway station in Cooma.Credit:Melissa Adams

Mr Clancy said his plan to reactivate the line could help make Cooma a more popular tourist destination.

"I consider Cooma more of a satellite suburb of Canberra than a separate country town and of course with the connection of a rail link it nearly would be," he said.

Following the railway's peak use during the construction of the Snowy Hydro scheme in the 1940s and 1950s, it was closed for mainline operations in 1989 – weeks short of 100 years of operation.

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The Cooma Monaro Railway group formed two years later to look after the Cooma station and prevent it falling into disrepair.

The group restored the rail line in 1998 to run from Cooma station to the racecourse and then extended the journey north to Chakola.

Trains along the Cooma to Chakola line stopped operation this January following the introduction of new legislation which increased minimum safety standards.

Trackwork also ceased along the 19-kilometre stretch.

Mr Clancy said the extreme temperatures meant deterioration of the sleepers and the line needed upgrading.

At a cost of about $80 for each sleeper, with every kilometre of railway line featuring more than 1600, it is not a viable project for the society to undertake solely.

"We have been operating over 19 kilometres of track which is 32,000 sleepers," Mr Clancy said.

You look at that figure and go, well we're a community charity organisation, there is no way in the world…"

Despite the cost, Mr Clancy said the reactivation of the railway would serve a greater purpose.

He said rail was the cheapest way of moving bulk freight, and although it cost a little more for passengers it was also a more comfortable alternative than a long journey in a car.

He said an extended railway could be used for moving bulky goods from the south coast to Cooma and through to Queanbeyan or for Sydneysiders to utilise the service to visit the snow.

For the moment, members of the Cooma Monaro Railway society are looking to restore about 400 metres of the line from the engine shed to the station, so they can have the trains on the tracks for visitors to admire.

The group hopes to set up a sleeper sponsorship program to allow support to roll in from across the region, Australia and the world.

To become involved, email manager@cmrailway.org.au