Canberra Miniature Railway sits on Jerrabomberra Avenue at Symonston, near Narrabundah, on a patch of land populated with rabbits. There are miniature trains to ride on five-inch and seven-and-a-quarter-inch tracks, which are driven by car motors, steam and electricity. The railway is run by the Canberra Society of Model and Experimental Engineers.
The non-profit organisation has been building the infrastructure for the site since a land swap deal with the ACT Government, which saw the former Kingston-based site transfer to a paddock in Symonston. The site is not yet connected to mains water, which meant it lost many of its shade trees last summer when smoke and heat enveloped Canberra, and they need to be replaced and irrigated.
Canberra Miniature Railway is hoping it will be able to afford to connect mains water to the site to make it easier for families, children and senior citizens to join in and stay hydrated if the weather is warm.
“We’ve got a five-year plan,” says society president Darryl Webb. “First, we’re going to put in a whole section of seven-and-a-quarter-inch track, and after that, next year, there’s a whole heap of five-inch track to go in.
“After that, we’ll be where we want to be. It’s a three-to-five-year plan, then we’ll turn our attention to landscaping. We have water pipes running around the place to fill up the steamers, but we don’t have irrigation and we’re on tank water.”
The society is working on mains water connection, and the first step is a plan for the pipes to connect the site, to submit to Icon Water. Mains water connection will mean the site can irrigate plants and provide drinking water to patrons, although the onsite canteen sells bottled water.
The latest addition to the railway’s fleet of trains is an early 1980s GP60, which is a scale replica of a diesel-electric locomotive. However, this addition is all-electric.
“This is a model of one that used to be the Southern Pacific colour scheme,” says Darryl. “Southern Pacific is a railway so they would have painted all of their trains in their own colours. It’s a grey colour, charcoal grey and plum red.”
The Canberra Miniature Railway is open for train rides on the second and last Sundays of each month. It runs special events such as twilight rides, and is hoping to resume hosting senior citizens for morning tea after it was put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We did a senior citizens day, and we had some people out from some of the retirement homes,” says Darryl. “We doubled it up with the Men’s Shed, and even though people were able to travel, a lot of people were still reluctant because COVID-19 was in the background.”
The railway has a COVID-19 safety plan in place, with volunteers at the gate encouraging people to check in via the Check-In CBR app, or writing down their contact details if they don’t have a mobile phone.
“We have safety signs up and we have hand sanitiser everywhere,” says Darryl. “All our announcements include ‘please maintain social distancing’ as well.
“We are doing everything we can to make it safe. It’s outdoors, which makes it safer, and we have limits on the maximum attendance at any time.”