1 June 2021

Investigation underway after heritage railway removed at Crookwell

| Hannah Sparks
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Removed track

A farmer has removed about 1.5 kilometres of heritage railway from crown land at Crookwell.

An investigation is underway into the unauthorised removal of a non-operational railway track by a cattle breeder at Crookwell in the NSW Southern Tablelands.

The track, which was built between 1900 and 1902, and is part of the Goulburn-to-Crookwell heritage railway line, was intended to reopen as a tourist attraction.

A group of local rail enthusiasts had applied for Federal Government and NSW Government grants to purchase pedal-powered rail bikes that would operate between Crookwell and McAlister on the old line.

However, the removal of about 1.5km of the track at Crookwell means the rail bikes could no longer reach McAlister.

The Goulburn Crookwell Heritage Railway group said it was notified of the track removal by a property owner who neighbours the cattle breeder and reported it to John Holland, which is contracted by Transport for NSW to operate and maintain the track.

READ MORE Rail bikes revive historic train line in NSW Southern Tablelands

A Transport for NSW spokesperson told Region Media it is investigating the report.

“Unauthorised removal of rail line and other assets from non-operational corridors is not permitted, and if pursued would be treated as property theft,” said the spokesperson.

“Non-operational lines are still part of the network and can only be removed from the network once closed by an act of parliament.”

However the cattle breeder, Jeff Knox from Knox Farms on Roslyn Road, told Region Media he stood by his decision to remove the track.

Two men walking along rural non-operational railway line

A working party walks along the section of track – which has since been removed – to assess its use as a walking and cycling trail. Photo: Goulburn Crookwell Heritage Railway.

He said it cost more than $250,000 to remove the track but he did so after his prized bull, valued at $100,000, broke its leg in the track and was subsequently put down.

Mr Knox also said his lawyer told him other landholders had removed the track towards Roslyn, which is about 20km from Crookwell.

He said the removed track is still on his property for authorities to collect.

“We have not stolen it,” said Mr Knox. “We have not removed it and given it to someone else. The reason it came out was the railway line has caused untold animal tragedy.

“The railway line was built on sleepers and when the cattle walk across the railway line and the sleepers give way, their legs break – you have to shoot the animal.”

Mr Knox said Transport for NSW had not notified him of the investigation.

“The railway department can squirm all they like, but it’s their job to maintain what runs through people’s property and to look after it,” he said.

“If it’s not looked after and it’s actually causing damage to farmers who have no fencing on either side, how are the stock to understand whose property is what?”

The Goulburn to Crookwell Railway Act 1899 shows the railway corridor is Crown Land and that there is no requirement for the authority to fence the corridor.

“Fencing the line in this instance is the responsibility of the property owner,” the Transport for NSW spokesperson said.

Mr Knox said he hadn’t contacted John Holland or Transport for NSW before removing the track.

He also said he is opposed to the rail bikes and a plan proposed by Upper Lachlan Shire Council and Goulburn Mulwaree Council to build a walking and cycling trail along the non-operational line, citing concerns about tourists being on his property and close to outlying buildings containing expensive machinery.

In the meantime, the Goulburn Crookwell Heritage Railway group said its biggest concern is that this could set a precedent for other landholders to remove the 3500km of non-operational tracks in NSW.

Original Article published by Hannah Sparks on About Regional.

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pollyhartley8:08 pm 03 Jun 21

The law is the law and it should be enforced. It would be interesting to see what the insurance company received as proof for this “prize bull” breaking its leg on crown land. My guess is if this goes to prosecution, this joker won’t be producing any proof. The guy just didn’t want a tourism attraction near his property. Now he’s going to be paying for a tourism attraction near his property I suspect….

This railway has been there for over a decade. The farmer knew of it’s existence and limitations when he bought the farm.

Another aspect of the “prior use” argument. If something exists when you move in, then you accept what is already there.

This guy needs to punished, and forced to return the track as to how it was.

It has not been used since 1985, so 36 years. It was never going to be re-opened, and was in such a poor state that cattle stepping on the sleepers caused them to crumble.

Your argument may hold water had the track been maintained, but the fact is it had not been, and was a safety hazard to both people and animals. The Government wouldn’t allow something that dangerous to remain in your neighbourhood, so why should something that dangerous be allowed to stay in a rural area?

If anything, they should be paying the guy back for doing the job they would have needed to if the line was to ever be used for anything again.

This clown knew exactly what he was doing, he should be forced to pay to rebuild what he ripped up.

1. He wrongly thinks the land is his. It is crown land, not his property.

2. He doesn’t want tourism using the corridor. He spent $250k destroying government property instead of building a fence.

Yeah, nah. The NSW Government left an uncontained hazard out to injure people and animals.

Not so kenm. The line has been maintained in the past by the heritage railway group. For example the steel sleepers to the right of the track in the second image image are heritage railway assets placed there to replace deteriorated sleepers. The line was to be upgraded for a ride the rails tourist attraction with the full support of the council and relevant NSW government departments. This has been an act of deliberate vandalism, I suspect designed to stop the ride the rails initiative and the proposed rail trail for cyclists as well as effectively stealing the land to expand his grazing area .

The guy should be able to remove whatever he wants from his land.

It’s not his land. The railway line is like a road and was acquired from the previous landowner 120 years ago. Why didn’t he fence his land? It’s the same as a road. When he bought the farm he didn’t buy the railway land.

It is an unused, unmaintained hazard. He shouldn’t have to bear the expense to fence a hazard created by the NSW Government.

The railway line is crown land and not part of his farm, it’s the same as a road. I presume he has fenced the fences that adjoin roads? The requirement to have an act of parliament to close railways is an important protection to landowners, which he has undermined.

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